REVIEW: No Country for Old Men
By COLLIN MAINES
In 2007, The Coen Brothers released what many people consider their masterpiece.
No Country For Old Men was nominated for eight Academy Awards; it won four of them including Best Picture, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Director. Starring an ensemble cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelley Macdonald, and Woody Harrelson; No Country For Old Men has stood the test of time and ten years later is still considered a classic. It follows a Texas Vietnam veteran in the desert of Texas in the 80’s being pursued by a ruthless killer after finding two million dollars in drug money. This film is a classic cat and mouse thriller and is the Coen brother’s most violent film.
The Coen Brothers will go down in film history as one of the greatest directing duos that cinema has ever seen. I have yet to see a Coen brother’s movie that I disliked. Much like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarintino, Wes Anderson, and David Fincher; the brothers have their own form of style and writing. The thing I personally like most about the brothers and the directors I listed above, they are able to get the best performances out of their cast.
The cast of this film gave stand out performances, with Bardem’s performance as the ruthless Anton Chigurh being the films biggest stand out. Still the rest of the cast give fantastic performances that should not be forgotten. There are times when casting or a role is tailored made for an actor.
The Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones and this is a perfect example of a role that was tailored made for an actor. This is my personal favorite of all of Tommy Lee Jones’s performances that I have watched. Jones’s Sheriff Bell is very similar in many ways to Paul Newman’s John Rooney in Road to Perdition. Bell is an old man who has been at his job for way too long. Jones gives a moving, yet somehow funny portrayal of a man’s confusion and exasperation in face of a violent world. He plays into the role a bit as Bell is almost like as one reviewer put it an “Andy Griffith” type figure stuck in this dark story. The film and Jones leave Bell on a cliffhanger, an appropriate ending for the character.
Javier Bardem portrays Anton Chigurh, for his performance he was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and it is not hard to see why. Bardem turns this weirdo with the world’s worst haircut into an unstoppable ruthless killing machine. The way Bardem portrays Chigurh is almost inhuman. A hitman with few words and yet every time he spoke, the audience listened!
This is a performance that could have been over the top or one dimension, but Bardem manages to avoid this by adding a good amount of subtle dark humor to his performance as well. Everything about Chigurh is odd, the way he walks, talks and acts towards people. What I find is particularly strong in his performance are his few moments where he shows more to Chigurh, as well as when Chigurh acts “normal”.
There are small moments that show Chigurh enjoying what he does a little bit, I particularly like for example when he sees one of his old acquaintances (Woody Harrleson’s character). Bardem manages to both create a chilling psychopath with a seemingly unlimited ability to create a reaction in the viewer, as well as turn Chigurh into simply a fascinating mystery as well. When people look back at fantastic movie villains, Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh will be in that category. After ten years, people still look at this performance with fascination.
Josh Brolin portrays Llewellyn Moss, a Vietnam veteran and welder who stumbles upon two million dollars of drug money. Josh Brolin had been acting for many years before this, however I believe it was this film, along with Ridley Scott’s American Gangster that made people take notice of him.
Moss is the classic blue-collar worker who works hard but gets little in return. Moss, in many ways reminds me of a lot of people I know and work with. He is an everyday guy, working with his wife to make ends meet. When Moss comes across the two million dollars, Brolin is very subtle in showing the excitement that Moss has.
After he finds the money, you can hear the pride in his voice when he tells his wife (Kelly Macdonald) she can quit her job and to consider herself retired. Brolin makes Moss out to be a simple man who just wants his share of the good life. Personally I would have done the same exact thing and taken the money. I think Moss is a simple but effective character. There are hints through Brolin’s actions that suggest Moss’s military background. Mainly when avoiding or fighting off Bardem’s Chigurh. I feel his co-stars overshadowed him at times, but Brolin still turns in one of his best performances.
Kelly Macdonald plays Carla Jean Moss. Macdonald is one of those actresses that I have never seen give a bad performance. Here she plays Carla Jean Moss, Josh Brolin’s wife. Macdonald is fantastic in the part and there is a sense between the two actors that a once loving marriage has been beaten down by life. Even though she doesn’t fully show the love, there was never a doubt that Carla Jean did not truly love and trust her husband. Her best scene comes at the end of the film when her husband’s killer, Anton Chigurh, confronts her. By this time Carla Jean has lost her husband, mother, and is up to her neck in financial debt.
Chigurgh gives her a chance to live by flipping coin. This is where the audience truly sees who Carla Jean is. She denies the coin flip and for a brief moment stuns Bradem’s Chigurgh. She says the choice is yours and not the coins. By the end of the film we see a woman who doesn’t want to die, but also has nothing left to lose. What happens to her is left ambiguous, but it is heavily hinted on what her fate was.
Woody Harrelson plays Carson Wells, a bounty hunter who is hired to find the same money that Chigurh is trying to find. When I first saw this film, I had no idea Woody Harrelson was even apart of it. I was however shocked by how quickly he entered and exited the film. Watchmojo.com has stated in one of their videos that they think “Harrelson’s Wells is underdeveloped.” I agree and disagree with this statement.
Personally I would have loved a little more back-story about the character but yet with so many good characters already, it wasn’t that big of a deal to me. Harrelson does make the most of his limited screen time and at first comes of cocky and a little to confident. That all changes real fast when Wells is confronted by Chigurh. All the confidence and charisma suddenly disappears. This is a wonderful scene between two brilliant actors.
It is in this moment you truly see who Wells really is. This moment adds a lot of character, not only to Wells, but to Bardem’s Chigurh and it makes him that much scarier. Chigurh sits there like someone playing with their food before they eat, terrifying.
Overall: This film is a classic. A fantastic story faithfully adapted by two of the greatest directors/writers in Hollywood. This is my favorite of the Coen brothers filmography and if anyone has the opportunity to sit down and watch this film, you will not regret it. It was one of those times that the right source material, directors/writers, and actors fell right into place. Please go and watch this film. Thanks for reading!