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Thursday, October 25, 2007


ModFab On...No Country For Old Men

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Screenwriters: Joel and Ethan Coen
Performers: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson, Kelly McDonald, Garret Dillahunt, Stephen Root, and Tess Harper
Visit: Official Site, IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Soundtrack, Trailer

Blood is never simple in No Country For Old Men, a majestically violent, blackly comic thriller that sees writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to the quirky cinematic heights of Fargo, Miller's Crossing, and O Brother Where Art Thou? At times, this contemplative, subtly wry take on the modern western seems positively drenched in blood; a spatter here, a trail of droplets there, providing wordless clues to where the characters (and the enraptured audience) are headed next. But this is no Oliver Stone bloodbath or Tarantino splatter orgy; with a minimalist's approach to storytelling, the Coens use the fluid of humanity as a bold painter might...as a dazzling metaphor and motif, a stark contrast of man and his environment. Blood is part of the struggle to survive, and this is Texas...where surviving is not at all the same as succeeding.

A lonely desert landscape greets us as we meet the first of three major characters, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who accidentally wanders into the carnage of a drug deal gone bad...and the millions in drug money left behind. Soon he's being pursued by both the philosophic local sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and a vengeful assassin, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). The chases, evasions and double-crosses lead to an inevitable showdown in El Paso...but when the credits roll, even the audience may not be sure what actually transpired.

And that's a good thing. Like The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction and other films that shift paradigms in mid-stream, there's more happening than meets the eye. At its most basic, No Country For Old Men chronicles the desperation of men to improve their life...and, conversely, the ramifications of that temptation. Stark and spare, it's often a gasp-inducing, handrest-clutching experience, a thriller with enormous entertainment value. But it is my great joy to tell you that it never sacrifices its metaphysical mindgames in pursuit of that entertainment. It is the movie equivalent of filet mignon: luscious, strong, complex, and effortless.

If there's any difficulty with No Country, it's which of the film's stars to praise first. Brolin, Jones, and Bardem are all giving some of the best performances of the year, and it's merely a toss-up as to who gets Lead or Supporting Actor billing. (Equally fine are Woody Harrelson as a conceited cleanup expert and Tess Harper as the quietly witty wife of Jones.) Another toss-up: which film will cinematographer Roger Deakins win the Oscar for? With his work here and in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, he's created two of the most stark natural landscapes this side of Terrence Malick. Keep him on the Oscar shortlist.

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Blogger qta said...

could not agree with you more! This is a brilliant movie. It really makes you want that best ensemble acting award. though I am still going with Javier Bardem for Lead or Supporting I don't care. This is, so far one of the two best performances of the year for me.

10/25/07, 7:37 AM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Excellent lead-in. I'm not reading the rest, because I don't know the story at all and want to read the book while still in that not-knowing state. But I wanted to praise your namechecking.

10/25/07, 9:42 AM  

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