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NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson
Directors:  Joel and Ethan Coen
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  See Review
Length:  122 Minutes
Release Date:  March 11, 2008

“You can’t stop what’s coming.”

Film ****

No Country For Old Men is a spellbinding film…taut, relentless, and merciless, just like the killer it portrays. 

That killer is Anton Chigurh (Oscar winner Bardem), who serves as the driving force for a story that mostly happens to others.  One of them is Llewelyn Moss (Brolin), a Texas man who stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong.  We never see what happened, but with the circled trucks and dead bodies, we can piece it together as he does.  He discovers a lot of heroin, but also a satchel with $2 million in cash.  He decides to take it, which causes his world to unravel.

Chigurh is after the money.  We’re never sure where he came from or who, if anybody, he works for.  But Chigurh is icy, cold blooded and efficient.  His choice of weapon is a makeshift gun powered by an oxygen tank that is kind of like what is used to kill cattle in slaughterhouses.

Knowing he and his wife are in danger, Llewelyn goes on the lam, but the stalking killer is always near.  In fact, there are scenes where both men are aware how close they are to one another, and the suspense that builds from those situations naturally is incredible.

Pursing Chigurh and Moss, in a way, is the sheriff Ed Tom (Jones), whose folksy wisdom seems hardened by years of deteriorating times.  He can only begin to grasp the nature of the evil he has stumbled upon.

The film won Oscars for Joel and Ethan Coen for directing and for their adapted screenplay from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, and their script features some of the most haunting and memorable dialogue I’ve heard in some time.  Their characters are real, motivated, and frequently sympathetic.  But it is Anton Chigurh who will be most remembered as the most unsettling portrayal of a conscienceless killer since Hannibal Lecter.  Javier Bardem, bad haircut and all, presents a character truly without a soul, and that’s more frightening than all the hockey-mask wearing mass murderers combined.

The Oscar nominated cinematography from Roger Deakins helps to realize the desolate, unforgiving terrain of 1980 West Texas with a stark poetry.  But truly, it is the Coen Brothers as the ultimate auteurs who have created a rich landscape of good and evil and all those who get caught in between. 

Video ****

As mentioned, Roger Deakins’ photography is one of the film’s strong suits, and it renders beautifully in this anamorphic transfer from Miramax.  Certain key sequences are dark, and have to be just dark enough to hide possibilities, but not enveloped in blackness.  And the harsh sunlit Texas terrain looks both beautiful and frightening.

Audio ***

Mostly dialogue-oriented with a few surprising scenes that wake up the action, the 5.1 mix is dynamic and formidable.

Features **

There are three featurettes; one on the making of the film, one on working with the Coen Brothers, and one on the diary of a country sheriff.

Summary:

No Country For Old Men is one of the finest offerings to date from Joel and Ethan Coen, and deserves to be thought of as one of the most unique, original and memorable films of the new millennium.

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