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No Country for Old Men

A 2008 movie starring Javier Bardem directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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Show Me the Money

  • Dec 16, 2007
  • by
The Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men" is one of those films that can speak volumes in few words, and it successfully moves forward despite going at a snail's pace. This essentially goes against every principle I believe a movie should follow, so in all honesty, I don't know why I enjoyed this film so much. I don't think it has anything to do with the story, which is actually quite simplistic: taking place in 1980, a psychopath searches for a hunter that stole a suitcase full of drug money in the remote deserts of Texas. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the structure, which seems to intentionally forgo a clear beginning, middle, and end. And I know it has nothing to do with the characters, which are crafted so realistically that they don't mesh with cinematic escapism. So what on earth is left? Why did this film work so well?

All I can come up with are the numerous scenes of conversation, which are fascinating in both style and speech. At some point or another, every character has something to say. More importantly, every character says what they have to say very well. Take, for example, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a low-key yet murderous madman whose weapon of choice is a pressurized air gun--in a scene early on, he challenges a convenience store owner to a psychological duel, and after flipping a coin, he asks the owner to call it. We immediately get the sense that whichever end is facing up will determine whether or not the owner dies. How this scene ends doesn't matter; what does matter is how it reaches the end. Even the way the characters sound is important, simply because tone says much more than actual words do. Bardem uses a deep, monotone voice that perfectly accentuates Chigurh's methodical, sadistic nature.

He channels that brutal energy to find Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who foolishly gets himself involved in the aftermath of a failed drug trade. After wandering into an area littered with bullet-ridden cars, decaying bodies, and a gigantic stash of heroine, he finds and takes a suitcase stuffed with more than $2 million in cash. He soon realizes that he has to be on the run, which goes completely over the head of his young wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), who's caring and approachable but easily confused. She and Moss speak to each other as if they've come to an understanding somewhere along the way: He can do what he wants so long as she doesn't question him too much. This isn't to say that he's an abuser--truth be told, he doesn't even raise his voice to her. It seems to be more a matter of trust, which will be difficult to earn since stealing the money has gotten her involved.

As Moss moves from motel to motel with Chigurh in hot pursuit, retired sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) begins investigating the case. Here's a man beaten down by life, unwilling to continue working yet unable to keep himself busy at home. He's weary, lost, and uninspired, at one point saying, "I always thought when I got older, God would sort of come into my life in some way. He didn't." He goes on to say, "I don't blame Him; if I was Him, I'd have the same opinion about me that He does." Most movies with dialogue like this tend to make the character's situation obvious, detailing for the audience what exactly brought him or her to that point. No such details are given in the case of "No Country for Old Men," which only made Jones' character that much more fascinating. Bell begins the case with enough drive but soon loses himself to doubt and frustration.

And then there's Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), a special agent assigned to find both Chigurh and the missing money. His purpose in the story isn't exactly clear to me: on the one hand, he engages Chigurh in a way that's mesmerizing; on the other hand, his methods and reasoning skills are both mysterious and unrealistic. In other words, I just didn't get this guy. But when I think about the way the rest of the film plays out, it's quite possible that I wasn't supposed to get him. Maybe he was meant to be a counterpoint to the insane Chigurh, another enigmatic character that plays against evil in an intentionally ambiguous way. There's really no knowing when it comes to a Coen Brothers movie.

This is especially true of the ending, which isn't even partially explained by the word "unresolved." Quite frankly, it's maddeningly unsatisfying, about as anticlimactic as they get. So I once again find myself questioning why I was able to appreciate the film; "No Country for Old Men" is definitely wonderful, yet it twists wonderful storytelling techniques into something unrecognizable. This movie is in a league all its own, a crime drama so unique that it can't easily be overlooked. How it achieved this, I have no idea, and I doubt that multiple viewings would make things any clearer for me. I leave it to you to go see it and come up with your own reasons for liking it. This is a big thing for me to say--for all intents and purposes, this is a movie I should have hated.

