The Coen Brothers' repertoire is filled with some of the most accomplished films of the past two decades: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, to name a few. But it is their latest film that most successfully emulates their greatest critical achievement, Fargo. I daresay No Country for Old Men might be even better. It's no secret that the Oscar bees have been buzzing around this film for a while and you can believe the hype — this movie really is that good. I officially predict it will be nominated for Best Picture, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin will be nominated for Best Actor, and Tommy Lee Jones might just snag a win for Best Supporting.
So what makes this movie so good? Exactly what made Fargo so compelling: an incredible plot (based on Cormac McCarthy's novel), sharp screenwriting, superb acting, and an insane amount of suspense. Seriously, I don't know if I've been so scared at a non-horror movie since The Silence of the Lambs. And just like that movie, No Country for Old Men works because the terror is believable. To find out what is so terrifying
The film follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) a simple man who stumbles across a disturbing crime scene in the desert: a drug deal gone very, very bad. Several men are dead and left behind is a whole lot of heroin and $2 million dollars. Naturally, Llewelyn runs off with the cash. But, of course, that large sum of money doesn't just go away unnoticed. Enter Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the most horrifying villain since Hannibal Lecter. Anton is a killer without remorse, killing at leisure and with morbid gusto. Especially creepy is his weapon of choice, an oxygen tank. The irony there is the juxtaposition of a machine usually reserved for keeping people alive being abused in such an inhumane way. You will never look at an oxygen tank the same way.
Largely, the movie is a cat-and-mouse game between Llewelyn and Anton, supported by minor characters along the way. Tommy Lee Jones plays a cop who's trying to track down Llewelyn for his role in the drug deal. He also offers much needed comic relief, albeit a special dark brew of relief a la Frances McDormand in Fargo.
If there is any reason to complain about this movie, people will likely cite the film's obscure open-for-interpretation ending. Personally, I think it worked. More so I had a beef with the opening of the film. The audience is introduced to Anton in a seat-gripping scene, and while it certainly sets the tone, it feels disconnected from the rest of the story. Other than that, No Country for Old Men is without flaw.
Photos courtesy of Miramax