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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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Unconventional, thrilling, and stark. Real cinema.

  • Jan 27, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+5
I have often thought it would be fun to write the plot to a film which was genuinely reflective of how real life unfolds and where no concessions were made to the conventions and impulses of dramatic structure: where the set of narratives, while looking for all the world like they'll lead somewhere, are corrupted, interfered with, or simply lapse through inattention, and are consequently frustrated, transformed, reconstituted and restated on the fly, with no dramatic lesson or deeper metaphyiscal meaning, thus ruining everything before a satisfying outcome is allowed to occur. Not dramatically satisfying, sure, but at least it wold be honest and reflective of how life really is on our side of the silver screen.

No Country For Old Men is that sort of film. A few commentators have taken it to task for its failure to live up to story-telling and character development conventions; the plots and histories to which it introduces us don't prescribe satisfying arcs: They start off well enough but are blown off course, interrupted, or subverted. Some see this as a shortfall; to me, it is very much the point.

It happens, in small details as much as in the main narrative, right from the beginning: Texan everyman Llewellyn is distracted whilst walking through scrubland to retrieve a deer he has shot. He sees a transverse trail of blood, leading over a hill. He follows it, and as a result never gets to collect the deer: the arc is interrupted. The trail of blood leads to the grisly scene of an aborted drug deal. Bodies everywhere and a ring of shot-up pickups suggest it has not gone to plan: its arc was interrupted. Llewellyn is thereafter drawn, like a puppet on a string, by the unintended consequences of his own actions, fiat and the deliberate pursuit of others, to completely re-sculpt the trajectory of his life. That trajectory is itself interrupted (from the perspective of the narrative of the film) in a quite unexpected way.

The unexpected interruption of arcs continues throughout, even in small details: We are introduced to plans and trajectories we know are about to be impaired: An elderly gas station attendant, facing down a man he gradually realises to be a psychopathic killer, recounts briefly the story of his life, and how he came to be at that point at that time. His would-be murderer, Anton Chigurh, flips a dime, and makes facile observations about the fate and destiny of himself, the coin, and the gas station attendant in the same place. Note also the entry and exit from the film of Carson Welles (and for that matter his employer) - both seemingly primed to make a significant dramatic contribution but not ever getting the chance to thanks to events beyond their control. The role of destiny, fate and chance in framing our existences looms large throughout this film.

As does the idea of non-verbal, almost innate communication. Chigurh and the gas station attendant carry on what on its face is an anoydyne conversation, but both are entirely aware what is meant and intended. Later, Chigurh and Llewellyn sit either side of a closed door, neither knowing the other is even there, but a spookily unspoken, almost telepathic dialogue carries on between them. It is masterful film-making.

And this is not to mention the wonderful cinematography, the clever direction, the assured acting, and the clever soundtrack - where even the absence of sound is as significant and suspenseful. No Country For Old Men is also no film for every man or woman: It's extremely violent and the tension is almost unbearable at times: if you're expecting a purely intellectual journey into the dark heart of the American psyche you might (literally) get a fright: it's an old fashioned hide-behind-the-sofa sort of film into the bargain as well.

That said, a second viewing, where the suspense was largely removed, would be highly rewarding. A candidate for DVD release for sure.

Olly Buxton

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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
WHAT A GREAT ENDING
      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.
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.
About the reviewer
Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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Wiki

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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Tags

Movies, Drama Movies, Action Movies, Dramas, Coen Brothers, Coen Brothers Movies, Woody Harrelson Movies, Javier Bardem Movies, Tommy Lee Jones Movies, Ethan Coen Movies, Josh Brolin Movies, Joel Coen Movies

Details

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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