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Worth A Look: 16.13%
Just Average: 4.03%
Pretty Crappy: 3.23%
Sucks: 5.65%

7 reviews, 82 user ratings

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No Country for Old Men
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by David Cornelius

"The Coens deliver one of their very best."
5 stars

The Coen Brothers have never made a movie like “No Country for Old Men.” Gone are their trademark character quirks, replaced with a cold, distant stare. Adapting the novel by Cormac McCarthy, they bury themselves in the author’s stark world and find themselves lost in a meditation on violence, evil, and fear.

Perhaps “lost” is the wrong word. The Coens - Joel and Ethan, sharing screenwriting and directing credit - are never “lost” here. They are always in full command. But they tell their tale from a few steps back, letting McCarthy’s dark examinations of this cruel world wash over them. Not once does “No Country” feel like a Coen Brothers picture, even in the scenes of casual conversation that might remind you of “Fargo.” The filmmakers are stretching their muscles, trying something new, and by tackling McCarthy, they become overwhelmed, and so do we. The Coens have studied the Evil That Men Do before, but here, in what could arguably be called the bleakest studio film in recent memory, they refuse to balance the grim with the playful. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s all tunnel, dark and eternal. Perhaps “lost” is the right word after all.

The story is simple: An innocent man comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong, discovers a satchel containing two million dollars, and takes it; another man, far from innocent, hunts him down; a third man, a kindly sheriff, hopes to save the first man from the second.

The simplicity is deceiving. The Coens, working so closely from McCarthy’s novel that entire pages of dialogue are often duplicated on screen, effortlessly deliver a multilayered work that’s part thriller, part introspective drama, part character study, part rumination on the very notion of death itself.

Let’s begin with the first man, Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin). For him, this film is a deadly thriller, a chase picture with close-call getaways and cat-and-mouse outwittings. Llewelyn is a smart man, never naïve enough to think he can get away with the money without putting up a good run first. He sends his mousy wife (Kelly Macdonald) to her mother’s, then abandons their trailer and sets off across southern Texas, hiding out in cheap motels, always keeping an eye open for the trouble that’s bound to come his way.

In pure genre terms, “No Country” is as leisurely as a thriller can get while still providing suspense. Moss’ cross-state run moves slowly enough to ensure his plans are properly thought out and executed; setting the story in 1980, where one could easily disappear without cell phones and internet clogging your journey, lends the action a calmer pace. When the story introduces two new characters, a mysterious businessman (Stephen Root) and the bounty hunter (Woody Harrelson) he has hired, they, too, are in no hurry, yet they still provide a great deal of tension by adding to an ever-tightening grip around Moss.

For the second man, the enigmatic Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), “No Country” is a study of evil. Chigurh casually floats from murder to murder like Death itself. He is tired of the common man, those who beg for mercy and ask the ever-present “why?” He taunts them with his twisted philosophy, as if disgusted with the fact that everyday folk can’t comprehend the big picture, that they know they want to live but can never express why they should be spared.

Bardem, in a brilliant, restrained performance that is at once curiously compelling and overwhelmingly terrifying, makes Chigurh more than a man - he's a force. There is no reasoning with him. Even when one character, late in the film, refuses to play his games, the gambit fails; Chigurh has no ego to bruise, and declaring his arguments invalid will not stop him from his ultimate goal. All we can do is watch to see how different people deal with the very inescapable-ness of his existence. And even then, the movie informs us, that matters little - coward or brave soul, Chigurh will leave us the same way.

This fact is not lost on our third man, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), the sheriff. He is at the end of his days and is saddened to learn he has not entered his older years with newfound wisdom. What he has instead is newfound grief. Bell has seen too much death and has resigned himself to an understanding that evil cannot be defeated. Bell is the movie’s moral center, pausing to reflect on the horrors Chigurh leaves in his wake.

He is also the film’s best shot at humanity. An investigative wonder, his detective skills combined with a matter-of-fact attitude puts him in the neighborhood of Marge Gunderson. But where “Fargo” gave us charm and wit to heal the wounds of the gloomier corners of the story, “No Country” grants us little reprieve. Marge was cheery in the face of danger; Ed Tom Bell is reserved.

The Coens echo this tone by removing all music from their film. The visual mood of the vast desert landscapes and dusty small border towns is matched by long stretches of silence, punctuated only by everyday sounds. It’s a bold experiment that succeeds wonderfully; the silence not only draws us in more closely, but it allows the story’s sudden fits of violence to shock all the more.

All this languid dreariness may sound like too much to take, and yet “No Country” is endlessly involving. It’s a movie that compels you to lean in, get closer to the characters, take another step down that dark, endless tunnel. The Coens have given us a film so unlike anything they’ve made before, and in doing so, they’ve given us a work of complete, devastating brilliance.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16240&reviewer=392
originally posted: 01/03/08 11:43:04
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
5/20/15 stanley welles muscular, exact and thrilling 5 stars
12/07/10 Dennis Excellent film; you have to view it more than once. 5 stars
11/12/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess A decent flick, but doesn't compare to the Coehn bros. older films 3 stars
6/10/10 Flathead King A very entertaining film. 5 stars
5/31/10 User Name Once you open Pandora's Box, there's no stopping what comes spilling out. 4 stars
3/04/10 dennis engelke kept me one the edge 5 stars
7/07/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* You have to watch it 3 times to finally say...ok this movie isnt that bad 4 stars
5/10/09 R Lan Repeating what everybody was said. A very good movie that was hurt by its ending. 4 stars
5/06/09 MP Bartley A tightly wound, precisely measured and overwhelmingly cruel masterpiece. 5 stars
3/25/09 mariah great movie but wasnt best movie of '07... 5 stars
1/08/09 Anonymous. chigurh was one of the weirdest movie killers ever. 5 stars
12/06/08 TheViper Stunning achievement, have watched it over and over. 5 stars
11/24/08 brian Has everything but a satisfying resolution. 5 stars
9/21/08 Charles Tatum Well done, but too many "Coenisms" 4 stars
9/17/08 Stu Amazing film with one of the BEST ENDINGS ever. Wildly entertaining and deeply haunting 5 stars
8/17/08 jonathantstorm ending sucked 1 stars
8/11/08 Jon G Definition of a Man Flick 5 stars
8/03/08 Saravanan Srinivasan Yet another brilliant stuff from Coehn Bro.Fantastic acting by Javier Bardem &Josh Brolin 4 stars
7/22/08 Ivana Mann That ending makes a Zen riddle look like a first-grade math problem. Absolute poo! 1 stars
7/14/08 Matt I know I'm not going to be popular for saying this...but this is a shower of crap. 1 stars
6/21/08 AnnieG Although not very unique, this film has some good lines and characters. 3 stars
6/11/08 Jayson One of the best. Ever. 5 stars
5/12/08 Yo Mama if that crazy cracker Javier came to my hood i'd pop a cap in his ass!!!!! 5 stars
5/05/08 Phil M. Afficiando Watch the bonus material first especially "Diary of ...". to appreciate the film itself 4 stars
4/27/08 guisada awesome 5 stars
4/13/08 Colleen Cousineau Terrible ending, other then that, a great thriller 5 stars
4/13/08 DG Based on Chaucers - Pardoner's Tale. Chigurh is death 4 stars
4/09/08 ravenmad i tell you, it was javier's hair cut that creeped me most. Awesome film. Intense. 5 stars
3/25/08 Mike Nice thriller, terrible ending, what in the HELL was {that} all about 4 stars
3/24/08 action movie fan no country for action fans-okay story, but too slow 2 stars
3/21/08 Joe Smaltz started out pretty good but ended with out an ending 1 stars
3/19/08 Nick T Riveting though the ending caught me by suprise but it made me think about the events 5 stars
3/18/08 The real ED Ed bob - people like you should have life violently revoked. Call it.. friendo. 5 stars
3/17/08 AD Moss represents Bell's father - 20 years younger than him, get it? 5 stars
