The Coen Brothers, Joel & Ethan, make movies that appeal to lovers of
film. That is, their movies invite analysis about the plot, the
characters, the editing, the clever camerawork, etc. "No Country For Old
Men" is the latest in a series of Coen films that dares you to figure
out what it's about.
The Oscar-winning Best Picture, "No Country For Old Men," is now on DVD.
Even though the Coen Brothers have been making feature films since
1984's "Blood Simple," I didn't notice their filmmaking talent until
"Raising Arizona" in 1987. To a young film lover, "Arizona" was
brilliant. I admired their use of campy dialogue and quick camerawork. I
thought their screenplay was well-written. These two had talent, and I
wouldn't be proven wrong in the future. "Miller's Crossing" (1990) was
plodding at times, yet excellent in its love for the criminal
underworld. "Barton Fink" (1991) was strangely beautiful in its
filmmaking. But it was "Fargo" (1996) that showed how clever the Coen's
writing and directing could be. Now comes "No Country For Old Men." It's
as if the film gods finally recognized the brothers as true craftsmen of
the art (although they won Oscars for their writing of "Fargo").
I won't say that "No Country" is my favorite Coen Brothers film. That
belongs to "Fargo." This new movie is more simple and yet more complex
than the 1996 film. It lacks much of the humor that has been a staple in
most of the Coen Brothers movies. The villain, Anton Chigurh (Bardem),
is cold and unlike almost any villain I've seen in years. The film is
bloody violent, but that's nothing new to the Coen Brothers' style. You
don't warm up to the characters like you do in past Coen films, but each
is dynamic and commands your attention. "No Country" is a hybrid of
every Coen staple, twisted into a slow but reasonably paced film. It may
not be the quirkiest Coen movie, and it shouldn't be, but it'll get your
The story essentially involves a chase. Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) stumbles
across a drug bust gone bad and finds a briefcase full of money.
Suddenly he's embroiled in a chase between mysterious drug runners and
the very callous
Chigurh. Caught in the middle of all this mayhem is Jones' Sheriff Ed
Tom Bell. What surprised me is how layered this simple plot really is,
and how much deeper the characters really are.
Bardem is completely frightening as
Chigurh. It's been a long time since I can recall seeing a
cold-hearted villain such as
Chigurh. Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) was one of the
great cinematic villains, but he had a soft side. Chigurh doesn't have a
soft side or remorse. His victims only have one saving grace and that's
the flip of a coin. When he's on-screen, he's intimidating. There have
been villains who are just as cold and calculated as Bardem's character
in numerous films. But they're bad just to be bad. They're the type of
villain written into a movie to move the plot along, and give the good
guy someone to battle. They're not scary like Chigurh. Upon viewing
Bardem's role in "No Country," I noticed how smart this guy is. In the
scenes when he's talking to his potential victims, he's usually thinking
one step ahead of them. You never know if he's going to commit to
killing or not. The killing of his victims is a part of him and how he
deals with business, or how he escapes from a situation. I also think
that there's more to this man's character and it's for the audience to
figure out. And perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Either way, Bardem
is excellent in this role.
Josh Brolin is quite a re-discovery in this film. I can honestly say
that I can only recall one movie Brolin was in, and that was "The
Goonies" in 1985. Looking at his credits on
iMDB, I saw that he's
done a lot of roles in independent films and TV. He's remarkably low key
in this film and fits the part of Llewelyn perfectly. He's just as
calculating as Chigurh in keeping that briefcase full of money. He's
just not a cold blooded killer.
Tommy Lee Jones plays that classic Tommy Lee Jones in this film. He has
that sorrowful look on his face and that Texas drawl that makes Jones so
enjoyable to watch. He's one of those great actors who doesn't have a
lot of range, and he plays his roles comfortably. For me, that's okay.
What he gives on the screen is convincing. He's like Morgan Freeman; he
can read off of a cereal box and I'd listen. Jones is surprising in "No
Country." He's even more low key than ever before. But his role as Bell
is the center of the film. His character is simple on the surface, yet
there is much going on in that head of his. Without giving too much away
about the story, you can see how he's an honest and peaceful man who
doesn't like how things around him are changing.
The Coen Brothers, working from the Cormac McCarthy book, have written
and directed (and produced) a film that will probably leave audiences
baffled to what it's about. I watched the film twice now and still am
trying to figure out what it all means. I have a hunch, but I ain't
telling. I could be wrong! And maybe that's what the Coen Brothers want.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photo: © Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Paramount Vantage. All rights reserved.
Cleverly plotted and acted chase film
Directors: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin
Making of, etc.
Picture: Very Good
The Coen Bros. love making movie lover's movies
Super cinematography by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC
Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1
DVD RELEASE DATE
March 11, 2008