Oscar Movie Month: "No Country For Old Men" Review


Oscar Movie Month: "No Country For Old Men" Review

-- Rating: R (adult scenes, violence, and profanity)
Length: 122 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 21, 2007
Directed by: Ethan Cohen, Joel Cohen
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller

Based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men" explores the depths of the human psyche, with a focus on conscience and fate and on how greed drives people to unthinkable violence without regard to the effects their actions have on others. Directed by Ethan Cohen and Joel Cohen, the film delves into familiar territory for the brothers, using similar themes as their other movies, such as "Fargo" and "Blood Simple." Tight editing, revealing camera work, and flawless sound and dialogue combine to suck audiences into the story, both engrossed and repulsed as the story reveals the lengths one man will go to in order to keep a fortune that isn't his own.

The story begins in West Texas in 1980, with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) discussing the increasing violence in his territory. The scene then cuts to Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles upon a drug deal gone bad while he's hunting pronghorn on the desolate prairie. Amidst the dead and dying, Llewelyn finds a satchel containing two million dollars that he takes home to his trailer. He later returns to help the dying man who asked him for water, but two men in a truck chase him away, sod he's forced to abandon his own vehicle. Afraid that he's being followed, he sends his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), to her mother's home and flees with the money to a motel in a neighboring town. He then hides the satchel in the air vent in his motel room, hoping to wait out the trouble and escape with the loot.

Enter Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a sociopathic hit man who's been hired to recover the missing money. After being taken into custody, Anton strangles a deputy and uses his preferred weapon, a captive bolt pistol, to kill a driver and take his car. Unbeknownst to Llewelyn, Anton is tracking a bug concealed in the satchel, making him an easy target. Anton crashes into Llewelyn's motel room, surprising a group of Mexicans on Llewelyn's trail who are hoping to steal the satchel. Llewelyn hears the ruckus from the connecting suite he rented and flees the scene, escaping with the satchel, as Anton murders the would-be robbers.

Soon, Llewelyn discovers the bug, but not before his confrontation with Anton. A fight between the two men ensues, spilling out onto the street where both men are injured. Llewelyn makes it across the Mexican border but collapses soon after. He wakes to find himself in the hospital where he meets Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), who offers him protection if Llewelyn will give him the satchel. Carson leaves Llewelyn to consider his options and then returns to his hotel. Just as Llewelyn calls Carson to agree to his terms, Anton enters and kills Carson. Anton then answers the phone and tells Llewelyn he'll spare Carla Jean if he gives up the money, but he is still going to kill him. Llewelyn defiantly refuses and then tries to arrange a safe haven for his wife.

Carla Jean agrees to meet her husband in El Paso with the help of Sheriff Bell. Bell arrives to find Llewelyn dead and a group of men fleeing the scene. While Bell explores the crime scene, Anton watches him from the shadows, but does not attempt to attack the sheriff. Bell, disgusted by the violence he continues to witness, visits his uncle and tells him he plans to retire as he feels outmatched. His uncle, an ex-lawman, is unsympathetic, pointing out that violence is ingrained in human nature and it has nothing to do with Bell. Resigned, Bell returns to his post feeling older, but not much wiser.

Later on, Carla Jean returns from a funeral to find Anton waiting in her home. He tells her that her husband refused to trade his life and the money for her own life, and he offers her a last chance to save herself, a coin flip. She refuses to bargain with the killer and dies at his hand. He calmly leaves her home and gets into his vehicle, only to be seriously injured in an accident mere seconds after. Anton gets out and limps away, stoic due to his belief in circumstance and fate. The movie ends with Bell, now retired, relating a dream to his wife about his father. He seems at peace with all the violence he's witnessed, but is content to finally be away from it.

"No Country for Old Men" isn't a conventionally "pretty" movie; the action is brutal and violent with no regard for the audience's finer sensibilities. There are no attempts to justify the actions of the characters, and no efforts are made to extract sympathy, leaving audiences to question what they would do if tempted in a similar situation. Dark, desolate, and deeply thought provoking, "No Country for Old Men" uncovers the seedy underbelly of human nature without judgment, revealing that everyone has a price when the reward outweighs the risks.

Rating: 4 out of 5