Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Coen Action Picture

No Country for Old Men may not be the best Coen Brothers' film I've ever seen, but it might very well be the second best. In an interview, Ethan Coen referred to it as the Coen version of an action film. I must say I like their kind of action.

It's the early eighties in West Texas. Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a briefcase with two million dollars next to the last man standing in a drug deal gone very wrong. He takes it, of course, and this decision puts him in the crosshairs of one very lethal man named Anton Chigurh. Meanwhile, several steps behind the methodical chase is Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is trying to come to terms with a killer like Chigurh while simultaneously trying to save Llewellyn from his wrath.

If I had to describe the film in one word, that word would be brutal. Even though most of the actual violence happens off screen, No Country is not a movie for the faint of heart. It's  nail-biting, skin-crawling, heart-pounding 120 minutes of visceral cinema.

With barely any score at all, the feelings emulating from each scene are purely environmental. Listening to every character breathe or walk or die is a different kind of score that gave the movie a very touchable sense of reality. Possibly one of the freakiest sounds I've heard on film is not someone's scream before being shot but the odd hollow sound of a shotgun with a silencer. Yeah, that's what I said--a shotgun with a silencer. Let me never hear that sound in real life. Ever.

The entire cast is amazing. Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald was utterly convincing as a West Texas housewife. Woody Harrelson, Tess Harper, and Barry Corbin had small roles, but played them to pefection. But the standouts are most definitely the three leading men.

If you thought Hannibal Lector was one scary son of a bitch, you have yet to meet Anton Chigurh. Javier Bardem may have just made my list of scariest men alive. Seeing the, dare I say, ecstasy on his face as he kills his first victim brings new meaning to skin crawl. A man who blows up a car just so he can steal some bandages from a pharmacy is definitely one man I never want to run into in a dark alley. Hell, I never want to run into him in a well-lit grocery store.

While Javier is someone I'd like to avoid. Tommy Lee Jones plays someone I would have watch my back. There are roles that some actors were meant to play, and I believe Sheriff Bell is the role for Tommy Lee Jones. The role, and the film for that matter, fit him like a comfortable pair of old jeans. If Oscar isn't calling his name come nomination time, I will be more than surprised.

Then there's Josh Brolin. Brolin really isn't the kind of actor we all go around boasting about. I have yet to see American Gangster or Grindhouse, his other two supposed breakouts of the year, but I will say that Llewellyn Moss should be defined as a breakout role. He never overplays the downhome hero, but a hero is definitely what Moss thinks he is.

Great acting, amazing visuals, and an impeccable storyline are what make this movie great. The ending is still on the fence for me, but it wasn't an odd enough ending to ruin the whole movie experience. All I can say is if you're thinking about seeing No Country, stop thinking and go see it.

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