What’s truly impressive about No Country for Old Men is the mistakes it doesn’t make. So many movies come out average — and they all do it the exact same way. Overly sappy, predictable, impatient, unrealistic, the routes to movie mediocrity are done early and often. That doesn’t happen here, and I’m happy to say that the Coen Brothers are back. Baby!
I haven’t read the original source material because I find something vaguely off-putting about Cormac McCarthy. I can’t put my finger on it, and I don’t expect it to make sense, I’m only imparting this because if you have read the book I don’t know what to tell you. I know that I loved the movie on its own merits, and I’ve heard anecdotally that it’s a faithful representation, but I have no real deal expertise on that front.
The story is a fluid one. A man (played by Josh Brolin) comes upon a massacre. He finds a boatload of cash. All hell breaks loose and any number of fiends are unleashed upon him, one of them played by Javier Bardem. Both Brolin and Bardem are phenomenal in this, let’s award them both, and pronto. The story is about Brolin’s struggle to survive. Along the way Tommy Lee Jones narrates, he’s the local Sherriff of the jurisdiction where the massacre took place. I’m not going to tell you more; I’d highly suggest you see the movie for further intel.
I suppose I should point out a flaw or two so I can keep my professional movie critic’s card. The movie doesn’t have a lot to grab onto for someone used to blockbusters. My point being, if you weren’t a Coen Brothers fan before this I don’t see any reason this would convert you. The story isn’t built in the traditional manner, there’s not really catch phrases, and the best parts of it are the quiet, subtle moments of wry dark humor. If you’re not a fan of slow pacing, or nuanced movies, well frankly you’re going to hate this to high heaven and call people like me pretentious jerk-offs. And you’d almost be spot on.
Except for the pertinent fact that this is how movies should be constructed in a world that loves art. Let’s start saying “yes” to films that don’t present easy answers, that do make you think, that don’t feature giant stars. Perhaps movies, as well as being entertaining, can also provide us something to think about. I mean why the hell not? Anything can happen right? We’ve all got to dare to dream and such.
Guess what? I’m recommending this. With my whole heart. Or whole-heartedly, whichever you prefer. I love the humor mined here, I love the time the Coens take with each shot, I love the violence and the absurdity of real life spashed on screen. You should see this if you’ve trusted me before. This is not the mediocrity of Intolerable Cruelty or the forsaken potential of The Ladykillers. This is a big bad award seeking style film. If I had the money I’d take you to it, and afterwards we could get coffee or something. I’d like to think that’s how life works, just like I’d like to imagine there are more movies like this in my viewing future.