Reel Rewind – No Country For Old Men

No Country for Old Men (MA)

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Film directing duo Joel and Ethan Coen established themselves as innovative film makers more than 20 years ago with their ultra stylish and ultra low-budget film Blood Simple. They took the film noir genre and gave it a modern spin with some eye-catching camera work.

But their collective talent doesn’t simply lie in where to place the camera. The films they make are about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations. Who could forget the heavily pregnant cop in a sleepy town trying to track down the perpetrators in an elaborate kidnapping plan that ends in a high body count in Fargo? A handful of droll, simple citizens of a Texas town get a look-in in their latest film.

While hunting alone in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, trailer park dweller Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a drug exchange gone wrong. He finds the drugs stacked on the back of a ute, the $2 million in a bag and several dead bodies riddled with bullets. When he takes the money he knows what trouble he is getting himself into.

Without telling his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) too much, he makes her stay with her mother in another town while he tries his best to live off the radar. What he doesn’t know is that ruthless criminal Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) has just escaped the local police and is hot on his trail.

Having been called to the scene of the failed drug exchange, sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), disillusioned with what he has experienced over the years, tracks down Carla Jean in an attempt to find Llewelyn. Thrown into the mix is bounty hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), who is sent by a businessman to control the situation. But he has had past dealings with Chigurh and is aware of just how dangerous and deadly serious he is.

Do not be put off by the familiar synopsis of this film. The ordinary people who stumble across riches idea was done by Sam Raimi in 1998’s A Simple Plan. But the Coen brothers have added so much to the story that one is left mesmerised. Much like Fargo, this film is violent, shocking and at the same time hilarious.

Some of the most astonishing moments are entire scenes that are carried out without a single line of dialogue. It is these scenes of silence that create some of the most intensely suspenseful moments in film history. It is a skill to admire because therein lies the brothers’ film-making genius.

This film won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but Javier Bardem chills the blood with his cold performance and is deserving of his recent Golden Globe nomination. He rivals Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in the villain department.

As appeared in Examiner Newspapers 2007

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