Why can’t a guy just find $2million and live happily ever after in his trailer with his wife? I’ll tell you why. Because if he did, you would never have been gifted with this absolute gem by the Coen brothers.
War veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) thinks all of his birthdays have come at once when he stumbles across a bungled drug deal and finds the money used to pay for the drugs there for the taking. He goes home with the money, but it would seem that he is not the only one who wants it, as Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) makes it his personal business to see that he also gets his hands on the cash. However, Chigurh is a murderous psychopath, therefore anybody who gets in the way of this, or just generally crosses his path, is going to wind up dead some way or another. In essence, No Country for Old Men is a cat and mouse chase where the mouse stands to win everything.
Obviously, the fact that this is a film by Joel and Ethan Coen sets the bar for expectations pretty high, and when you have high expectations of a film, they very often have the habit of not delivering quite what you were hoping for. Now, I am very happy to be able to tell you this is not the case with No Country for Old Men. It has a thought-provoking storyline, and the screenplay is beautifully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. Needless to say it was a deserved winner of its four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
However, it’s fine having a beautifully written script and screenplay provided you have the performances to back it all up. Tommy Lee Jones plays ageing Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who has to oversee the horrific crimes being carried out by Chigurh. Throughout the film, it is clear that Bell is thinking about quitting the force, as chasing serial killers around the country is a young man’s game, hence where the title originates from. Jones puts on a brooding performance as the veteran cop, and Brolin has us all rooting for Moss to get away with the money so he and his wife, Norma-Jean (Kelly MacDonald), can live the rest of their days quite contently in rural Texas.
For me though, the person who makes this film the masterpiece it is is Javier Bardem. Back in 2007 when No Country for Old Men was made, Bardem was unknown outside of Spain. But since then, he’s been hard to forget. He won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role and for good reason, too. As the formidable Anton Chigurh, Bardem sends shivers down spines whenever he is on-screen. He has the ability to change the atmosphere and tempo of the film in an instant with his memorable appearance and silent ways. It is in the opening scene where we get a sense of Chigurh’s brutality and the impact he is going to have on the film, but it is at many points later on where it is revealed how intense his presence actually is. I can guarantee you will be holding your breath and teetering on the edge of your seat as this man gets closer to getting what he wants.
Chigurh takes movie bad guys to a new level. If I had to pick a fault with No Country for Old Men, it would be the ending. After the high-octane chase and unforgettable performances, I felt that the finish was a bit of an anti-climax which also left a few questions unanswered. Or was that the whole point of it? Maybe it was the writer’s intention to leave the audience to use their imagination when it came to deciding the fates of some of the characters…
Overall, No Country for Old Men is an essential watch for anybody who wants to call themselves a film fan. It will have you hooked from start to finish, and be warned, if you’re anything like me, DO NOT watch this with a drink in your hand – Chigurh will make you throw it over yourself and anybody sat near you.
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