Movie review: No Country for Old Men by Ethan Cohen and Joel Cohen


In rural Texas, a Vietnam war vet, a welder and a recreational hunter, Llewelyn Moss, discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss simply decides to take the two million dollars present for himself, leaving the load of heroin and dead bodies behind. He sends his young wife to his mother-in-law and tries to hide with the spoils on his own. It proves to be the worst decision of his life.

Soon enough his actions put the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh, on his trail. Anton is like a force of nature – he dispassionately murders nearly every rival, bystander and even employer in his pursuit of the quarry and the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity and Chigurh, inevitably, closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sherrif Ed Tom Bell, who’s seen a lot and is approaching his retirement, blithely oversees the investigation. Even he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart and it seems his last confrontation might be also a fatal one. What will he choose? Die like a hero? Survive?

My impressions:

Another film with a title based on the famous ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ poem by W.B.Yeats  which I’ve watched recently (after the infamous Byzantium). This time it was definitely a hit.

Still when I was thinking what to write in my review I somehow was coming with just negatives. It was not a simple movie. It was not a movie easy to watch. It wasn’t a positive movie although some of the main leads survived. It was a movie going against many Hollywood clichés, completely able to surprise me time and again.  It was a movie almost devoid of any heroes unless you count one big anti-hero all dressed in black. By the way Javier Bardem, who plays Anton, can be easily placed among the best baddies I’ve ever seen in the American cinema. He is the guy you don’t know what to think about. Yes, on the one hand he is a tall, slouching man with lank, black hair and a terrifying smile, who travels through Texas carrying a tank of compressed air and killing people with a cattle stungun. On the other hand you keep asking yourself what caused him to be such a killing machine? What makes him tick? Is he like the teenager Sherrif Bell (awesome Tommy Lee Jones who gets only better as he gets older) tells you about at the beginning, a boy who had killed his 14-year-old girlfriend? The papers described it as a crime of passion, “but he told me there weren’t nothin’ passionate about it. Said he’d been fixin’ to kill someone for as long as he could remember. Said if I let him out of there, he’d kill somebody again. Said he was goin’ to hell. Reckoned he’d be there in about 15 minutes.” Are some people just born to kill? Are they born ‘evil’?

The third major player is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a poor man who lives with his wife in a house trailer, and one day, while hunting, comes across a drug deal gone wrong in the desert. Almost everyone on the scene is dead, they even shot the dog, but they left their money and the drugs behind. Moss does the most logical thing on Earth – he takes the money and he attempts to make it his own while Chigurh is trying to take it away from him and Sheriff Bell is trying to interrupt Chigurh’s ruthless murder trail. At first glance your ordinary run-and-chase police drama but in fact it is anything but. It soon turns into a character study, a deep and cutting examination of the roots of evil and the way people deal with it. Chigurh is so evil, he is almost funny sometimes. “He has his principles,” says the bounty hunter, who has knowledge of him but those “principles” are as different from those of “normal” people as chalk and cheese.

Overall this movie is a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, flawed human nature and fate. There’s nothing obvious or simple in it, perhaps apart from the fact that, predictably, $2 million turns out to be easier to obtain than to keep. Moss can run but he can’t hide. Chigurh always tracks him down, shadows him like his doom, never hurrying, always moving at the same carefully measured pace, like a demonic pursuer in a nightmare, spreading the horror all around. Still you’ll never guess the ending. Ever.

Final verdict:

One brilliant movie. Really brilliant. So brilliant that I felt compelled to create this not exactly great button (perhaps I’ll change that later BUT HEY, at least I  tried).

Many of the scenes in “No Country for Old Men” are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to go on and on, and yet they create an emotional suction drawing you to the next scene. I’ll want to rewatch it for sure even though it is a violent and disturbing film.

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9 Responses to Movie review: No Country for Old Men by Ethan Cohen and Joel Cohen

  1. blodeuedd says:

    I gave up after a while 😉

  2. heidenkind says:

    I agree. Personally, I think Chigurth, Bell, and Moss are symbols. Chigurth is the Angel of Death, implacable and unstoppable. Everyone who sees him has to die. Moss represents youth’s attitude toward death, which is basically that he believes he can cheat it. Bell’s character represents age’s knowledge of death and the fact that you can’t cheat it–he just tries his best to hide from it.

    • That’s a great comment and, I believe, the right way of interpreting that movie. Still not everybody who sees Chigurth has to die – sometimes the Angel of Death rolls the dice (or rather people he encoutres dice with death) to show that he is unpredictable and sometimes he is just too tired for killing. I suppose it explains nicely why for some people it is just a ‘touch and go’ and some survive even the most serious accidents. And no, money cannot bring you happiness, it just gives you more trouble. Especially if you haven’t earned it.

    • Red Witch says:

      That is a great way of interpreting it. Moss’s wife rises above it all though. There is always a choice, if nothing else, in how we face it.

  3. Love the movie. LOVE IT. Liked the book quite a bit too, but not as much as Blood Meridian. I must have a book review! Have you read it?

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