By Kai Parker
By Kai Parker
“No Country For Old Men” opens on the vast silent expanses of wilderness between the Texas and Mexico border.
This serves as the setting of many of the novels of Cormac McCarthy, writer of the novel which the film is based. McCarthy populates these landscapes with hardened men who are no strangers to violence or solitude.
The story begins when a lone hunter, Llewelyn Moss, comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong and finds $2 million in cash.
He takes the money and sets off a catastrophic string of violence that leaves everyone it touches, including the audience, shaken and haunted.
Most of that violence comes from Anton Chigurh (sounds like “sugar”), who, played by Javier Bardem, is one of the most terrifying on-screen villains in recent memory.
He’s not so much a killer as he is a force of nature, and just as inescapable. He glides in and out of scenes like a ghost, and by the time the other characters know he’s there it’s already too late.
Chigurh sees his victims as mere casualties of fate.
Crossing paths is simply a misfortune.
“Are you going to shoot me?” one character asks.
“That depends,” Chigurh replies. “Can you see me?”
While Bardem steals the show, the supporting cast delivers notable and compelling performances. Tommy Lee Jones plays an old sheriff about to retire who can barely comprehend the existence of Chigurh.
His scenes bookend the film, as he tries to make sense of the violence escalating around him in an increasingly unfamiliar world.
He seems afraid to really step into the investigation because of what he already suspects: the actions set into place are already beyond his ability to stop.
Josh Brolin plays Moss, the na’ve hunter trying to stay one step ahead of Chigurh, although he never quite seems to realize the nature of the man who’s after him.
Other minor roles are filled by Woody Harrelson, as a private bounty hunter and Kelly MacDonald as Moss’s innocent wife.
“No Country For Old Men” is a movie of relentless pace and shocking violence, but the filmmakers -the Coen Brothers (“Fargo”)- do not revel in that violence.
Rather, they make you cringe at how sudden and destructive it can be and the lives it can destroy.
The Coens have remained largely faithful to the novel, even leaving in large portions of dialogue.
Those familiar with McCarthy’s work will not be surprised by the bleak tone of the film, right down to its ending, which is likely to be its most controversial aspect.
But it’s hard not to applaud the Coens for remaining faithful, not only to their source material, but also to their themes and characters down to the final shot.
This is not only one of their best films to date, it’s easily one of the best films of the year.
Whether you like the ending or not, this is a film you won’t easily forget.