Movie review: ‘No Country for Old Men’
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” After seeing “No Country For Old Men,” the fear of coming home to find Javier Bardem lurking behind a door or sitting in a dark corner speaks volumes to the man’s acting ability and to how engrossed one gets in this movie.
Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, the terrifyingly stoic main character in the latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) that goes around Texas killing people. Hang on a minute … this is a movie about a scary guy who goes around killing people? Well … yes. In other words, if enhancing a sense of holiday cheer is your key objective, this is probably not the film for you.
Nonetheless, it may well be one of the best films of 2007, if not exactly comforting. So you probably will want to see it anyway, even if you have to go home and (happily not discovering Bardem waiting for you with his cattle prod) follow it up with “Rudolph” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“No Country For Old Men” is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, an author inclined to writing dark stories set in the American Southwest involving perplexing and unemotional characters, all of whom fall short of being loveable but are convincing and intriguing with their guileless missions in life.
One such character is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), just a hapless hunter without much of a shot who stumbles upon a bunch of dead guys in a desolate strip of desert in rural Texas (circa 1980). A Vietnam veteran and poor welder who lives with his young wife in a trailer, Moss is possessed when he finds that one of the dead men (mostly Mexicans who appear to have had a skirmish over a drug deal) is carrying a satchel containing a couple million dollars in cash. Moss is possessed, that is, to quickly run off with this treasure and eek out a different life for himself and his wife.
He doesn’t have much time to make a plan, however, as he’s sure someone will come looking for that big lump of dough.
Who else would that someone be but Chigurh, who has escaped from local police and is on a calm and methodical killing rampage on his trek to reach Moss and the cash.
People are killed unceremoniously without so much a cringe from Chigurh, who is ironically summed up by Woody Harrelson’s character (Carson Wells) as, “not having much of a sense of humor.”
Chigurh does toy with some of his victims, however, asking them to “call it” as he tosses a coin, some totally unaware that they are gambling for their lives. Others he takes out with one loud, tidy and awful compression of his CO2-powered prod before they even blink or sense any danger.
The suspense hovers unnervingly, so much you will hide behind your sleeve for half the movie, just knowing that Chigurh, in all of his apishness and with all of his intense stares, is about to mercilessly drop somebody else.
In comes a thoughtful sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), who begins tracing the killer’s trail, hoping to protect Moss and reassure Moss’s concerned wife, played by Kelly Macdonald, who, speaking in an impeccable southern drawl, never slips the slightest hint at being Scottish.
The entire cast of “No Country For Old Men” does a phenomenal job of weaving an unsettling drama that consumes one’s senses. The acting is superb. The script is brilliant and the cinematography kicks up about as much tension as an old Chevy does dust in El Paso.
Think “Silence of the Lambs.” Think “Natural Born Killers.”
It’s no slice of festive fruitcake, but “No Country For Old Men” is a masterfully executed story about a violent man who cannot be stopped or reasoned with. It will make your favorite holiday film feel that much sweeter.