No Country for Old Men
Cast: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), Aton Chirgurh (Javier Bardem), Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald), Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt), Loretta Bell (Tess Harper)
Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Theatrical release: 11/21/2007
DVD Date: 03/11/2008
Running Time: 122 minutes
Note(s): The screenplay was adapted from the novel No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.
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Review: There's an axiom that states that friends, if they want to remain friends, don't discuss sex, politics, or religion. That truism needs to be amended to add Coen brothers movies to the list. I have a very good friend that I can discuss sex, politics, and religion with but when it comes to the Coen brothers, we simply stay silent. You either think the Coen brothers walk on water when it comes to filmmaking or you think they don't.
I fall into the latter category. I guess it takes a certain mind set to appreciate a Coen brothers movie and I'm simply not wired that way. But I think anything Tommy Lee Jones does is worth watching, so I rolled the dice and took a chance with No Country For Old Men.
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the premise of No Country For Old Men is fairly simple. A good ol' boy, Llewelyn Moss (played in an understated manner by Josh Brolin), is out hunting one day in a remote area of west Texas when he stumbles upon what is clearly a drug deal gone bad. Bodies are scattered around a number of pickup trucks, one of which has bed full of bricks of drugs. One man is still alive, but just barely. What he doesn't find is any money. Searching the horizon, he sees a man reclining against a tree. When the man doesn't move after a lengthy period of time, Llewelyn assumes he too is dead and approaches him, finding a case filled with $2 million in cash. He takes the money and returns home, but later feels guilty about leaving a dying man in the desert. He returns that night only to find the man shot to death. Realizing that someone else has been there, he starts to leave when he's shot, wounded by men who suddenly appear. The remainder of the movie consists of Llewelyn on the run from the drug smugglers (in the form of a man named Anton Chigurh) and the authorities, namely Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.
The movie is essentially filmed from three points of view, that of Llewelyn, Anton, and Sheriff Bell. In an interesting side note, they never share any screen time together.
There is no denying that No Country For Old Men is a stylish, highly (maybe overly) crafted movie. My basic problem with it is that it seems made more for other filmmakers to appreciate than for the general public to enjoy. I haven't read the novel so I don't know if it is as disjointed and hard to follow as the movie is. Though I knew the basic storyline I was frequently confused by what I was seeing. For example, Anton just shows up in a scene to illustrate how violent and psychopathic he is. His interest in the drugs, or even Llewelyn, is never revealed. The scenes with Javier Bardem as Anton are mesmerizing to say the least, but in and of themselves they don't carry the movie. (As an aside, it's easy to see why he was given the Academy Award for his performance.)
Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is terrific as always. But while his story is probably the most interesting of the three main characters, it is given the least amount of screen time. That the movie opens and closes with Bell, however, is illustrative of how important the character is. I was disappointed that so much of the movie was devoted to the visual violence of the other characters at the expense of the measured nuance of the Bell character.
Do I recommend No Country For Old Men? No, not really. Even with Tommy Lee Jones. My original impression upon seeing it was that it was simply a version of Fargo set in west Texas. And I hated Fargo. If you're a Coen brothers fan, you'll no doubt think No Country For Old Men is brilliant. Certainly the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did, awarding it the Oscar for Best Picture of 2007. But if you're not a fan, or if you haven't seen any of the Coen brothers' previous movies, you might think that on an academic level it is an interesting piece of filmmaking but little more. It's certainly not entertaining in any sense of the word.
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