No Country for Old Men (2007)

MPW-31148I won’t lie when I tell you that it was a shame to see the Coen Brothers in such a slump. They gave us in no specific order “The Ladykillers,” a now infamous remake of a much better film, and then “Intolerable Cruelty” a week and dull dark comedy that was too glam for the duo. I’m glad to report that “No Country for Old Men” is just where they belong. It’s grit, edge, dark humor, and sheer menace in one package of incredible performances and results in a hybrid that’s basically my favorite film of 2007 and soon may just become one of my favorites of all time. Of course, this is not new for the Coens as “The Big Lebowski,” and “Fargo” currently rank in my top list.

The Coens succeed in bringing in a truly great performance from the underrated Josh Brolin and also create one of the most memorable on-screen villains of all time. Granted there are Oscars in 2008, Javier Bardem deserves a nomination for one of the most interesting and tense thrillers I’ve seen in a while that surrounds a simple trailer farmer who discovers money and a litter of bodies one day while hunting, and ends up in a cat and mouse hunt that could test his life and the lives of the people that surround him. The Coens film is an elegy about fate and inevitability. It’s about people who enter into situations and then discover too late that the inevitable is a force that can not be fought, and often times the inevitable is a force reliant on human error, and flaw.

Bardem’s character Chigurh is a force of sheer nature and violence much like Michael Myers who relies on his impulse of pure evil and sadistic lust for blood that he can not be stopped. The Coens makes Chigurh a force of pure destruction and yet a man who feels dutiful to his actions. He’s a man who has to do what he thinks needs to be done and no one will stop him. On the other side, there’s Sheriff Bell who plays the observer, the older man in his world who feels entitled to stop Chigurh and do his job, while Moss is the figure who isn’t quite a hero, but not completely a villain. He’s a man whose complete lack or morals will help you question who to root for, while also wondering what he will concoct to avoid his inevitable death. Moss is not a hick, he’s a clever and resourceful man who thinks he’s one step ahead of the folks tracking him down, but once Chigurh gets wind of him, the situation complicates and the blood spills.

This is probably the Coens crowning achievement solely because of their sheer meticulous and specific attention to detail and tension. There simply isn’t a score to be heard here, thus the film willingly sucks the audience in whether they realize it or not, and really does invite you to feel the force of the tale of morality, and undoing laid before us. Meanwhile, the Coens stage such enormous scenes of sheer intensity that it’s just difficult to sit still. One scene in particular involves Moss in a hotel room playing guard with shadows brushing past his door. Chigurh is a man who feels very unlike a man, he’s a self-entitled harbinger of death who has an obligation and seems to take great pleasure in fulfilling it.

“You don’t have to do this,” many of his victims declare, to which Chigurh simply smirks and mutters “Everyone always says that.” The Coens place Chigurh in the moral coil and introduce a man that needs no back story, or sympathy, he’s just a pure force of unstoppable clever evil that will always lurk over your shoulder, and never apologizes for it. Bardem gives the best performance of 2007, barnone, and the Coens break free from their sheer shit slump to deliver an utter masterpiece that never fits in to one specific genre. The Coens manage to truly remind us of their talents by adapting a truly beloved novel into an utterly enormous piece of filmmaking; It’s a little bit of Hitchcock, a little bit of Lynch, and a sheer morality tale that’s pure raw brilliance from beginning to end.