No Country For Old Men
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen 2007
This is a film without redemption, painting a bleak picture of human tyranny where death is the driving force behind greed. The forces of Good and Evil are tackled with the complexity they deserve, exposing a bedrock of corruption beneath the obvious brutality. In true Coen brothers style (The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Blood Simple) it is not without irony and humour, but the pervading sadness is carried in the viral nature of what we, in our collapsing society, have become.
Set in arid Texan wastelands in 1980, we meet Lewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who is hunting antelope with the intensity of any regular sociopath. He stumbles upon the aftermath of a massacre over a heroin deal. A bunch of shot up F100s, Mexican hard men and fighting dogs lie in pools of dark blood. The utility tray of one truck is stacked with kilos of heroin and a trail of blood leads Lewellyn to the last man standing a corpse clutching a case stuffed with two-million dollars and an unknown tracking device. Of course Lewellyn takes off with the cash, transforming his life into a nightmare of pursuit, as he is hunted across country by the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and the most remorseless assassin, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).
Anton dispatches his victims without breaking a sweat and Bardem is stupendous in the role. A gothic neanderthal of a monster whose dark eyes belie the perversity of grim humour. He is the tide of death itself with a calling card for all of us the granny pill poppers, the trailer park TV addicts, the small town gas station attendants, the drug runners, the innocents and even the cowboys!
Acts of monstrosity are coolly perpetrated throughout, but the resulting film strays beyond cool to the verge of passionless, in an urge not to lament the legacy of violence.
Performances are universally excellent. Roger Deakins cinematography illuminates the beautiful and indifferent landscape. The music complements every nuance. Joel and Ethan Coens adaptation of Cormac McCarthys novel is devastatingly realised, placing them once again at the very forefront of American cinema.