No Country for Old Men

Damn, Javier Bardem can play a bad guy. His monstrous Silva from last year’s Skyfall was a menacing figure, but after seeing No Country for Old Men, I’m just scared shitless of that guy.

I, like everyone else, cower in fear of that haircut.

I, like everyone else, cower in fear of that haircut.

No Country for Old Men is the Coen Brothers’ take on the classic Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. It’s the story of three men: Anton Chigurh (Bardem), a chaotic and violent hitman; Ed Tom Bell, an aging West Texas sheriff who laments the increasing violence in the area; and Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who is just sort of some guy. One day Moss stumbles on a drug deal gone wrong in the middle of the desert. Not too far away from the dead drug dealers, he finds a briefcase filled with $2 million, which he casually walks away with. Chigurh is hired to track him and kill him, and Bell starts hunting them both.

The movie isn’t really about a narrative arc that audiences are used to, but this is what makes the film so memorable. It’s about the clash between chaos and order, the new and the old, and the good and the bad. The characters each take on these roles, and personify them perfectly. Even with the violence and mania of a typical Coen film, No Country for Old Men remains a film about the everyday. Between scenes of Chigurh’s brutal captive bolt pistol, and Moss plotting his great escape, we get shots of the villain tending to wounds, or changing his socks. It’s a type of patience and care that’s difficult to do without boring the audience, but who else could pull it off but the Coens?

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Not pictured: a bitch.

These three characters are some of the most interesting I’ve seen in a long time, and they couldn’t have been better acted. Bardem more than deserved the hardware he picked up for this movie; my only complaint is that he should have been up for best leading actor, because he asserts himself as the centre of the film from the very start. Brolin and Jones own their time on the screen as well with inescapable presence. Even though the three barely share any screen time during the movie, it still felt as though they had incredible chemistry. The ensemble cast, which also included great performance by Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald, is a huge part of why No Country for Old Men is so stunning.

Another Skyfall connection is they both had a god among us as the director of photography. Roger Deakins shot the film, and you know what? I’m not even going to write about it. Just look at these shots instead:

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I wouldn’t recommend No Country for Old Men for everyone, though. Its pacing and structure are different than what many people are used to. For me, I felt somewhat alienated when the film was over, like it shouldn’t have ended the way it did. But after a while I realized that’s what made this movie so awesome. It’s not like a lot of films, but that’s why its so memorable. It’s violent, thrilling and viciously entertaining, but at the same time it manages to have a sort of mysterious calm to it. It’s difficult to explain, but the directing, writing, acting, cinematography and sound all come together to make something totally unique, and I loved it.

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