No Country For Old Men * * * * *

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Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen.
Screenplay: Ethan & Joel Coen.
Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root, Rodger Boyce, Ana Reeder, Beth Grant, Gene Jones.

Ever since their dark debut “Blood Simple” in 1984, Joel & Ethan Coen have commanded an audience’s attention. They followed that up with the wacky and kinetic comedy “Raising Arizona” in 1987, proving early on, that they were comfortable in any genre. That hasn’t changed over the years but what it does do, is leave you with feelings of anticipation whenever they deliver another film. You just never know what light or dark delights they are going to deliver. This film is the darkest delight they have delivered so far.

While hunting in the Texas desert, a young mid-west cowboy (Josh Brolin) comes across a botched drug deal and decides to snatch a satchel of cash. Unknowingly, there are bigger things at work here and his foolish decision attracts the attention of a relentless hitman (Javier Bardem) who has been sent to recover the money. As bodies begin to pile in their wake, a local Sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) has the duty of hunting them down.

To foreshorten the opening lines of this film and give an insight from the disillusioned protagonist Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, we are told “… the crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.”” Sheriff Bell is at a loss to explain human behaviour and the evil actions of people that he has pursued throughout his career in law enforcement. He is the weary heart and soul of this movie and a character that Tommy Lee Jones can do in his sleep. He serves as one part of three characters whose lives explosively intersect. The others include; Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) a foolish young man who doesn’t quite grasp the enormity of his actions, which in turn, attract the attention of very disturbed and dangerous killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) – who makes decisions on the flip of a coin and wields a hydrolic cattle gun as a weapon. Cleverly, the Coens have them sharing very little (if any) screen time and Jones’ Sherrif always two steps behind the aftermath of destructive events.
As always, the Coens are at the top of their game and have a good grasp on this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. They capture his recurrent themes; isolation, the passing of time and changing epoch’s. In “The Road” McCarthy explored a post-apocalyptic change. In this, it’s the end of the western way of life and despite life-experienced characters, a lack of understanding in the reasons for it’s happening. Throughout their films they have delivered consistent moments of suspense. Here though, the Coens outdo themselves with regular scenes of unbearable tension (done without the use of music). The actors are all up to the task and despite Lee Jones and the Oscar winning Bardem receiving most of the plaudits, Brolin also delivers an absolutely solid, low-key performance. No Coen brothers review would be complete without mentioning the sublime talents of their regular cinematographer Roger Deakins. Yet again, his stark and beautiful camerawork compliments the barren landscapes that these characters roam. As always, his and the Coens’ vision complete one another. One of the brothers’ finest films and thoroughly deserving of its best picture and director(s) Oscar awards.

If you’re aware of the Coen brothers’ canon (and most filmgoers are) then combine “Fargo” and “Blood Simple” and this is what you get… only better. A very gripping and powerful neo-western.

Mark Walker

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35 Responses to “No Country For Old Men * * * * *”

  1. themarknight Says:

    Awesome review for an awesome movie.

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  2. great review Mark. In my humble view i didn’t think this was the best picture of the year, for my there will be blood and jesse james was superior, but it was a fantastic year that year (2008 awards i think). great review though, really tight and concise. I think i will revisit this in case i am mistaken as it is undoubtedly a very good film.

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    • I know your a big fan of Jesse James and for that reason I’m going to revisit it soon. I respect your opinion. I was torn between There Will be Blood and this but in the end, I actually enjoyed this more. That’s why I think it deserved it. There will be Blood is also a 5 star movie but it’s a different experience. Jesse James on the otherhand had me feeling a little disappointed but I think that was mainly down to expectations. I wasn’t ready for what it delivered. I would be on a second sitting though. I look forward to it now.

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      • NCFOM is defo 5 stars, totally agree, Jesse James is a Marmite film, totally understand why it would dissapoint, something about it really resonated with me and i respect that it was made on its own terms.TWBB is in my top ten so i have to review that sometime for my ongoing project

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      • Three great films film’s and you say, a great competitive year for awards. It’s hard to choose between them but I can’t fully make a decision until I revisit Jesse James. I have the feeling, I’ll adore it second time round. Marmite film’s tend to go in my positive folder.

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  3. This is one of my favorite movies ever. I think about it often, actually. Excellent write-up, Mark!

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    • It’s one of my favourites also Andy. I’m really torn now as to looking at my Top Ten list again. I really feel this should be in there somewhere but I also have a couple of others. Maybe I should just change to a Top Twenty list. Damn it’s hard!!!

