Moss (Brolin) stumbles across what looks to be a drug deal gone wrong: dead bodies, heroin - and $2 million in cash. He takes the money and tries to disappear, only to soon discover that Anton Chigurh (Bardem), a psychotic sociopath, is hot on his trail. With no qualms whatsoever about killing anyone who gets between him and his target, Chigurh leaves a bloody trail behind as he stalks his way after the now desperately fleeing Moss.
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When I first heard about No Country For Old Men, I figured it’d be something worth checking out. After all, the Coen brothers directed it, and I’m still a big fan of their film Fargo (which helped kick-start the careers of both Frances McDormand and William H. Macy). And, no, I’m not one of those diehard Big Lebowski fans either.
Still, I hesitated on seeing it in theaters, since their newer films, among them O Brother Where Art Thou?, really didn’t capture my attention as much as Fargo. But then No Country For Old Men won the Academy Award® for best picture, so I moved it to the top of my queue at Blockbuster®.
Tommy Lee Jones, despite really starting to show his age, delivers another good performance in No Country For Old Men, playing a local sheriff on the brink of retirement. He’s not the highly energetic guy like he used to portray in films like The Fugitive and Blown Away. Now, he’s a bit slower, and takes every step a bit more carefully, but that fits in perfectly with his character in No Country For Old Men. His performance is more subtle, and allows the viewer to feel like they’re really getting to know his character, really connecting with him.
Josh Brolin, who seems to have kept a lower profile than his co-star (he’s definitely not on a name-recognition basis with the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, although with his performances here and in he does seem to be moving in that direction), delivers a gritty, bare bones performance in No Country For Old Men. He gives the viewer a very stripped-down performance that perfectly matches the dry, somewhat bleak landscape around the viewer first meets him in. He’s got nothing to hide from the audience, which helps the audience connect with him that much easier.
While Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and most of the other characters deliver decent performances, Javier Bardem steals the show. Looking for all the world like a modern-day Frankenstein, Javier’s character is a prescence even in the scenes he’s not in. Toss in the innovative weapon he carries (a compressed air-gun), he stalks through the film and makes it his. Whethere he’s blowing off door locks or flipping a coin, he brings a calm to his role that’s more frightening than any evil grimace or scowl he could have produced. The viewer picks up on this almost immediately, and is captivated.
With all the wonderfully subdued character performances, it’s not hard to see why No Country For Old Men picked up the Academy Award® for Best Picture.
However, that’s not to say the film is without it’s faults. There are a few. First off, not everyone in the film is suprisingly good – Woody Harrelson’s brief drop by probably should have been left on the cutting-room floor, as it brings horrendous images of Kingpin to mind more than anything else.
Another flaw has to do with the pacing of the film. After what seems like a very long intro, the pacing picks up for brief spurts before slowing back down again. While this isn’t always a bad thing, the uneven pacing in No Country For Old Men does tend to make the movie a bit longer than it actually is (the viewer will be thinking at least 2 1/2 hours, when the actual running time is just barely over 2 hours). They try to make up for the slow pacing by picking up the speed a bit in the second half, but that just makes the film seem even more disjointed.
While No Country For Old Men does have some faults, it’s really the characters that drive this film to success. With good performances from all it’s cast coupled with a knockout blow by newcomer Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men is definitely worth a look, despite it’s flaws.
For those of you out there keeping track, however, Fargo is still my favorite Coen brothers film.