No Country For Old Men
Reviewed by: Dr. “Doc” McPhearson
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel & Ethan Coen (Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy)
CALL IT, FRIENDO.
If you have read any other reviews concerning this film, then I’m sure mine won’t be the first to tell you that this violent flick is a return to form for the Coen brothers, after their wondrously boring “The Ladykillers.” There, they remade a classic, threw in a crew of desperate misfits, and half-as… sorry, kids…. half-butted a heist plot. Yet here, the director duo pulls straight from the pages of the Cormac McCarthy novel a story of such intensity, and yet such profound universal themes, that at times, this film seemed to, at least for me, transcend the genre of ‘thriller.’
Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is a good ol’ boy from Texas who, one day, while out hunting himself some deer, stumbles upon a drug deal gone terribly wrong. Vehicles are abandoned, the money’s gone, the drugs are untouched, and everyone involved seems to be dead. All but one, as Moss soon discovers, finding the poor fellow sitting up in the truck’s front seat, a bullet wound to the chest.
“Auga,” the man asks desperately.
“Ain’t got no water,” Moss replies indifferently.
Forgetting about the survivor for a second, Llewellyn begins asking the same question that you’re probably asking yourself: Where the heck is the money? Why, under the shade of a nearby tree of course. Two million dollars, nestled right into a little briefcase, no strings attached; I mean, after all, everyone who knows about it is dead, right? Right?
Wrong. What first begins as a split decision made on momentary greed soon evolves into a deadly manhunt. Set on Moss’s trail is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a character that is for sure going to be written down as one of the most heartless villains in cinematic history. A man who decides his victim’s fate upon the flip of a coin toss, Chigurh (or “Sugar”, as Moss dryly calls him) is a living, breathing Angel of Death, armed with an air tank and a cattle stungun, both of which he uses with savage precision. His first objective is the retrieve the money; however, he tends to get bored, and sometimes kills innocents on a simple whim. And as Chigurh’s employers know, another corpse leads to just another complication in this mess…
…Which forces them to hire Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), a cocky bounty hunter who claims to know “everything there is to know” about Chigurh; on paper, he seems like the perfect person to send when you need the reins pulled on a bit. As he’ll soon find out, though, the rider isn’t always as in control of the horse as he may think.
But wait, there’s more. Unaware of all the rest of the botchery that I’ve described above, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (the wonderful Tommy Lee Jones) is put in charge of investigating the aforementioned drug-deal- gone-bad. Yet, upon discovering Moss’s truck at the scene, the poor exhausted sheriff is involuntarily thrown into the boiling mix as well.
And what results is a picture based around not only devastating confrontations , but also those who stumble upon the gruesome aftermath. Each character resembles a single thread, and when certain threads entangle, no good can come of it. One particular shoot-out between Moss and Chigurh lasts ten minutes, kills two innocents, and spans across a good stretch of an entire rural town, with neither man leaving unscathed.
Seeing as how this is a review for the SimplyScripts website, I would feel weird not mentioning the screenplay. I have to say, after watching the film, I immediately returned home and began reading the book. Sure enough, I soon discovered that, much to my own pleasure, the Coens had done almost a page-for-page adaptation of McCarthy’s novel, while still managing to make the brilliant country-fried dialogue that they are so infamous for mold perfectly into the shape of things. It will certainly, if there is any justice left in the Academy, win Best Adapted Screenplay at the ’07-’08 Oscars.
Everything about this film just works so freakin’ well. From the direction, to the editing, to the cinematography, to the acting (Bardem will almost definitely win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work here), to the home-cooked screenplay that has both the sustenance of McCarthy and the irresistible hint of Coen-pepper mixed in so naturally that it fits like glove. And the ending… at first I hated it. Despised it. But then, upon reflection, I realized, it actually sealed the deal for me; this is not only about blood and money, guns and chase scenes, but also the inevitability of death. “Ya can’t stop what’s comin’,” an old friend tells Ed Tom at one point. “It ain’t all waitin’ up on ya.”
“No Country For Old Men” is a wonderfully powerful novel, a quick enough read, and one that is far more complex than it at first appears. And actually, in some ways, the film version in itself is a provocative piece of literature, to not only be absorbed, but devoured. It is one of the best films of the year, if not the best. I recommend it to anyone and everyone… provided that you’re at least 18 years of age.
10 out of 10
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