"This country's hard on people." Tommy Lee Jones' cynical sheriff Ed Tom Bell mutters this line through lips too tired to move. It seems to be the foundation on which the Coen brothers' latest film is built on.
Adapted from the Cormac Mccarthy novel by the same name, "No Country for Old Men
" features Josh Brolin ("Planet Terror
") as Llewelyn Moss, who stumbles across several dead men, a bunch of heroin and $2.4 million in cash while hunting antelope near the Rio Grande.
Moss is your typical blue-collar type trying to make ends meet. Living in a trailer park with wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald), Moss is a retired welder who has no choice but take the $2.4 million when he sees it.
On the other side of this drug deal gone horribly wrong is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a psychotic killer armed with a cattle gun and a terrifying philosophy of justice. We're introduced to Chigurh's icy-cold demeanor when he strangles a police officer to death with handcuffs on - cutting so deep that he actually slits the man's throat. Legs thrash against the linoleum as Chigurh applies more pressure. The officer's cowboy boots leave long black heel marks - a lasting sign of the horrific struggle.
Between these two polar opposites is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones), an old timer who has seen everything there is to see under the west Texas sun. Jones puts on the boots of a southern lawman with deliberate stillness and sophistication here.
When Deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) and our favorite sheriff with the long southern drawl come upon a grizzly murder scene it's as if Bell isn't in the least bit shocked. He stares upon the disturbing scene like a mother stares at her child's dirty room. Wendell points out that the whole situation is just a mess. Bell isn't so sure the situation is over, saying, "If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here."
As a modern western allegory, "No Country for Old Men
" is basically your classic man-on-the-run thriller pitting the quintessential tough guy in Josh Brolin against the ultimate badass in Javier Bardem.
The true strength of this film is in the believability of its characters. Nothing about the people in this West Texas yarn can assumed or expected. The characters constantly surprise us with their decisions and jump off the screen as truly three-dimensional characters.
Then of course there is the signature style of the Coen brothers to talk about. All of their stylistic devices are in play here. The dialogue is a combination of dry wit and glaring irony. At one point the psychotic Chigurh is in a gas station having a verbal tug-of-war with the store clerk that all comes down to a coin toss. Even psychotics have a sense of fairness it seems.
Money of course is the driving force in this feature, such as in "Fargo
" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?
" Don't forget the Coens' customary showcasing of brutality that is so real it strikes a chord deep down.
"No Country for Old Men
" is a shoe-in for best picture this year at the Oscars if you ask me. It's got a riveting story filled with amazing performances by Brolin, Bardem and Jones. While it may not be for everyone, this film is worth seeing for it's gritty portrayal of the American west.
What are you waiting for? An invitation? $2.4 million in cash? Go to the theater NOW!