The Coen Brothers are back in Oscar form, with their latest film No Country for Old Men. The film gives us stellar acting, ‘on the edge of your seat’ moments, and yes, even a few laughs; making it the ultimate film. Meaning one you can always enjoy, and always find ‘quality’ in. The pace is alike fluid, never slowing down. Though the film lacks depth, it has a lot of ‘face’ value. It never goes into the human psyche, but rather gives us reasons to believe certain things are certain things. It isn’t a ‘thinking’ film, but for only this reason, it is. The film is crammed full of subtleties, giving the viewer new perspective on film, and that not every entertaining film has to be explosion after explosion. As for the writing, you’ve got lyrical writing that juxtaposes crude, and crude writing that juxtaposes unnecessarity. Some scenes may be out of place, and the script [at times] tries to force common knowledge down our throats. This is the film’s only real flaw.
Onto the review.
The direction by the Coen brothers [yes, both of them] is very interesting, as always. They bring Hitchcockian suspense to the film, as well as Argento-esque terror, and as always their dark humor. While the script is fairly uneven, the Coen’s do know how to make it work. They choose a lot of unusual ideas, that other director’s would not do [ie – the subtleties]. They also create quite a horrific atmosphere, for the most part. This sets the film up perfectly, for it is more than just a ‘crime’ film. This is probably their best film, with Fargo and The Hudsucker Proxy right behind it.The script was adapted by the Coen brothers from the Cormac McCarthy novel by the same name. Now as I previously mentioned, I found the script flawed, but yet it worked. One flaw from the film was that it was too palpable. It didn’t leave too much to the imagination, which really would’ve helped the viewer ‘connect’ to the film more. The only ‘connection’ the viewer has with this film, is of but one ‘thought-provoking’ area, and that lies beneath the ambiguous ending. A few of the scenarios are unnecessary, but some of them are wonderful. The best scenes come with the character “Anton Chigurh“, because he definitely has the most ‘face-value’ depth. When the script focuses on his insanity, and his obsession, the film really picks up. It’s sad though, because the most interesting character of this year, and probably this decade, isn’t the lead. If they had focused more on Anton, the film would’ve been more interesting. As opposed to splitting the plot up three ways. But, I am fine with how it turned out. My last thought on the script would be that even though it did lack in some essential ‘perfect’ film qualities, it definitely could’ve been worse with a different director[s] at the helm.
The acting of this interestingly casted ensemble is great. The ‘main’ performances are all solid, which leaves no room for someone to contest, in this area.
Kelly Macdonald plays “Carla Jean Moss“, Llewellyn’s wife. She has a very small amount of screen time, which is bothersome, because as the only ‘main’ female in the film, she did a great job. Her southern accent was very realistic, not a flaw in her speech. All of her scenes were great, but then again, the sum of her scenes would be about six minutes. Hopefully she’ll get a bigger role in the future, because she is one of this year’s new ‘hidden talents’.
Woody Harrelson plays “Carson Wells“, an ex-Special Forces officer, who will help Llewellyn if he gives him the money. His performance is pretty much just there to add plot. The character doesn’t bring much to the table, but Harrelson’s portrayal of Wells is great. He captures the slimyness of the character, making the viewer odious of him. He suffers from Macdonald’s problem, in that his role is small. Though it is a bigger part than Macdonald’s, it isn’t much bigger. A very good portrayal of a very supporting character.
Tommy Lee Jones plays “Ed Tom Bell“, the sheriff in the film. He is unjustly billed first, and is probably only there because he is the only ‘star’ of the film. He has a role smaller than both Brolin and Bardem, and doesn’t do nearly as much with his time as either of them. In fact, besides the ending, he is just playing a role he’s played oh so many times. This is not to say the performance is bad by any means, just isn’t as good as it could’ve been. It’s just Jones rehashing previous roles with new material, in my eyes.
Josh Brolin plays “Llewellyn Moss“, the central character of the film, and for this reason, the only lead. This truly is Brolin’s year, having three great performances in three great films; this is one of those performance. After this year, he is definitely going to get more limelight, having gained star power. Anyways, onto the performance. He plays the role as ‘bad-ass hick’ very well, and certainly is among the Top Twenty Lead Actors of This Year. His take on the role is wonderful, capturing the ‘thug’ mentality, and the traditional Texan essence perfectly. If it weren’t for Javier Bardem, he would’ve gotten a lot more exposure for his role.
Onto a major reason I had to see this movie, Javier Bardem as “Anton Chigurh“, the insane antagonist. His performance is mind blowing, and by far one of the best supporting performance of the decade. His take on this role is singular in retrospect, crafting the role as murderer perfectly. This performance is simply put, flawless.
Among being one of the best acted, best directed films of the year, it’s technical aspects are among some of the best of the decade.Though the film has no background music for the entire film, at the very end, during the credits, there is a very chilling score by Carter Burwell, that would’ve brought more suspense to the film, but this was one of the Coen brothers’ interesting choices. To keep the film suspenseful without having to add skin quivering compositions. Nonetheless, the score is very good. The sound editing is fantastic, for it scares you when it is used at top form. In the scenes of action, all you hear are loud gunshots, and the mood the film projects just makes your heart race.
The film editing, done by the Coen brothers [under faux names] is wonderful. As I mentioned before, the pacing is top notch, and without great film editing, the pacing could be uneven, and the film would falter. The film editing ties in with the cinematography perfectly; especially in the country setting scenes. So many beautiful shots in a small amount of time are just overwhelming, and the beauty absorbs you.
The cinematography was done by the Coen’s colleague for life, Roger Deakins, who is one of the best at his work. As I mentioned above, his skill is just masterful, and he sets the mood perfectly for any scenario. From the outdoor, calming, but yet ‘too’ calming scenes, to the dark, eerie tracking shots, his wonders flourish perfectly in this film.
Nominations for No Country for Old Men
Best Picture – (#1!)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Javier Bardem (#2) [possible winner]
Best Director – Ethan and Joel Coen (#2)
Best Adapted Screenplay – Ethan and Joel Coen (#4)
Best Film Editing – (#2)
Best Sound Editing – (#5)
Six Nominations and One Win