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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 16.13%
Average: 4.03%
Pretty Bad: 3.23%
Total Crap: 5.65%

7 reviews, 82 user ratings

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No Country for Old Men
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by Erik Childress

"But America Will Always Have Room For The Coens"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: One of the grandest joys of watching a Coen Bros. film is when you are re-watching it. The first time around is explicit in its joys of the dialogue and the out of the ordinary machinations of the plot. Anything after that is discovering what else their film is about. They are more than just a screenwriter struggling with writer’s block, escaped prisoners on an odyssey for buried treasure and the struggle to kill an old Southern woman. That doesn’t even begin to describe how Joel & Ethan reinvigorate the crime thriller with each successive effort from their debut Blood Simple to their masterful Miller’s Crossing and Oscar-winning Fargo. Their stock has been down of late after disappointments The Man Who Wasn’t There and Intolerable Cruelty. (The Ladykillers is still a bit unappreciated.) But they appear to have found the perfect source material in Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel to continue their dominance of the crime genre while making a second viewing an absolute must to appreciate all the voices involved.

Beginning with two of the more shocking murders we’ve seen on screen in some time, (thanks in part to the originality of the weapon involved, but mostly to the character committing them), we are terrified to meet Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Pale as a vampire and hating wasted words, Anton carries with him a cattle stunner and any number of coins that have traveled with him in the hopes of someday deciding someone’s fate; the only chance Chigurh will give you. In the same Texas outback is retired Vietnam vet, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who discovers another massacre; an apparent drug deal gone wrong that has left several men dead, a truckload of heroin and a case full of millions.

Llewelyn takes the money and leaves the rest, putting into motion the means of protecting his loyally naïve wife, Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald), while he goes on the run. “At what point would you stop looking for your two million dollars,” he asks her? Late to the scene in the country is local Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is quick to finding the “linear” answers but hesitant to where the line leads in this day and age. As Chigurh traces his own path towards Llewelyn, leading the audience on a breathless cat-and-mouse scenario, another “day trader” Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) is called in to hunt down the money himself and return it the original dealmaker.

Most won’t take (or have the time) to double up on the viewings of No Country for Old Men, but you are guaranteed to experience wallop packs by the truckload just upon your first opportunity. For starters, on pure viscera alone, the Coens have materialized McCarthy’s plot into one helluva nailbiter. The shocking brutality of the opening scenes turns to quietly forboding with Llewelyn’s cautious but headstrong “clicking” of the massacre scene as if he were still in the jungles of Southeast Asia. We’re drawn to his playful decency with Carla Jean and frank decision making. “I’m fixing to do something dumber than hell, but I’m doing it anyway.” So when he’s hunted in scene after scene by faceless Mexicans, a dog (in one of the more memorable chase scenes of the year) and Chigurh in no less than a pair of brilliantly executed hotel shoot-outs, it becomes as sad as it is exhilarating that the downsizing of the American cowboy can’t even allow him a piece of the pie without having to fight for his life for it.

The interspersing of Sheriff Bell and his musings into the Chigurh/Moss showdown is more than just the film’s conscience. He’s the quintessential John Wayne, who by 1980 (when the film is set) has aged into a period that has as much room for his Old West code as cinema did for the Westerns at that point. What is this country that has grown old with him only to become something entirely new? Gone are the days when murder was almost civilized, when a war his father fought in was a necessary evil and not something as trivial as Vietnam. A time when stories may not have been 100% true, although certainly true that they were stories. Bell is a man who still inspects crime scenes by horseback, just as Moss does as a soldier and evil like Chigurh under cover of darkness. But he’s a man who has lost his appetite, save for a warm bottle of milk watching a blank television reflecting a shadow of his past. As No Country’s situation reaches grim proportions, all we’re left with are the dreams of this man which will be as unsatisfying for the masses as they are for the Sheriff as he fades to black and silence.

Already up in arms over the way David Chase ended his long-gestating, delay-proned Sopranos, there’s a discreet irony in whether audiences will feel they got their money’s worth with No Country For Old Men. For two-thirds of the way, it’s a quietly menacing and viciously violent chase picture that gives way in its final act to less graphic, but even more disturbing acts and a more reflective epilogue that chisels in a greater sense of hopelessness than staring down the barrel of a gun. The “me-me” era of the Reagan decade that was about to begin is casually enhanced by the film’s transfer of dollars-to-escape and the older the characters are, the hunger for what greenbacks can provide is all the more exemplified. Contrast the requisition of clothing between the middle-aged men from both college kids on the border (between the land of the free and Mexico) and grade schoolers out for a bike ride on their suburban streets. The corruption that comes with free money over time is never more evident and we’re learning younger every day.

