No Country for Old Men (2007)

Review by:
Bill Clark

Reviewed by:
On November 15, 2007
Last modified:July 3, 2014


No Country for Old Men is intense, provocative filmmaking on every level that is sure to be one of the best American films of the year.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men is a true original, and that’s virtually impossible to come by these days. Smart, taut, suspenseful, and ever-so-weirdly funny, the film manages to attempt and succeed at nearly every genre under the sun. The Coen brothers have always been uniquely skilled filmmakers, but No Country for Old Men stands as their most complete work.

On the surface the story seems like the old familiar plot of the fugitive on the run with a pair of pursuers following his every move. That is the basis, but the screenplay (based upon the novel by Cormac McCarthy) delves much deeper and settles into an engaging and often disturbing character study. As the film opens, Llewelyn Moss (Brolin), is hunting game in Texas. He stumbles upon a drug-deal-gone-wrong; the scene is littered with rotting corpses and bullet-ridden trucks. Moss finds $2 million in a satchel and a stash of heroin. Moss takes off with the dough. In town to recover it is Anton Chigurh, one of the most ruthless psychopaths ever committed to film. Very few people have actually ever seen Chigurh – because he kills everyone he meets. Tracking both of them is local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones), who is well aware of Chigurh’s capabilities. Bell regards as Chigurh as a type of mythical figure and his curiosity gets the best of him.

Shot in long bouts of silence with no soundtrack to speak of, No Country for Old Men is all about atmosphere and character. The Coens’ screenplay, which is very faithful to McCarthy’s novel from what I have read, explores numerous dimensions and emotions. Normally a rollercoaster like this, which centers on suspenseful dialogue exchanges, brutal violence, and laugh-out-loud black comedy, is too much to handle. Here is works seamlessly, as the Coens do for Texans what Fargo did for Minnesotans. Themes of good vs. evil and aging are handled magnificently, all of which culminates in what is sure to be the most divisive ending of the year. If you like your conclusions to be wrapped with a bow on top, you’ve been warned.

The centerpiece of the film is Javier Bardem as Chigurh. Bardem is a very talented actor, but here he taps into a fountain of evil that has rarely been seen onscreen. He is a true movie monster. Speaking in a low monotone voice, but very cunning in his speech, Chigurh makes people earn their right to live, whether it be in the form of a coin toss or other simplistic methods. Josh Brolin, who has been in meatier roles of late, is also a standout as Moss. He has impeccable comic timing and earns some tough laughs in an understated role. Tommy Lee Jones, playing a cop, of course, steals each scene he is in. His opening and closing speeches are not to be missed.

No Country for Old Men certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but those who value precise, deliberate storytelling combined with well-defined characters will walk out with plenty to think about and discuss. After a few moderate disappointments (The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty), the Coens are back and in top form. This is intense, provocative filmmaking on every level that is sure to be one of the best American films of the year.


Studio: Miramax Films
Length: 122 Minutes
Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language.
Theatrical Release: May 19, 2007 (Cannes Film Festival) / November 9, 2007 (Limited) / November 16, 2007 (Wide)
Directed by: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Written by: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. Based upon the novel by Cormac McCarthy.
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt




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One Comment

  1. If you’re a Coen brothers fan, you’re gonna be extremely delighted with NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. This is Ethan and Joel at the pinnacle of their directing careers, something that should not be missed by anyone interested in film or entertainment. Forget FARGO. Push aside THE BIG LEBOWSKI. Move over O’ BROTHER WHERE ART THOU. No Country is leaps and bounds beyond those. In fact, it reigns supreme as 2007’s best film.

    I don’t always agree with movie critics but this time they got it right. It is the first time that Associated Press reviewers David Germain and Christy Lemire have both selected the same film as their #1 pick. With more award nominations than you could shake a stick at (including four Golden Globes, three Screen Actors Guilds, probably a gaggle of Oscars and many, many, many others), No Country will undeniably have directors, actors and screenwriters jumping up on stage come awards ceremony time.

    Equal parts thriller, western, crime-drama, and action, No Country weaves a tapestry of excellence throughout its length.

    The first note of excellence must be directed at Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Probably not very well known to most American audiences, Javier has cemented himself as the leader in portraying a psychopathic killer and (dare I say it!) has surpassed that of Anthony Hopkins in his SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Hannibal Lecter role (something that I thought would never happen). Ruthless, unforgiving, sociopathic, and in desperate need of a new hair style, Anton Chigurh (Bardem) is flawless. Every time he showed up on-screen I felt a chill run through my bones (“Call it”). Absolutely perfect.

    The next note of excellence must go to Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones. Llewelyn Moss (Brolin, PLANET TERROR) is the lucky/unlucky soft-spoken Texas cowpoke/hunter who stumbles across a veritable fortune in drug money only to be relentlessly pursued by killer Anton. Mr. Moss’ gradual decline in health (mainly due to wounds inflicted on him by Anton) is painful to watch up until the very end. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is the opposite of Anton Chigurh. He doesn’t understand all of the death and destruction laid at his feet. He longs for a time when murders were easy to track and solve, not these new-fangled deaths where bullets aren’t used (air-guns do just fine) and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their patterns.

    The fourth (perhaps this should’ve been first) note of excellence goes to the Coen brothers for their perfect adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel by the same name. Many lines of dialogue were lifted verbatim from the novel itself, including the ending monologue by Tommy Lee. It’s noteworthy to mention here that the Coen brothers not only directed but wrote the screenplay, too.

    The final note has to go Cinematographer Roger Deakins (he’s worked with the Coen brothers on many occasions and also did the exemplary JARHEAD work). Every scene was so well thought-out and so convincingly filmed that viewers are carried freakishly easy through this incredible story.

    It’s difficult to do justice to this film with one short review, simply because there are so many great elements to it. The casting was spectacular — with Woody Harrelson (NORTH COUNTRY) and Kelly Macdonald (THE GIRL IN THE CAFÉ) pulling in exceptional supporting roles — as was Carter Burwell’s haunting original musical score and Mary Zophres impeccable costume designs.

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