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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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Darkness in the Human Heart (4.5)

  • Sep 6, 2009
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 missed a chance to do so. You can't help but compare yourself against the oldtimers. Can't help but wonder how theyd've operated these times. There was this boy I sent to the 'lectric chair at Huntsville Hill here a while back. My arrest and my testimony. He killt a fourteen-year-old girl. Papers said it was a crime of passion but he told me there wasn't any passion to it. Told me that he'd been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was going to hell. "Be there in about fifteen minutes". I don't know what to make of that. I sure don't. 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."

This is the opening monologue to No Country for Old Men spoken by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones).  And singlehandeldy it is perhaps one of the most important lines in the film.  For without it you may not actually grasp just what No Country for Old Men is about.  This is the Coen Brothers at one of their finest moments.  Based off the book by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men is a dark film that mostly centers on how much times have changed.  As I said, the opening monologue is among the most important lines in the book.

The film opens with a man being taken into custody by one of the deputies of the Sheriff.  He doesn't look like much, and all he has with him is some sort of cattle gun.  Yet we see later that Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is quite deadly with it.  He eventually escapes the prison by killing the deputy and stealing the car.  The fact that we are introduced to Chigurh so early is another point that the film is trying to make.  When sitting through No Country for Old Men, one is encouraged to have an open mind.  And indeed there are certain things that are unusual about it, but very much in tune with a type of style the Coen Brothers are known for.  There are quite a few moments of Dead Pan silences and some very unusual dialog throughout.  This is never more true than when we are introduced to the films central protagonist: Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) while he's hunting.  It may also be good to know there isn't much music in and of itself.

While hunting, Llewelyn (we're going to refer to him as Lew for the rest of this review) comes across what looks like a pretty bad stand off.  There are tons of cars around and a lot of dead bodies.  The only one who happens to be alive is on the verge of death himself.  But the real prize is the bag that Lew finds.  It's got tons of cash in it.  So he takes it, not realizing just what kind of a mess he's really gotten himself into.  Anton Chigurh has been hired to get the money back... and this is where the hunt begins.  Chigurh is a ruthless man who will do anything it takes to get the job done.  What ensues is Lew trying to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer, while Sheriff Bell tries to find and stop Chigurh before it's too late.

The style of the film is what gives it a unique tone.  There's a lot of dead pan silences and thus there isn't a whole lot of dialog within the film.  Because of the lack of all these things there's a sort of tension that runs through the film as Lew tries to evade Chigurh and protect his wife from the sadistic man as well.  The performances are spot on, but the best performance comes from Javier Bardem as Chigurh.  He gives a masterful performance that's quite terrifying, and all too real. 

One of the biggest strengths of the film, however, is that it is deep in themes.  This is isn't one of those movies you just sit back and enjoy.  It's also one that provokes one to think about a few things.  If you're just not into that sort of thing... you're probably not going to like it.  The themes of fate and destiny are nothing new to The Coen Brothers.  One of the more iconic moments in the film is Chigurh flipping a coin and telling someone to "call it."  What do you stand to win?  Everything.  Call it wrong and it's the end of your life.  This is one of those plays, but perhaps one of the biggest themes is this idea of being the hunter and becoming the hunted.  Every character is after some other character... while being pursued by another. 

If anything there is something that can be said about connecting dots.  While the film is very good, those who have yet to read the book may find themselves stumbling to put certain things together.  Certain characters are introduced... but have no back story.  Other times the movie leaves you with complete ambiguity.  For the most part the movie is pretty close to the book.  There are certain things that have been cut out entirely, but a lot of the time you might find it best to read the book just to fill in some of the holes or to answer some of the burning questions the movie might leave.  Normally I wouldn't suggest such a thing (books and films are like apples and orange... both are delicious, but very different), but considering how faitfhul the Coens tried to be, it's quite clear that in some instances the book can answer some questions to your own interpretations.  

It's a little hard to say whether or not the story is about Lew or about Chigurh, but when one discovers the meaning behind the title of the movie, you might be quick to think it's actually about Sheriff Bell.  He may not play as big a role as Lew or Chigurh, but he is essentially the one who helps us better understand the main theme of the film in and of itself.  If you're mistified on what the title means allow me to help.  It refers to how the times are changing.  Recall in Bell's opening monologue that there was once a time when a Sheriff didn't need a gun.  Those times are gone.  Those who have grown old will realize it isn't the country they grew up in anymore because of how much it has changed... how it has become more deadly ("Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun....")  This may also explain the films controversial ending.  I won't spoil it, but as with a few other instances, it leaves one with the feeling of ambiguity and asking questions.  For others it may be depressing as hell.  I've heard about some who rather enjoyed the movie until it got to the end.  It's not what you expect, but you can interpret it for yourself. 

No Country For Old Men isn't for everyone in that case.  I know I say that with A LOT of movies, but this is especially true of No Country For Old Men.  It's a very thought provoking film that asks a lot of its viewers.  Particularly to either interpret or fill in the holes themselves.  This can be fun for those who enjoy it, but if you're the type who isn't really into that sort of thing... then it's definitely not for you, and in fact may even leave you infuriated.  After all, most go to the movies for escapist enjoyment... to turn off their brains.  No Country For Old Men asks you to keep the lights on upstairs and to piecing things together.  If that is for you, you'll be pleasantly surprised by No Country for Old Men.

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More No Country for Old Men reviews
review by . May 02, 2011
This movie is probably the Coens at the height of their moviemaking prowess, even though this isn't my favourite overall of their movies. That title still belongs to The Big Lebowski. However, I do think this is the best Coen drama, girded by exceptionally strong performances and a simple but enthralling premise. That guided by the Coen brothers' steady directing makes No Country For Old Men a definite must-see and a fitting entry into their collection. It's also very worthy of winning …
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 …
review by . July 01, 2011
While it's very easy to trace comparisons between this film and prior Coen projects, such an exercise seems almost trivial when one considers that this story was adapted from one of Cormac McCarthy's most accessible novels. It's comforting to note that the Coens have found a story compatible with their usual trademarks: dialogue characterized by a regional vernacular, eccentrics who both voice and embody the story's themes and a measured pace interjected by bizarre scenes of intense …
Quick Tip by . February 21, 2011
This movie takes patience, and requires interpreting. If you're not interested in having to think through what the movie is trying to say, it will just seem like one damn thing after another.
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.
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 …
About the reviewer
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … 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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