3/17/08 RF Great movie. Brillantly Intense and brilliantly acted. Well deserved Oscars. 5 stars
3/16/08 Amit One of the few films that has value, only people with some intelligence can appreciate it 5 stars
3/16/08 Danny I have no idea what happened at the end. Overrated. 3 stars
3/15/08 Julie Total waste of time!!! 1 stars
3/13/08 Mr Hype Good... but the hype is silly, and undeserving to say the least 4 stars
3/12/08 daniel wolfe ending let me down,,,,,,great for 3 / 4 's of movie, but boring ending !!! 4 stars
3/08/08 Freddy A solid, involoving film that seems to lose impetus in the last 20 minutes 4 stars
3/05/08 Louise A well-made and gripping film - such a shame about the weak ending! 4 stars
3/02/08 ladavies The Coen brothers at the Oscars...idiot savants?? Great movie! 5 stars
3/01/08 mormor613 Not good for my blood pressure, but worth it 5 stars
2/17/08 ang Anton Chigurh one of the best villains/Great Movie but ending was crappy! 4 stars
2/11/08 Monday Morning Riveting, but seemed to end early - I missed closure on several plotlines/characters 4 stars
2/11/08 Stefan Great acting but uncanny and towards the end, totally unrealistic plot 3 stars
2/02/08 ad instant classic 5 stars
2/01/08 Quigley A masterfully crafted film. Will go down as an American classic and a Coen Bros masterpiece 5 stars
1/29/08 ronp the ending sucked. left too many doors opened. the rest of movie was powerful 4 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic Brutal and intense, its an enigmatic, metaphysical mindgame 4 stars
1/24/08 Mike O I don't know what the big deal is. 2 stars
1/23/08 synthman Another high water mark from American geniuses 5 stars
1/22/08 mr.mike Fairly weak ending keeps it from a 5 star rating. 4 stars
1/17/08 Buttley Great Film, extremely suspenseful and wonderfully acted. Enjoy your Oscar, Javier. 5 stars
1/12/08 JamieD Starts off masterfull, then limps toward the end and dies. 1 stars
1/05/08 NatalieH I loved everything about this film, the sountrack, Javier Bardem & Tommy Lee Jones acting! 5 stars
12/31/07 hardy campbell I am obsessed with this film, and I am NEVER obsessed with films. 5 stars
12/26/07 Vagile Superb 5 stars
12/25/07 Ed Bob Sucks big harry donky balls 1 stars
12/17/07 Tim O'Donnell Great movie--captures a great book 5 stars
12/13/07 Mike Erickson Suspenseful, Violent, and Funny - How they accomplished this I dont know 5 stars
12/10/07 Shawn Best picture of the year 5 stars
12/08/07 Edward Great - taking my son - it will be talked about years later. 5 stars
12/07/07 orpy Wildly entertaining! I love that bad guy! 4 stars
12/04/07 ES This will be a movie people look back on and think- ok, maybe it wasn't that good after all 3 stars
12/02/07 Bnorm Great movie, wonderful villain and is violent witouth being gratutious. the ending was bad 5 stars
12/01/07 george1039 Everything and I mean everything a movie should be 5 stars
12/01/07 Michael Thoughtful, violent, riveting. Brilliantly acted. 5 stars
11/30/07 Jefenator Joel & Ethan: Quit now - you'll never top it! 5 stars
11/27/07 bucslim The "I don't get it" crowd doesn't get it 5 stars
11/26/07 Patrick Go see this movie, now!!! 5 stars
11/26/07 Ole Man Bourbon A lot of fun to follow these characters. Classic movie. 5 stars
11/25/07 john wow, Mr. Brooks and Hannibal step aside, eh..thoughtful, fun, masterpiece..so fine 5 stars
11/24/07 David Vivat Flat and nearly incomprehensible 2 stars
11/24/07 R.W.Welch Neat script and villian. Trails off some towards the end. B+ 4 stars
11/18/07 Sully Javier Bardem=Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, he's that scary 5 stars
11/11/07 DonnyM Instant Classic. Cohen bros hit oil. 5 stars
11/10/07 reddye5 See this film!!!! That's all you need to read. 5 stars
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  09-Nov-2007 (R)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2008



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