Wednesday, December 12, 2007

No Country For Old Men

"You can't stop what's comin'. It ain't all waitin' on you. That's vanity."

Written By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Directed By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones

My Rating: 5/5

It looks like the Coen Brothers, it feels like the Coen Brothers, it walks and talks like the Coen Brothers! No Country for Old Men is so vintage Coen it almost feels like it has always existed as part of their repertoire. Along the same vein as Miller's Crossing and Fargo, No Country reminds audiences of why the Coens are regarded as our generations most wonderfully vigilant filmmakers.

A rambling epic, part adventure, part western, part caper, this film cruises along in an almost random way, not unlike The Big Lebowski. The plot revolves around a hitman for hire, an unlucky cowboy who happens to find a suitcase of money and an old-fashioned local sheriff. Synopsis is best left brief, as the story is so wonderfully rambling that summary does it no justice.
The dusty cinematography in this film is so lovingly crafted that it recalls the scenery porn of Terrence Malick. However, the love of the landscape never detracts from the characters or story. The slow, steady pace of the film ensures there is plenty of time to take in the beautiful photography, but also plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful performances and to become involved in the plot. The pace of the film is an odd mix of slow and furious that makes the film feel almost as if it is shot in real time.
The central struggle of the film, which is most pointedly emphasised in the last twenty minutes is the adjustment of traditionalists to incoming modernity. In Tommy Lee Jones's sheriff's mind, the hitman (Javier Bardem) represents a lurking evil invading their sleepy town. It is an evil that cannot be stopped and cannot be ignored. This evil may be interpreted as impending modernity as much as just an evil man, bent on destruction. The title of the film, having nothing to do with the actual story, suggests a feeling of powerlessness in the older generation and a fear of the heavy changes which are weighing down upon a simpler way of living.
This film is flawless in every sense. It may take a couple of viewings to fully engage with all of the themes and intricacies on display, and especially due to an unexpectedly abrupt ending. However, in No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers have created a truly perfect work. They have created perfect works before, but not recently. The acting is absolutely superb from all concerned. The Oscar buzz is going towards Javier Bardem for his portrayal of Anton Chigurh, the crazed hitman, but equal consideration should be given to the other two leads, Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. The three roles are worlds apart but all wonderfully played with old-fashioned machismo.
Overall this film hits the spot in every way. I would recommend it to any fan of the Coen Brothers. It may disappoint people in search of a run of the mill western adventure flick but stick with it because it will resonate for days!
- Charlene Lydon 12/12/2007

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