No Country For Old Men

We've loved Coen brothers' films since the day we saw our first one (Fargo.) Since then we've seen every one of them and extracted and unusual amount of joy from them. It is hard to imagine a filmmaker that has made some of the most endearing, quirky, funny, macabre and above all brilliant, memorable films of recent times. Only Billy Wilder or Howard Hawks come to mind. I think where the Coen brothers outshine any other filmmaker is their creation of character mythologies. They are masters at creating characters that outlive the movies and really just start living in your head almost forever. H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona, Leo and Bernie from Miller's Crossing, Charlie Meadows from Barton Fink, Muncy girl Amy Archer (to name one) from Hudsucker Proxy, almost anyone from Fargo, the unforgettable Jesus, The Dude, Maude and Walter from The Big Lebowski and of course the entire cast of O' Brother Where Art Thou. The more you think about these characters the more you see the spectrum of awesome storytelling skills. You see a deep understanding of human ambition, folly and failure. You just don't see how the Coen brothers can top anything they've done in the past specially when they seem to be losing their grip.

And then comes along Anton Chigurh...

So, there was a tremendous anticipation for this film for us. Specially with their last two films (the populist Intolerable Cruelty and the dud The Ladykillers) being such disappointments. Also, this was turning out to be one of those movies that you can never get to. We were finding it hard to find the time, a babysitter and even tickets to watch this film. However, it did happen last weekend finally and man what a ride!

Moss (Josh Brolin), when confronted with a grisly crime scene, finds a lot of money and in what turns out to be rather poor moral and practical choice, decides to keep it for himself. Moss isn't dumb. "They will be coming like I would go after someone who took my 2 million dollars" he says to his wife Carla (Kelly Macdonald) although he is naive. He soon realizes that he may have bit more than he could chew when a gang of Mexicans following the money trail come hunting for him with dogs and guns. However, there is another danger. A complex, psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is also looking for the money and he has some very definite ideas about what needs to be done. He basically propels the film into an edge-of-your-seat thriller until about three-fourths of the film. The rest of the film is heavy on moral commentary that sort of works around the title and is clearly a personal statement by the author (Cormic McCarthy whose novel the film is based on) and the Coens stick very close to the basic narrative of the plot eliminating a few chapters for drama and suspense. Cormic's thoughts are voiced by an aging sheriff Ed (an especially crusty Tommy Lee Jones) who feels 'over-matched' by the younger criminals around him and more importantly what seems like a young crime around him.

The film really belongs to Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh. He is easily one of the most scary villains in the history of recent cinema. The Coen brothers are clearly committed to his mythology more than anything else in the film. Many characters (Woody Harrelson for one) seem merely to exist as a means to propagate the legend of Chigurh. Even the somewhat open and confusing ending is cleverly constructed to solidify the myth of Chigurh.


"No Country..." is an amazing film because it is singularly entertaining. It is a drama taut, wound tight that unwinds with the slow, frightening uncertainty of the Absurdist thought that the Coen brothers have maintain throughout their long, fantastic career.