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February 06, 2012
I actually liked this more than you did. It was amazing how two people who never met made such an impact in each other's lives. Nice review.
February 06, 2012
Another old review, written at at time when I was still trying to find a voice. This was the first Coen Brothers film I had ever seen, so I really had no idea what to expect. Nevertheless, I awarded it 3.5 stars, which should tell you that I wasn't completely out of line with the critics and the Academy.
More No Country for Old Men reviews
review by . March 26, 2008
Wow. Great movie. I saw this movie at the Rialto in Raleigh, NC, which is worth a trip in itself as an old school "movie palace". The lobby is about the size of my kitchen at home, just enough room for a concession stand, then double doors open directly into the big theatre with a concrete floor sloping down to the big screen on a real stage. Stepping through those double doors is a 50-year step backwards, but the place looks like it has been recently renovated as the floor is clean, the seats are …
review by . May 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
      NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN       I don't know about you but I have always been a huge fan of the Coen Brothers Joel and Ethan, I have liked every film the two have put together. This is no exception and is just another classic in a long list of classics, both theatrically and on DVD this is a brilliant film. I can honestly say that a lot of the time I do not agree with the winners or even the nominees chosen by the Academy for the Oscar but they got it right …
Quick Tip by . December 28, 2010
"The Terminator" in Texas...    Somehow I have to make 50 characters here.
review by . July 11, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Josh Brolin as Lewllon Moss
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is a good sheriff.  He can put together a crime scene and get in touch with who he needs to.  Never gets hurt and does a good job keeping the peace.  One day though an ugly and violent crime is enough to put him out to pasture.  It was enough to make him realize how just like all those disgusting crimes across the country he only read about in newspapers, has finally come home to West Texas.  Towards the end of his tenure as Sheriff, an old friend of …
Quick Tip by . June 08, 2010
CRAZY but so incredibly good. Watched it in my criminology class.
review by . September 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five years old. Hard to believe. My grandfather was a lawman; father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up in Plano and me out here. I think he's pretty proud of that. I know I was. Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lotta folks find that hard to believe. Jim Scarborough'd never carry one; that's the younger Jim. Gaston Boykins wouldn't wear one up in Camanche County. I always liked to hear about the oldtimers. Never …
Quick Tip by . October 31, 2009
Poor Texas man runs off with drug money he finds at a crime scene only to have a bounty hunter on his tail and a sheriff in between. Great.
review by . May 08, 2009
The story opens in the desolate west Texas countryside, as Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad and makes off with a suitcase full of money. He figures he'll be followed and he's right; Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a ruthless and patient killer, is after him. Chigurh is, in turn, being tracked by the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), a good ol' country boy who's amazed at how violent criminals have become lately.     I'd heard this was a bloody guy-movie …
review by . September 09, 2008
(to the tune of El Paso by Marty Robbins)     Close by the West Texas town of El Paso   There was a drug deal that went very wrong   Llewellyn, he fled with a bag full of money   Came back to the scene, but he took far too long     Blacker than night was the heart of the Chigurh   Wicked and evil and killing for fun   He soon went after Llewellyn's new treasure   Armed with a captive bolt cow stunning …
review by . December 09, 2008
I honestly thought this movie was going to be  alot different that what it was....poor guy couldn't catch a break :)   I was a bit disappointment by the movie.  I didn't except it to end the way it did and just got a bad feeling through the whole movie that it probably wasn't worth all he had to go through.  I've also seen better acting from Tommy Lee Jones, really in my opinion the worst I've seen.
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


The Coen brothers make their finest thriller sinceFargowith a restrained adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel. Not that there aren't moments of intense violence, butNo Country for Old Menis their quietest, most existential film yet. In this modern-day Western, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is a Vietnam vet who could use a break. One morning while hunting antelope, he spies several trucks surrounded by dead bodies (both human and canine). In examining the site, he finds a case filled with $2 million. Moss takes it with him, tells his wife (Kelly Macdonald) he's going away for awhile, and hits the road until he can determine his next move. On the way from El Paso to Mexico, he discovers he's being followed by ex-special ops agent Chigurh (an eerily calm Javier Bardem). Chigurh's weapon of choice is a cattle gun, and he uses it on everyone who gets in his way--or loses a coin toss (as far as he's concerned, bad luck is grounds for death). Just as Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a World War II vet, is on Moss's trail, Chigurh's former colleague, Wells (Woody Harrelson), is on his. For most of the movie, Moss remains one step ahead of his nemesis. Both men are clever and resourceful--except Moss has a conscience, Chigurh does not (he is, as McCarthy puts it, "a prophet of destruction"). At times, the film plays like an old horror movie, with Chigurh as its lumbering Frankenstein monster. Like the taciturn terminator,No Country for Old ...
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Movies, Drama Movies, Action Movies, Dramas, Coen Brothers, Coen Brothers Movies, Woody Harrelson Movies, Tommy Lee Jones Movies, Ethan Coen Movies, Josh Brolin Movies, Joel Coen Movies, Javier Bardem Movies


Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Action, Drama, Adventure
Release Date: 2007, November 9, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Runtime: 2hrs 2min
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