Perhaps we’re all destined to become either a Chigurh or a Moss in our lifetime and maybe we’re OK with that, especially if it comes with the intelligence and cunning manifested by these characters and the actors portraying them. Cinema has had long gaps in-between coming up with perfect villains and it will probably be another long time coming before we have one quite like Anton Chigurh. Javier Bardem has helped write himself into the bad guy hall-of-fame with this performance, trading vehicles with more frequency and less regard for human life than the T-1000 and making the Coens’ history of supplanting devil doppelgangers into their works (Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona, J.E. Freeman in Miller’s Crossing, John Goodman in Barton Fink, Daniel Von Bargen in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?) mere prologue for the hell that Chigurh brings with him. His immediate jumps to carnage are so horrifying that we cross into his own circle ring of insanity and begin chuckling at the manner of his nonchalance. His choke-induced response to a gas station clerk on how he came about his profession is a brilliant moment of delayed laughter for us that is only setting us up for one of the film’s many suspense-laden confrontations led by Chigurh’s insistence that we play along until its conclusion.

As a summation of the kind of year most actors would kill to have on their IMDB rep, Josh Brolin completes a year that began with Grindhouse’s Planet Terror and memorable supporting turns in Paul Haggis’ In the Valley of Elah and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster with unquestionably the role of his career to date. Moss is the quintessential all-American; flawed in his pursuit of The Dream but true to that pursuit and the steps to protect his own from those determined to take it away from them. Knowing as little as we can about him through his sparse dialogue, we know everything we need to through Brolin’s every movement and the varying degrees of respect he has in every encounter he makes. Countered by the “who-else-could-play-this?” role of Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Bell, there’s a sadness at the inevitability of these working class patriots that fate can’t seem to help intervening just as they’ve finally made heads-and-tails out of life.

