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  No Country for Old Men The Darkening Skies
Year: 2007
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root, Rodger Boyce, Beth Grant, Anna Reeder, Kit Gwin, Zach Hopkins, Chip Love, Eduardo Antonio Garcia, Gene Jones
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 3 votes)
Review: Texan Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) has held the post for a long while now and he has seen the landscape of crime change in that time, not least in the case of Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin), an ex-welder and Vietnam War veteran who got into a situation that quickly overwhelmed him. He had been out hunting when he saw a group of cars and trucks apparently abandoned in the distance, though he made out some dead bodies lying on the ground as well. On closer inspection, he had uncovered a mass murder, what looked to be a major drugs deal gone majorly wrong, so when he found the money for the deal under a tree nearby, two million dollars of it, he made the mistake of taking the bag himself...

The Coen brothers had been through a quiet patch before No Country for Old Men was released, five years after their diabolical remake of The Ladykillers met with the worst reaction of their careers. So with this film, it was pleasing to see a return to form from two of the most distinctive filmmakers of their generation, tackling with great faithfulness a Cormac McCarthy novel and creating a strangely still film experience, all in spite of the amount of violence that peppers the story. Not only did this win the Best Picture Oscar, but they won Best Direction and Adapted Screenplay, and one of the stars was awarded an acting Oscar too.

That star was Javier Bardem, as Chigurh, one of the most relentless and pitiless villains in thriller movie history. If only Llewellyn hadn't suffered a pang of conscience - or was it fear? - and attempted to replace the bag of cash where he found it, then the trail of bodies would not have spiralled out of control. But he does venture out under cover of darkness, back to the location of the ruined deal, where he is chased by a truck of men and a dog, leading to a startling sequence where he has to dive into a river to escape, only for the hound to swim after him.

But sequences like that are what punctuate the otherwise eerily quiet mood. See also the scene where Chigurh looks as if he is about to kill a gas station attendant, because killing innocent bystanders is what he does, only to give the man a chance to call a coin toss for his life, his idea of fate intervening. But the lives the film depicts rarely feature such tidy conventions, with existences more liable to bad luck or simple chaos than anything that looks as if there's any great scheme to things. It was mere chance that Llewellyn found the money, and it is mere chance that Chigurh is now pursuing him with a view to killing him as easily as squashing a fly.

Not that Llewellyn is giving up without a fight, and after dispatching his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald, whose Texan accent is impeccable) to a safe area goes on the run. But Chigurh makes The Terminator look like a quitter, and armed with a gas-powered cattle bolt gun he cuts a swathe through the incidental characters, few of whom are actually standing in his way, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also appearing is Woody Harrelson's calm gangster who tells Llewellyn reasonably that he is doomed before failing to be too fortunate himself, but leave it to Jones's Bell to carry off the conscience of the piece, genuinely at a loss to understand why so many have died and why society appears to be going to hell in a handbasket with increasing speed. This explains the title, that the old values of decency are being rejected, but the randomness of the events of the final act speaks to a general lack of design making itself more apparent as time goes by. Music by Carter Burwell, although you might not notice what there is.

[Paramount's Region 2 DVD has three featurettes as extras, but that's all.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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