I know, I’m about three months late in my review of “No Country for Old Men,” but no matter.
If you have not seen this film, you need to (the local Cinemark recently added showtimes in honor of the film’s eight Oscar nominations). It is an astounding, riveting, weighty piece of cinema.
Based on Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy’s novel, and adapted by the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers, “No Country for Old Men” begins with a retired welder named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbling on a drug deal gone wrong while out hunting on the Texas plains.
Moss finds a briefcase filled with $2 million and decides to take it. It is his ticket to a better life, a life away from the dusty old trailer park he and his wife call home.
The problem is the men who brokered the drug deal want their money back, and they have hired a psychopathic killer named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who likes to kill people with his compressed air gun to get the job done.
And on the trail of both Moss and Chigurh is Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a wise, world-weary and no-nonsense sheriff.
“No Country for Old Men” is first and foremost a crime drama, and it is brimming with moments of unbearable suspense.
The scene where Moss waits in a hotel room, armed with a shotgun, as Chigurh slowly makes his way down the hall, is a masterpiece of tension.
In fact, many of the scenes in “No Country” are so good they recall Hitchcock, especially in the use of silence as a tool to make the audience squirm in their seats with anticipation.
But the film isn’t all agonizing suspense; there is some great dry humor between Bell and his na’ve deputy Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) that are reminiscent of the banter between Marge Gunderson and her deputy in the Coens’ masterpiece “Fargo.”
As entertaining as “No Country” is – and it is very entertaining – the film is also a meditation on violence. Bell, in particular, seems no longer able to understand the world around him, a world where people kill simply to kill.
What makes “No Country for Old Men” so masterful is how well all the film’s elements coalesce; the performances are uniformly stellar, the cinematography from Roger Deakins is breathtaking (there is a beautiful moment where Moss is being chased through the desert at night as lightning strikes in the background), and the Coens’ screenplay and direction skillfully adapt McCarthy’s novel.
I have to reiterate, if you have not seen this film, do so as soon as possible. This is a film that, in every way, deserves its nomination for Best Picture of the year.
Five stars (out of five.)
Staff writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.