No Country for Old Men is The Anti-Searchers. That classic film’s final image, mirrored for years in cinematic homages, gets a cyclical tweaking with the film’s heroes and villains coming in from the vastness instead of going out the doorway, each finding nothing waiting for them on the other side but solitude and death. Karma and fate are the heaven and hell of hope for a better tomorrow and the latter doesn’t believe in good and evil. It may forgive by coincidence but will just as easily allow the bad guy to walk into the sunset. No Country for Old Men is a masterwork that reminds us that all good yarns of Americana aren’t just about the struggles to fight for our existence, but the struggle to understand why they even exist in the first place. Remember that when you’re wrestling with the final scenes and how you got there to begin with. Then see it again.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/09/07 16:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good not great 4 stars
5/21/15 stanley welles muscular, exact and thrilling 5 stars
12/08/10 Dennis Excellent film; you have to view it more than once. 5 stars
11/12/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess A decent flick, but doesn't compare to the Coehn bros. older films 3 stars
6/11/10 Flathead King A very entertaining film. 5 stars
6/01/10 User Name Once you open Pandora's Box, there's no stopping what comes spilling out. 4 stars
3/05/10 dennis engelke kept me one the edge 5 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* You have to watch it 3 times to finally say...ok this movie isnt that bad 4 stars
5/11/09 R Lan Repeating what everybody was said. A very good movie that was hurt by its ending. 4 stars
5/06/09 MP Bartley A tightly wound, precisely measured and overwhelmingly cruel masterpiece. 5 stars
3/26/09 mariah great movie but wasnt best movie of '07... 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. chigurh was one of the weirdest movie killers ever. 5 stars
12/07/08 TheViper Stunning achievement, have watched it over and over. 5 stars
11/24/08 brian Has everything but a satisfying resolution. 5 stars
9/22/08 Charles Tatum Well done, but too many "Coenisms" 4 stars
9/17/08 Stu Amazing film with one of the BEST ENDINGS ever. Wildly entertaining and deeply haunting 5 stars
8/18/08 jonathantstorm ending sucked 1 stars
8/11/08 Jon G Definition of a Man Flick 5 stars
8/03/08 Saravanan Srinivasan Yet another brilliant stuff from Coehn Bro.Fantastic acting by Javier Bardem &Josh Brolin 4 stars
7/23/08 Ivana Mann That ending makes a Zen riddle look like a first-grade math problem. Absolute poo! 1 stars
7/15/08 Matt I know I'm not going to be popular for saying this...but this is a shower of crap. 1 stars
6/22/08 AnnieG Although not very unique, this film has some good lines and characters. 3 stars
6/12/08 Jayson One of the best. Ever. 5 stars
5/13/08 Yo Mama if that crazy cracker Javier came to my hood i'd pop a cap in his ass!!!!! 5 stars
5/05/08 Phil M. Afficiando Watch the bonus material first especially "Diary of ...". to appreciate the film itself 4 stars
4/28/08 guisada awesome 5 stars
4/14/08 Colleen Cousineau Terrible ending, other then that, a great thriller 5 stars
4/13/08 DG Based on Chaucers - Pardoner's Tale. Chigurh is death 4 stars
4/10/08 ravenmad i tell you, it was javier's hair cut that creeped me most. Awesome film. Intense. 5 stars
3/26/08 Mike Nice thriller, terrible ending, what in the HELL was {that} all about 4 stars
3/25/08 action movie fan no country for action fans-okay story, but too slow 2 stars
3/22/08 Joe Smaltz started out pretty good but ended with out an ending 1 stars
3/20/08 Nick T Riveting though the ending caught me by suprise but it made me think about the events 5 stars
3/19/08 The real ED Ed bob - people like you should have life violently revoked. Call it.. friendo. 5 stars
3/18/08 AD Moss represents Bell's father - 20 years younger than him, get it? 5 stars
3/18/08 RF Great movie. Brillantly Intense and brilliantly acted. Well deserved Oscars. 5 stars
3/17/08 Amit One of the few films that has value, only people with some intelligence can appreciate it 5 stars
3/17/08 Danny I have no idea what happened at the end. Overrated. 3 stars
3/16/08 Julie Total waste of time!!! 1 stars
3/14/08 Mr Hype Good... but the hype is silly, and undeserving to say the least 4 stars
3/13/08 daniel wolfe ending let me down,,,,,,great for 3 / 4 's of movie, but boring ending !!! 4 stars
3/09/08 Freddy A solid, involoving film that seems to lose impetus in the last 20 minutes 4 stars
3/05/08 Louise A well-made and gripping film - such a shame about the weak ending! 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies The Coen brothers at the Oscars...idiot savants?? Great movie! 5 stars
3/01/08 mormor613 Not good for my blood pressure, but worth it 5 stars
2/18/08 ang Anton Chigurh one of the best villains/Great Movie but ending was crappy! 4 stars
2/12/08 Monday Morning Riveting, but seemed to end early - I missed closure on several plotlines/characters 4 stars
2/11/08 Stefan Great acting but uncanny and towards the end, totally unrealistic plot 3 stars
2/03/08 ad instant classic 5 stars
2/02/08 Quigley A masterfully crafted film. Will go down as an American classic and a Coen Bros masterpiece 5 stars
1/30/08 ronp the ending sucked. left too many doors opened. the rest of movie was powerful 4 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic Brutal and intense, its an enigmatic, metaphysical mindgame 4 stars
1/24/08 Mike O I don't know what the big deal is. 2 stars
1/24/08 synthman Another high water mark from American geniuses 5 stars
1/23/08 mr.mike Fairly weak ending keeps it from a 5 star rating. 4 stars
1/18/08 Buttley Great Film, extremely suspenseful and wonderfully acted. Enjoy your Oscar, Javier. 5 stars
1/13/08 JamieD Starts off masterfull, then limps toward the end and dies. 1 stars
1/06/08 NatalieH I loved everything about this film, the sountrack, Javier Bardem & Tommy Lee Jones acting! 5 stars
1/01/08 hardy campbell I am obsessed with this film, and I am NEVER obsessed with films. 5 stars
12/26/07 Vagile Superb 5 stars
12/26/07 Ed Bob Sucks big harry donky balls 1 stars
12/18/07 Tim O'Donnell Great movie--captures a great book 5 stars
12/14/07 Mike Erickson Suspenseful, Violent, and Funny - How they accomplished this I dont know 5 stars
12/11/07 Shawn Best picture of the year 5 stars
12/09/07 Edward Great - taking my son - it will be talked about years later. 5 stars
12/08/07 orpy Wildly entertaining! I love that bad guy! 4 stars
12/05/07 ES This will be a movie people look back on and think- ok, maybe it wasn't that good after all 3 stars
12/03/07 Bnorm Great movie, wonderful villain and is violent witouth being gratutious. the ending was bad 5 stars
12/02/07 george1039 Everything and I mean everything a movie should be 5 stars
12/02/07 Michael Thoughtful, violent, riveting. Brilliantly acted. 5 stars
12/01/07 Jefenator Joel & Ethan: Quit now - you'll never top it! 5 stars
11/28/07 bucslim The "I don't get it" crowd doesn't get it 5 stars
11/27/07 Patrick Go see this movie, now!!! 5 stars
11/27/07 Ole Man Bourbon A lot of fun to follow these characters. Classic movie. 5 stars
11/26/07 john wow, Mr. Brooks and Hannibal step aside, eh..thoughtful, fun, fine 5 stars
11/25/07 David Vivat Flat and nearly incomprehensible 2 stars
11/25/07 R.W.Welch Neat script and villian. Trails off some towards the end. B+ 4 stars
11/19/07 Sully Javier Bardem=Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, he's that scary 5 stars
11/12/07 DonnyM Instant Classic. Cohen bros hit oil. 5 stars
11/11/07 reddye5 See this film!!!! That's all you need to read. 5 stars
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  09-Nov-2007 (R)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2008



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