Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 6:14 PM | Posted in
Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10
Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 10/10 (Full Score)
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007) - Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Before we see anyone in the film, No Country For Old Men begins with a narration by Tommy Lee Jones' character, explaining how in his job, he once sent a teenage killer to execution via electric chair for murdering his girlfriend. Though the newspapers described the event as a "crime of passion," the killer told Jones' character that there was nothing passionate about the killing, and that if he was let go, he would kill again.
America is constantly driven with entropy. Chaos flourishes in the West Texas landscape -- a land where psychopathic evil, principles, fate, and aging anxieties clash together to form a violent game of cat and mouse as well as a tiring paranoia of the world's storm. The inevitable truth is the storm will always exist, and it will come whether we are ready or not. Winner of the 2007 Best Picture Academy Award, No Country For Old Men thrusts the audience into the intense minds of three characters: A Vietnam veteran and welder, a hitman, and a soon-to-retire county sheriff.
The film follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who comes across the bloody aftermath of a drug deal gone bad, with several dead bodies and two million dollars left in a satchel. Instead of reporting the murderous scene to the police, he takes the satchel home for himself. He soon finds himself chased across the state by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a cold-blooded killer who has been hired to recover the money. The film also revolves around Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who investigates the drug deal murders, eventually crossing the duo's path.
In a way, the pacing and editing of the film is similar to Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, also a 2007 movie. Shot in the same location as Anderson's masterpiece, No Country For Old Men uses many establishing shots and wide frames to emphasize the vastness of the Texas land. As time passes, the film ends up isolating the audience, trapped in the heated location with no boundaries. With the Coen Brothers' exquisite directing, a strong lack of music, and powerful acting, the film quickly evolves into one of the most intense pictures I have seen in years. Absolutely heartstopping.
Ethan and Joel Coen really know when to show the audience something and when to hide and just make implications. For example, instead of showing a man's physical body clearly, you see his shadow on the ground instead, or perhaps his silhouette from a reflection. Furthermore, these shots are done in a common POV style, pressuring and squeezing the audience to see what the directors want you to see. When an action happens, the movie gets very loud at rapid. When an action is about to happen, the movie becomes dead quiet. In other words, the atmosphere in No Country For Old Men is genuinely created by filmmaking virtuosos.
In a way, Brolin's Moss is the protagonist, but in another way, he is not. Fortunately enough, his screen time makes us worth caring about him, for he is simply running away from someone who we already know is psychotic. Brolin talks with a fast grumpy but innocent accent, clear to the point and quite blunt. His Moss is a man with his own rules, in which he believes he can take care of himself, and that he does not need any help even if it was offered to him. But then again, these rules and principles that he lives by eventually led him to this moment, being pursued by Bardem's Chigurh. If Moss' rules brought him to this, then what use was the rule? Slowly, Moss becomes a character who is constantly attempting to escape his fate. Or possibly his fate.
Jones' Sheriff Bell also follows his own specific rules. Despite the fact that these ethics seem to fit his life in the beginning, he finally feels undone and overmatched by the ever-growing violent world. He becomes motivated to retire, for he is too old to handle and endure the land, hence the origin of the film's title No Country For Old Men. Tommy Lee Jones handles his dialogue with originality and emotion, flowing his pitches up and down in a wavy fashion, from his opening narration to calm conversations with his partner.
But the real shocker to this tale is the Best Supporting Actor winner Javier Bardem, portraying what is probably one of the greatest villains of all time. With a devilish smile and a glassy haircut that will never go on a killer's head, Anton Chigurh. One of the most original characters ever written, Chigurh comes forth as a villain that all other villains will stand confused at. All villains have their own interests, their own motivations, and are mostly egotistical. Bardem's Chigurh applies to none of these. Money does not appeal to him, and power does not appeal to him either. For public audiences, you might find this following quote more familiar: "Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn." This famous quote from The Dark Knight applies here to this villain. Though he has his own principles, Chigurh is an invulnerable ghost, creepily portrayed by Bardem.
By the way, there is a moment where Chigurh casually lifts his feet up. That scene alone gives me the biggest goosebumps that only horror films can pull off. There is also a long scene of dialogue involving a coin toss -- It is inevitably one of the best scenes in the film... of the year... of recent cinema.
Come to think of it, it's interesting to see that the 2007 and 2008 winners for Best Supporting Actor are Javier Bardem for No Country For Old Men and Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight, who both portray villains that have a chaotic principle. Though for a man who carries a tank of compressed air and kills people with a cattle stungun, Bardem's Chigurh is far more terrifying.
Like There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men is a character study, about three men with their own principles and moral centers, who find themselves clashing against one another through fate. As mentioned before, Moss eventually becomes a man trying to avoid his doom. To quote Roger Ebert, "Moss can run but he can't hide. Chigurh always tracks him down. He shadows him like his doom, never hurrying, always moving at the same measured pace, like a pursuer in a nightmare."
In conclusion, No Country For Old Men is a modern masterpiece, exploring the decline of human ethics, the imminent growth of malice, and the inscrutable evil that lurks in the existential world, all while providing one of the most suspenseful atmospheres in years. The film is an unstoppable beast. Once you watch it, it is unchained and set free. Let it eat you up. With haunting acting and a powerful use of direction and pacing, No Country For Old Men is the best film of its year, deservedly winning the Best Picture Oscar while thrusting its daunting philosophical themes onto the world that views it.