The critical toast of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Coen brothers revealed themselves to be at the peak of their powers with this adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning Cormac McCarthy’s dark tale of a stash of stolen loot, a blood-thirsty and crazed villain, an implacable if weary county sheriff and a hunter on the run. With stunning landscapes around the Tex-Mex border shot by Roger Deakins and the elements of pursuit and retribution, the saga draws from the Western tradition in which the characters become dwarfed by nature.
In a career-best performance, Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, who unwittingly starts a chain reaction when he stumbles across a scene of carnage connected to a drug deal. He discovers among the cadavers $2 million and takes the cash so that he can start a better life with his faithful, innocent wife (Kelly Macdonald).
This fateful act unleashes his pursuers, notably the psychopathic Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), whose party piece is tossing coins for human lives. Portrayed with ultimate chill by Bardem, this blood-curdling villain remorselessly tracks his victim without a hint of compassion for anyone innocent who may cross his path. It looks increasingly likely that Moss and his spouse will not live long enough to benefit from the fruits of the unexpected windfall. Even Tommy Lee Jones as the disillusioned Sheriff Bell finds it well nigh impossible to keep any sense of law and order as the chase unravels.
Although it falls into the category of a chase movie, No Country for Old Men also subverts the conventions of the genre, a quality doubtless of strong appeal to the quirky talents of the Coens, who reckon it is the most violent offering they have signed to date. The film represents vintage Coen brothers with all the strengths that have established them as serious auteurs from Blood Simple onward.
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt and Tess Harper
Directors/Screenwriters: Joel Cohen & Ethan Coen
Producers: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language
Running time: 122 min.
Release date: November 9, 2007 ltd., November 16 exp., November 21 exp.