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Joel and Ethan Coen, the brothers behind the crime dramas Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, and Fargo, had a string of misfires for the past few years. They tinkered with comedies like the brilliant Big Lebowski, but after the unfunny Intolerable Cruelty and their miscalculated remake of The Ladykillers, fans of the writing/directing duo began to lose faith, wondering if the Coens would ever return to form.

But we had a hint when the brothers did a hilarious segment for Paris, je t’aime that they have returned indeed. Now that I have seen No Country for Old Men, I can assure you that the Coens you know and love are back.

Here’s the lowdown: While in the Texas desert, Llewelyn (Josh Brolin) comes upon a drug deal gone bad, consisting of a five-person body count and a dead dog, a truck bed filled with heroin, and a case filled with two million dollars.

The sheriff (played with great understatement by the unbeatable Tommy Lee Jones) tries to track down the money and reach Llewelyn before Anton Chigurh (a vicious and barely recognizable Javier Bardem), a maniacal killer, finds him and the money first.

A bounty hunter (Woody Harrelson) later warns Llewelyn, “Even if [Chigurh] gets the money, he’ll kill you just for inconveniencing him.” Bardem deserves an Oscar nomination (if not a win) for his role as the monstrous character of Chigurh (don’t you love that name?), and Jones should just get an honorary award for all the Oscar-caliber performances he’s ever done: there’s just no competing with him.

Even though the film seems to ask the audience to sympathize with Llewelyn, the real protagonist is the sheriff. He wonders how he, a good man, can work in a profession that forces him to come across so much evil. How much evil can a human being take without becoming evil himself?

Interesting questions abound in the film, and also complicated themes, motifs, and symbols. Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy (this movie is the Coens’ only adaptation to date), the story is rich with visuals and sounds. As a matter of fact, there is only one note of music (during a scene involving a coin toss and a character’s mortality) played during the entire film until the end credits, which allows the sound effects to play as notes and chords normally used to orchestrate a music score.

The ending works, even though many won’t be expecting it, and some will even hate it.  Whether you like the movie or not depends on who you see as the main character. If you choose to follow Llewelyn’s story, and you’re expecting a generic crime-movie ending, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Anyone who focuses on the sheriff will understand the full meaning of the film and will get more out of particular motifs and symbols that don’t apply to Llewelyn.

No Country for Old Men is one of those movies that offers a plateful to the audience, and one may need a second helping to fully grasp what the film has to offer. Consider me already in line to see the movie again.


One Comment

  1. I agree, this film is brilliant, as good a film the Coens have ever made, and I for one, loved the ending. The film had so much going for it, and the performances, WOW, especially Javier Bardems, and I loved his hair-do!

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