Damn them. The Coen brothers, that is. After a couple of movies that failed to live up to their earlier promise, I thought it was OK to write them off as good, but not great filmmakers. Then they go and make a movie that not only fully entertains, but also remains with you and haunts you, long after you’ve seen it. No Country for Old Men is adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name and it is a modern day version, or, perhaps, death, of the classic western. It contains all the necessary aspects of a western: money, morals, and a really pissed off guy, but with more substance. While there is a focus placed on money, the money primarily serves as a vehicle to present the films compelling characters.
To begin, the performances are amazing. Much attention has been given to the three male leads, and rightfully so. Josh Brolin (middle) carries the character of Llewelyn Moss with passion and arrogance that both endear him to and alienate him from the audience. Tommy Lee Jones (far right) smartly underplays his role as town sheriff, giving him humor in dire situations, while showing the experience and hardened skin that truly makes his character. Lastly, Javier Bardem (far left) makes the viewer so anxious whenever he’s on screen that even in the most placid moments, one is left wondering and fearing what his next action will be. Even when he is not on screen, his presence is strongly felt, emphasizing the undertone of fear that lies beneath the film.
Woody Harrelson and Kelly Macdonald also turn in great performances as Carson Wells, a man brought into the situation to hopefully resolve the money issue, and Carla Jean Moss, Llewelyn’s wife. With the short screen time they both have, they manage to leave lasting impressions. All of these performances are aided by the two filmmaker’s, Ethan and Joel Coen’s, ability to write, direct, and execute a well told story.
This film is perfectly paced, often allowing silence to instill fear or to give the audience time to absorb a particular scene. I was never bored while watching this movie because I was constantly anticipating what would happen next and the outcome was a welcome surprise. Without a doubt, this movie will be big come awards season, and the pedestal the Coens briefly stepped off will, once again, be occupied.