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      • I’m absolutely shit at coming up with Top _____ lists because they change so often. Goodfellas consistently remains my favorite movie, though

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      • Goodfellas is always one I struggle with Andy. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore it but it never seems to creep into lists I make. It’s always there on the outskirts but Raging Bull is my favourite Scorsese film. Added to which, whenever I make a list, Scorsese (amazingly) never seems to be a director involved…. I need to have a good sit down and a good talk with myself I think. 😉

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  4. I loved this movie. I also loved The Road. I did know about the novel that The Road is based on but I didn’t it was the same author behind this one. Considering my love for those movies I really should get around to read them. Should be my cup of tea. Gloomy is the base for my cinematic diet, occasionally broken up by some bittersweet desserts.

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    • I loved both books Jessica and if I’m honest, I preferred “The Road”. I was amazed at how McCarthy wrote it so simply. However, I don’t think the film done it justice but I’d have to rewatch it. I think the Coens perfectly captured “No Country…” though and as I say, the themes are very similar. If you’ve not read them, then they are a must. You’ll be able to finish reading “The Road” in a day. It’s structured in such a way. “All The Pretty Horses” was another of his but I didn’t like the film and have no desire to read the book because of that. That might be unfair though.

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  5. Heh. This one was a litmus test for me. When I got the email with the title of the post, I thought to myself. Highest possible rating – he maxed it out, or I need to re-evaluate. LOL. 😀

    Well done.

    In my personal top 5. Haunting to watch, and has some deep deep metaphors to analyze. So fantastic.

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    • Cheers Fogs. I think I’ve rushed this review (due to lack of time) but as I mentioned earlier to Claratsi in my comments. I need to reevaluate my Top Ten film’s. This has to be in there. I love it that much.! As you know, The Big Lebowski is my top dollar Coens but this is up there with their best – and they’ve done a lot of good ones. I shall need to ponder further on my decisions for top movies. I’m doing this a disservice if it doesn’t appear.

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  6. Great review man. There’s a reason I never do reviews on my blog, because I find it extremely difficult cause I just want to be like “IT WAS GREAT GO SEE IT”

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  7. MrMcBam Says:

    Definitely my favorite Coen brothers film. Been itching to re-watch it recently, and this writeup has made me slip in the Blu-ray.

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    • Glad to be a reminder of your love for this film. I share your enthusiasm for it. The Big Lebowski stills stands as my favourite Coens though. This comes in at #2.

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  8. YES, YES, YES! Great review of an incredible movie. One of my favorite films of all time. Brilliantly crafted, sticks close to the book, and it’s soaked in that wonderful Coen brothers style.

    I love this movie.

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  9. sanclementejedi Says:

    Nice review as usual Mark, this film ended up making me a bit depressed. I was really pulling for Josh Brolin’s character to get away. Spectacular movie.

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  10. Nice review. Bardem and Brolin were amazing. Chigurh has become a classic character. I love NCFOM. Your review made me want to watch it again! Oh, and this line —> “snatch a satchel of cash”, that’s a tongue twister! hehe

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  11. I remember liking this one

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  12. I read the book first and actually enjoyed this film more on the second viewing. Javier Bardem is superb, as is Brolin and Jones and I love the Coen’s direction. A modern classic.

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  13. Your review did my second favorite movie of all time justice.

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  14. Great review Mark. Don’t hate me but I don’t know if I’ll ever see this. I only like a few things from the Coens and some people who know I don’t have the stomach for violent stuff have warned me about this one. I’m sure those who can handle it appreciate ‘No Country For Old Men’ but I don’t think this is for me.

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    • Well, to each their own Ruth. I’m not overly keen on violence either. I can take it if it’s relevant but all these recent “torture porn” film’s like Hostel and Red State, I just can’t stomach. I’m more surprised that you say that only a few Coens film’s have impressed you though. I adore their stuff. They are by by far my favourite filmmakers. Them and David Lynch. Lynch can be hard to stomach sometimes also though.

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      • I do like Fargo and Miller’s Crossing, somehow I just don’t *get* their style, so I guess I shouldn’t say I wasn’t impressed. You know how certain filmmakers’ style just appeal to you, I think the Coens are more of an acquired taste. I know it’s kind of a sacrilege for me to say as they’re from my home state, ahah.

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      • Oooh! Nice choices there Ruth. I love them both but it is indeed sacrilege in my eyes to diss the mighty Coens. Lol. I would be so proud to come from their part of town. 😉

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  15. Nice review, Mark. I’ve seen this as well, and it’s very well crafted, and I can see why a lot of people love it. For me, though, the ending really left me dissatisfied. Very anti-climactic. Marred an otherwise great picture, in my eyes. But I know I’m in the minority on that one.

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    • Thanks for stopping by Morgan. Yeah, the first time I seen this I was disappointed with the ending also. On repeat viewings though, I found it quite fitting. It makes complete sense why it’s delivered the way it is. In a dramatic way, it definitely jarred with the tension and excitement that went before but I understand that a lot of people were left wanting more.

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