No Country for Old Men (2007)
How much of what happens to us is fate? How much of it is it the result of conscious decisions we made?
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) ponders that as he chases down Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a Texan who absconded with a very large amount of money, which he found upon stumbling upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Little did Llewelyn know that in one act of taking money that was not his that he would leave a trail of dead people.
Despite the Coens’ No Country for Old Men having its share of violence, where many of the deaths were gory and the handiwork of Chigurh, it was a very understated drama about people who simply were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Tommy Lee Jones stars as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the soon-to-be-retired lawman who investigates the string of killings at the hands of Chigurh. The movie opens with Bell narrating that he is afraid of stumbling upon something he would not be able to comprehend.
It is very hard for me to be able to describe the movie as being plot-driven or character-driven. Many of the plot points that transpired were the result of characters simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that usually is in between Llewelyn and Chigurh. On the other hand, Chigurh very much was a driving force in the movie’s plot, though it would be accurate to say that his function transcended that of a character. One can easily compare him to the personification of Death in Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957), and say that Chigurh himself was the plot of the movie. Despite that though, no one in No Country for Old Men can actually be described to be the central character as the movie very much is about the intersecting fates of three otherwise unrelated men.
No Country for Old Men does little to really spell its plot out. In many scenes, nary a word is said. Characters don’t move more than they have to. Even the music is kept to a minimum. The viewer is expected to do his fair share of thinking. Many scenes involved minimal camera movement a la Ozu while letting the characters do all the moving, which generally isn’t a lot.
Everything just falls into place. What resulted is a tense, but minimalist chase. Much of the tension came from Javier Bardem’s absolutely terrifying, yet fascinating portrayal of Chigurh. Brolin gave an admirable performance as well, but Bardem gave a performance I will not be forgetting anytime soon. Other than that, the Coen Brothers, who gave us classics like The Big Lebowski (1998), wrote an unforgettable screenplay based on the novel of the same name. The actors and script meshed perfectly.
No Country for Old Men was the winner of 4 Academy Awards in 2007, including Best Supporting Actor for Bardem, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. I think the movie very rightly deserved those three as well as Best Director for the Coens. No Country for Old Men very much as a modern American cinematic classic. For the record, I very much do recommend buying the Blu-Ray edition of the movie.