No Country for Old Men
Review #580 of 365
Movie Review of No Country for Old Men (2007) [R] 122 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $13.50
Where Viewed: Harkins Ciné Capri at Northfield 18, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 8 December 2007
Time: 4:30 pm
DVD Release Date: 11 March 2008 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
Film's Official Website • Film's Trailer
Soundtrack: order the CD below
Directed by: Ehan Coen and Joel Coen (Paris, je t'aime)
Screenplay by: Joel Coen (Paris, je t'aime) • Ethan Coen (Paris, je t'aime) based on novel by Cormac McCarthy
Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah) • Javier Bardem (Love in the Time of Cholera) • Josh Brolin (American Gangster) • Woody Harrelson (A Scanner Darkly) • Kelly Macdonald (Nanny McPhee) • Garret Dillahunt (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) • Tess Harper (Broken Bridges) • Barry Corbin (In the Valley of Elah) • Stephen Root (Idiocracy) • Rodger Boyce (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) • Beth Grant (Flags of Our Fathers)
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Click to see photos from the Premiere of No Country for Old Men
Click to read the spoiler points for No Country for Old Men
… the most amazing scenes of dramatic, knuckle-clenching, foreboding tension most people will have ever seen in their lives.
The story begins with an outrageous, Coen-worthy murder of a small-town, Texas deputy by a menacingly large, Beatle's doo-haired monstrosity later identified as Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). [As an aside, it's probably only fair to go see Javier Bardem in Love in the Time of Cholera just after or before seeing No Country for Old Men, so as to see both sides of him as an actor and realize the incredible performances he delivers in both films—he's definitely not guilty of only being able to play himself.] Chigurh leaves the station in the deputy's car and then has to murder another person to get a less conspicuous ride. He does so with his signature, air-powered cow gun that launches a rod outward that then recoils so there is no need to waste a bullet each time—nice, right? He then hops in the new car and drives off. Next up, meet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) out hunting antelope. He misses, but comes across a wounded dog that leads him to the scene of a drug deal gone horribly wrong. You never see the actual massacre and are left to extrapolate what has happened from the remains of the battle. One man has managed to survive, barely, and badly in need of agua. Moss states he "ain't got no agua", takes the usable weapons, and then searches out the last man whom he eventually locates dead under a tree with a sample case (not a satchel—which is a small bag usually with a shoulder strap--as everyone seems to keep calling this thing) filled with $2,000,000. He hauls the case and guns home. His inquisitive wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) wants details of the gun he brings in and where's he's been, but he's protectively tight-lipped not wanting her to know more than she needs to know. That night, as he lies in bed contemplating his best plan of action, his conscience begins to weigh heavy on him, and he simply cannot live another moment without, at least, attempting to deliver water to the dying man. So, against Carla Jean's protests, he stubbornly heads out with a plastic jug of water in his old truck to a spot on the hill overlooking the massacre. This ill-fated albeit altruistic decision, however, initiates the circumstances that eventually will seal his fate. As he approaches the truck, he hears the arrival of another truck next to his with searchlights blazing. The driver spots him and a chase ensues. As the sun rapidly arises christening the new day, he gets away by diving into a small creek and shooting a dog that is sent to snare him. Back home he realizes that they will be able to find him from his vehicle registration and that the only thing to do is for Carla Jean to go stay with her mother Agnes (Beth Grant) and for him to take the money and lay low, very low, until the whole mess blows over. At about this same time, some hunters call in the location of the massacre to the local sheriff's office and suddenly Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is made aware of a few things: (a) there's a killer on the loose who killed a deputy in a nearby county, (b) there's been a huge massacre in his county, and (c) his wife's a little ticked that he keeps borrowing her horse for official police business. At once, the three men: Chigurh who turns out to have been sent to reclaim the lost money and drugs, Moss who has the money and is on the run, and Bell searching for both men for different reasons become inextricably intertwined. Bell knows the capacity of Chigurh to kill even without knowing his face, while Moss has no clue what he's gotten himself into, but his self-confidence reassures him that the former welder will be able to fend off all comers. Both pride and carelessness will be his downfall as Chigurh will pursue him until his death; and, despite his honed powers of deductive reasoning and 30+ years on the job, Sheriff Bell will never quite match up to the cunning of this outlaw.
Wickedly funny and diabolically surreal scenes of every-day Texas folks interacting with Chigurh from the elder gentleman gas station clerk who must win or lose his life on a coin toss to the trailer park manager who will not reveal Moss's place of work make for some of the most arrestingly intriguing character interactions of the decade. Chigurh is the real deal as Javier Bardem has mastered both sides of his character—like the faces of the coins he uses to allow fate to be his solace, he is as cold-blooded and ruthless on one side as he is jovial, articulate, and well-mannered on the other. As for Moss, well, for as smart as he is to figure out he needs to hide the money well in a cheap motel air duct, it takes him way too long to figure out how Chigurh is tracking him. And, in the end, it never occurs to him to put the money in a safety deposit box and then just disappear for a few months. This is the role of a lifetime for Josh Brolin who has had an especially good year with potent roles in American Gangster and Planet Terror as well. He's as believable in this role as Moss is directed in his attempt to get away with the money. As for Bell, well, the character and the performance are nearly always one step behind. The character and his deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) never seem to be able to catch Chigurh and keep missing him by moments. Tommy Lee Jones, while delivering a solid performance, has delivered this similar character or most of it a few times before even most recently in In the Valley of Elah. It's not that Mr. Jones isn't terrific in this role or these kinds of roles, it's that he's played too many of this type of character (even his role in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was relatively similar) before for it to seem that much of a stretch of his talent. In other words, it's almost "a been there done that over and over and over" role for him. As for the female characters, well, they provide some comic relief. Tess Harper plays Mrs. Bell, whose most exciting lines have to do with something about Sheriff Bell sharing his dreams with her. Meanwhile, an entire sitcom could be written around Carla Jean's crotchety mother Agnes—oh wait, "Momma's Family". Save for one scene where Carla Jean, too, will meet her fate, there's not a lot for women to do in this story. Their solace might come in knowing that they ended up better than Woody Harrelson's cameo. His character, Carson Wells, is hired to put an end to Chigurh, and while he's famously capable of counting floors of a building from the street, he seems woefully incapable of detecting the ominous presence of Chigurh in his hotel lobby.
While there are things that don't add up, an ending series of scenes that fail to deliver on the expectations amassed from Chigurh's first murder, and an actual ending that comes from out of left field and provides zero resolution that's all left up to the viewer to decide, there is still much to really like about the film.
… Javier Bardem's portrayal will haunt you for days to come and have you looking over your shoulder every time you come in contact with a 25-cent piece.
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Other Projects Featuring No Country for Old Men (2007)
Tommy Lee Jones • Javier Bardem • Josh Brolin
Woody Harrelson • Kelly Macdonald • Garret Dillahunt
Tess Harper • Barry Corbin • Stephen Root
Ehan Coen and Joel Coen
Joel Coen • Ethan Coen