Written by Sam Allen
“Fargo”. “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” “The Big Lebowski”. Any of these ring a bell? They were all produced by a pair of dynamic filmmakers named Joel and Ethan Coen, better known as the Coen Brothers. Oscar-winning, hit-making cinematic demigods, the Coen brothers have produced some of the most prolific and seminal films of the past twenty years. Each of their pieces is marked by rich characterizations, a trademark aesthetic sensibility and uniquely memorable performances by some big-name actors (Buscemi, Cage, Clooney to name a few). This Wednesday, as many of us headed home (or were already there), the newest film from the brothers, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country For Old Men”, was released.
“No Country” is quite the diverse film. To put it in a single genre would be to pigeonhole some of the film’s best elements, but for the purpose of this review, it could be called a part-thriller part-noir mystery story. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem, it tells the story of Llewelyn Moss (Brolin), who stumbles upon a drug deal gone through, leaving two million dollars and a pickup full of heroin in the middle of the West Texas desert. Taking the money, Moss is then tracked by a sociopathic serial killer, Anton Chigurh (Bardem, in the best performance of the entire film), across the vast Texas landscape, all the while a local sheriff (Jones) tries to aid Moss against his vicious pursuer.
The first thing that comes to mind when watching “No Country” is entertainment, pure and simple. “No Country” is, beyond anything else, a fun movie to watch. There’s a carefully balanced mix of chilling dialogue and edge-of-your-seat gun play (it warrants its R rating with gratuitous but tactful amounts of blood). It’s a movie you can walk into, watch and walk away from without feeling weighed down by an overbearing plot or having to work through convoluted ideas.
However, there are certain elements of the film that warrant paying close attention to. Bardem’s performance as the crazed and ambiguous Anton is outstanding. Bardem gives the character a distinct coldness as he goes on a spree across the desert, killing right and left both for hire and for mere convenience. It’s safe to say that he will at least receive an Oscar nomination for “No Country”. Brolin and Jones are excellent as well, each giving their respective characters a different kind of uneasiness and insecurity due to the ensuing violence and chaos in the wake of the failed drug deal.
Without going into too much detail, the plot plays out quite well, with enough twists and turns to keep the viewer engaged and watching, but the ending comes quite suddenly, almost as if the Coen brothers stopped speaking mid-sentence. Its ultimate resolution is left, ironically, arguably unresolved, but Bardem’s last scene in the film is especially fantastic and adds greatly to the macabre humor that permeates the earlier segments.
All in all, “No Country” makes for an excellent viewing experience. It might not be the best film for someone who’s a bit squeamish, and if you were not a fan of some of the Coen Brother’s earlier works, it’s highly unlikely that this will be the film to change your opinions. But, overall, “No Country For Old Men” is a marked accomplishment by the Brothers, and might be worth a viewing if you’re interested in seeing prospective Oscar nominees.