No Country for Old Men

2008-06-09 07:26
What it's about:

While out hunting in the Texas desert, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles onto the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad, and makes off with $2 million in cash. The drug runners dispatch a psychopathic hitman (Javier Bardem) to retrieve their money, while the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) tries desperately to bring Llewelyn safely home.

What we thought of it:

No Country For Old Men is a deeply frightening film, not because it's about bad men doing bad things, but because it refuses to glamourise those bad men and their bad things. Instead it presents them with matter of fact clarity, transforming what could be a standard crime thriller into a meditation on the end of an era and an exploration of good and evil.

The whole film turns around its most uncompromising character, the psychopathic hitman, Anton Chigurh. In Javier Bardem's hands Chigurh is the most terrifying villain to come out of American cinema in several decades. With his deep, calm voice and piercing stare, he seems to suck the hope out of the other characters like a black hole sucks matter.

It's not just that he kills at random, or without emotion, but that he seems to barely be present for the event, firing bolts into people's heads and then gliding away serenely. He looks at the other characters like insects, cocking his head curiously, wondering when he will squash them. In one scene, digging shotgun pellets out of his own leg, he winces not in pain but in irritation – at the inconvenience of pain.

And while Llewelyn Moss may represent our hope in the story, the closest thing it has to a hero, it's really Chigurh's story. There's a sense that he belongs in this new world; that he instinctively knows how it works. The sheriff, played to laconic perfection by Tommy Lee Jones, is the polar opposite of Chigurh. He's a man from the old world struggling to come to terms with the moral apocalypse around him, and he most closely represents the audience in the story, searching for light but seeing only darkness.

For all its existential head scratching, No Country For Old Men is still very much a thriller, and a brilliant one at that. The film is like its weathered lead characters – quiet, measured, intense. There are passages of ten minutes or more where no one says a word, and there's not a note of music, but the tension is almost unbearable. It's a film of creaking floorboards, crunching footsteps and the deadly zip and ping of silenced bullets ricocheting off walls.

The film is a return to form for the Coen brothers, who have been turning out increasingly jokey and irrelevant fluff like The Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty. The Coen's have always been obsessed with the darker human emotions of greed and hate. Even the brilliantly goofball The Big Lebowski was based on the noir classic The Big Sleep. But not since Fargo have they captured the essence of humanity's murkier side so vividly.

Arguably No Country is the Coen's best film, if not their most enjoyable; it's certainly their most technically adept. The cinematography is gorgeous, the sound design and art direction are both immaculate, and the editing pitch perfect. They may have lifted the pithy, slippery dialogue straight from Cormac McCarthy's novel, but they direct its delivery to perfection. It seems the brothers are out to prove, once and for all, that they are true auteurs in every sense of the word.

None of this makes the film any more enjoyable, of course. Oh it's beautiful and brilliant, but there's no easy satisfaction to it. This is art, not entertainment – it challenges and disturbs, it doesn't cuddle. No Country is like Chigurh – a self contained and flawless entity, true only to itself. We are merely along for the ride.

- Alistair Fairweather

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The Coen brothers' stark masterpiece may be the most uncompromising Best Picture winner in decades, but its beauty and genius don't make it any easier to watch.

Annabelle 2008/02/29 9:52 AM
Brilliant! All 3 main actors, the narration... all aspects of this movie deserved the 5 stars. Javier Bardem was perfect for the roll. Even if it was essentially a blood and gore movie, the visuals did not harp on that - except when it had to show something of the killer. Brilliant!
Leon 2008/02/29 1:25 PM
Why? Why would a best picture oscar winner only be released in 3 cinemas in the whole of Gauteng? It is absolutely laughable. Excellent movie though
Uncle 2008/02/29 3:27 PM
I agree with Leon The limited release is ridiculous. But 'XXX', or the 'Fast and the Furious' get released in every cinema all over the country...even Pofadder. It shows me yet again just how utterly short-sighted the distributors and Cinema Companies are. This is a great film and we deserve to see it.
Jack 2008/02/29 8:03 PM
Another take ... The performance by all actors involved was impeccable. The cinematography; outstanding. However, this film left me with a bitter after-taste. It lacks anything that really resembles a thrill, and I believe that people's opinions of this film are being swayed by all the media hype surrounding it. I will not watch it a second time, and although I have recommended that people go and see it, I also warn that they will leave with a healthy dose of frustration.
Martin 2008/03/10 4:37 PM
sense of frustration.... ..... especially with the inconclusive ending. Does this herald a Part II ?
The Boss 2008/03/11 10:54 AM
WHATS SO GOOD !! Just like one of the famous Quintin Tarentino movies. Boring and so predictable. Would not think twice of watching it again.......To much hype, no deivery!!!!
Yuds 2008/03/12 8:18 AM
Boring---seen it before---very predictable i would give it a one star........
Busi 2008/03/14 12:41 PM
A real Trauma for me I'm a thriller fan but oh my....There were parts that I could not watch. I had to cover my eyes so many times that I missed out on some of the killing. Ohhh I left the cinema with sooo many scary thoughts. Are we that sick as humans? I will just die of a heart attack if I ever meet Javier.. Imagine him in your room @night. I have to watch it for the 2nd time though without my eyes closed. It deserved every award it won - 100% i'm speechless - how do people come up with stories like this? I also do not want to meet the author - he's quite dark to have these thoughts.
Joe 2008/03/20 11:29 AM
Over Rated "This is art, not entertainment" If you want to look at art go to a museum,and it was definately as boring as most museums. It seemed to me like an amateurs attempt at a thriller. Woody Harrelsons appearance wasnt necessary either. and how he was portrayed in the lead up to his death was completely false. This tough guy who was supposed to close the deal on Anton, finds an even quicker fate than most of the other characters. The whole thing was bland and unentertaining.
Andre l 2008/03/20 9:21 PM
Brilliant! The Sheer Brilliance of this movie is well captured in the review. Of course people will comment on it being 'boring' or 'inconclusive' but then again those are the very people who miss the point of this movie: Those brought up on E-TV brainfodder or who just don't know better! It is a pity, though.... True, it is art. Like true art, either you get it or you don't!
Christa 2008/03/22 9:57 AM
No country for old men Senseless violence, no storyline, poor conclusion. Not for the average SA movie fans. Not worth the hype. Waste of money!
kathy 2008/04/25 11:57 AM
No Country for Old Men I would give it no more than TWO stars. Too long, and sleep was a much better option!
Jo Els 2008/08/28 11:20 AM
Ultimate cinematic experience This was to me a totally fascinating movie, it surely is not the usual popcorn fare that packs movie theatres, it's not friday nights cheap thrill, it's a character study of incomprehensible evil, about how bad mankind can be. The scenes and dialogue flow effortlessly..and if you did not catch the ending, well....this is art, not superficial entertainment. Deserving of the Oscar and more.
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