Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mini Review: No Country for Old Men (****)

"No Country for Old Men" was the best film of 2007, bar none. Every single sequence worked, every single performance resonated. In fact, looking back at my top 25 of all time (it was #12), It was definitely among the five greatest films this decade has shown. So terrifying a villain was Javier Bardem that it's hard to say who would win in a fight between him and the Joker (my bet's on the latter, but that's just me). Bardem is terrific in the role and deservedly won the Oscar for Supporting Actor. Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin (serving up some surprisingly intricate performances for such a hard-edged film) are equally effective and were snubbed of any golden nods in 2007.

The film is set in the year 1980. Vietnam veteran Llewellyn Moss is out hunting when he finds the bloody outcome of a drug deal gone bad. All of the drugs are missing, all of the people involved are dead or dying, and Moss is left holding a satchel of money and guns all to himself. On his tale are two people: Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who finds the scene of the crime while on call, and the animalistic serial killer Anton Chigurh, who is after the money, no questions asked. As bodies pile up, Bell, Moss, and Chigurh enter a cat-and-mouse game with eachother (or would that be a dog-cat-and-mouse game?)

"No Country for Old Men" is flawless, simply put. I have watched it more than four times and cannot find a mistake anywhere. The cinematography, by the great Roger Deakins, is beautiful, the film and sound editing are perfection, and the lack of a musical score allows for additional tension: there is no falsified lead-up to the violence.

"No Country for Old Men" is undeniably nihilistic--containing few hopeful scenes (if any)--and has a maddening ending for anyone who likes convention. But in my opinion, the ending is nothing short of brilliant. It's a chilling and unforgettable capper to one of the great movie-going experiences of the past ten years. As for it being nihilistic, one can't blame that on sibling directors Ethan and Joel Coen. The original source material--the short story by Cormac McCarthy, previously thought unfilmable due to the writing style--is exactly the same. What the Coens have done is stayed almost creepily faithful to McCarthy's masterful story. It's a perfectly balanced film, containing shocking violence and dark, morbid moments of humor, and a brilliant potboiler to boot.

No comments: