No Country for Old Men

5 out of 5 stars
No Country for Old Men
Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men

Like a pair of owlish mind readers, the Coen brothers have somehow done exactly the right thing to repuff their sagging artistic momentum. Once celebrated for reams of quirky dialogue that would have choked Barton Fink, they now arrive with a new film that, barring a few scenes, seems remarkably button-lipped. Having had a few too many fat men holler randomly into space, they now prefer the quiet suffering of Texas tough guys who perform self-surgeries without flinching. And what little music we hear comes from the forlorn sound of the wind or cars passing on the freeway.

No Country for Old Men is, in short, a Cormac McCarthy novel. McCarthy, the true heir to Sam Peckinpah, recently won a Pulitzer for his postapocalyptic The Road; his themes are survival and the unblinking randomness of real violence. The Coens respectfully enter his 2005 neo-Western, set on dusty borderland in 1980, and emerge leaner and hungrier. Their movie is essentially a two-hour contest for the possession of a cache of stolen drug money. Our ostensible hero is Llewelyn (Brolin), a thickly mustached Marlboro Man who, while hunting, wanders upon the case of loot and sees an opportunity. Or maybe it’s the pursuing sheriff (Jones, surpassing his own crusty righteousness). But I fear the most compelling character is a vicious bounty hunter in a pageboy haircut (Bardem) who, in the sheriff’s words, is “pretty much a ghost.” Some will see poignancy in these codes of warfare. It’s really the last embers of the Coens’ sick humor glowing red.

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday November 9 2007
Duration: 122 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenwriter: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast: Woody Harrelson
Tommy Lee Jones
Josh Brolin
Kelly MacDonald
Garret Dillahunt
Tess Harper
Barry Corbin
Stephen Root
Javier Bardem
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