NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **1/2 (out of 5)
Tommy Lee Jones as ED TOM BELL
Javier Bardem as ANTON CHIGURH
Josh Brolin as LLEWELYN MOSS
Directed by: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
BY KEVIN CARR
Only a few times each year do I see a movie that is so gripping, so powerful, that I find myself saying that it is easily the best of the year. In 2006, this happened with “The Departed,” and we all know how that ended up, Academy Award and all. In 2007, history repeated itself when I saw “No Country for Old Men.”
I have been a fan of the Coen Brothers since I saw “Raising Arizona” in high school. With very few exceptions (dare I remind everyone of “Intolerable Cruelty”?), pretty much every film they touch is a brilliant masterwork. This is the case with “No Country for Old Men.”
The film follows a regular guy (Josh Brolin) from a trailer park in West Texas who stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong in the desert. He discovers a satchel of money and takes it from the dead drug dealers. However, he doesn’t realize that a sociopath (Javier Bardem) has been sent to retrieve the money. Also following them both around the country is a small town sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones).
Not since “Fargo” have the Coen Brothers made such a perfect movie. Based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men” unravels into something you’d never expect. The brothers make some daring choices in the film, from not using a musical soundtrack (save one scene) to taking their time with the shots and letting the movie breathe.
At its core, this is a thriller, but it is very hard to categorize. The dialogue is, in many ways, hilarious. Tommy Lee Jones offers a dry delivery that makes even the most eerie lines seem humorous, but never out of place. The acting is superb, and it is often overshadowed by Javier Bardem’s Oscar-winning performance. Still, the whole cast does well, including great smaller roles by people like Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald.
The pacing of this film reminds me of why the Coens are such expert filmmakers. In a season when it’s tempting to have the movies run north of 2 1/2 hours, they actually keep things to the two hour mark. Even though some shots are long and drawn-out, it’s not indulgent. These only serve to make the punctuated, explosive action sequences that much more thrilling.
It’s a cliche to say that don’t make films like this any more, and I suppose it’s also inaccurate. Because very few ever made films like this. The art that comes from the Coens is unique, not just in the contemporary context, but throughout history as well.
You don’t get better filmmaking than “No Country for Old Men” in 2007, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better film in the past ten years… at least until you hit “Fargo” from 1996.
The DVD comes with a sizeable making-of documentary which thankfully isn’t too self-congratulatory to the directors. There’s also a spotlight on working with the Coens, which also isn’t too congratulatory (well, maybe just a little). Finally, the features are wrapped up with a spotlight on Tommy Lee Jones’s character.