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Cast: Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Script: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Rated: R, for violence, drugs and strong language
I have to admit that lately, American cinema has left me feeling deceived, leading me to take refuge foreign films that threaten Hollywood with their sincere dialogues and provocative and defiant subject matter. But I’m telling you, in this country there are still some top-notch storytellers, and I’m not talking about ’70s greats like Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola. I’m talking about the generation that came after them. The Cohen Brothers, who had their directorial debut in 1984 with the film Blood Simple, are back to satisfy our craving for more oddball characters and strange antics with their new movie No Country for Old Men.
The story is an adaptation of a novel with the same title by Cormac McCarthy. Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) encounters a truck surrounded by a slew of corpses in Texas, along with a truckbed full of drugs and two million dollars. He takes off with the money, which sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that authorities can’t even keep under control. When he tries to leave the state, he’s pursued by psychopath murderer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and old-school sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones).
It’s no surprise that Bardem and Jones give unforgettable performances, but a huge shock was the fantastic acting job of Brolin (American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah), who, in my opinion, deserves an Oscar nomination for the role. Brolin doesn’t just stand out in the presence of film legends; he carries the weight of the film for its more than two-hour duration. Even though it’s a chase movie, it certainly moves at its own pace. This isn’t to say that it’s slow, but it’s not for antsy viewers either. The Coen Brothers are cinematic surgeons, coldly calculating where they’ll make their incision in every scene. Their rhythm is deliberate, and fitting for the desert scenery.
It should be said that the real star of No Country for Old Men is the director of photography Roger Deakins (Kundun, Fargo), a five-time Oscar nominee, but never a winner; you can bet he’ll at least be nominated again. His camera moves languidly, capturing both literal metaphorical distances between characters.
My only complaint about the film is that the plot’s background is a little ambiguous, and at the end I was waiting for an epilogue to fill in the script’s holes. Still, the Coen Brothers have perfected their genre. They’ve found the perfect formula to maintain suspense while simultaneously sprinkling the story with a little bit of humor. And I never get tired of a dose of their medicine.