Perfection. Sheer perfection. Joel and Ethan Coen have made their best film in years and to be perfectly honest, I was a bit surprised at how good No Country For Old Men was as I watched it. For starters, it’s an adaptation of a novel I love by Cormac McCarthy and you know how that usually goes—very poorly. Not this time. This time it’s magic.
The film begins with a grainy assault of various southwestern images and Tommy Lee Jones comforting drawl before settling in to the story. A solitary man is out hunting. While tracking a wounded animal he comes across a crime scene in the middle of nowhere. With dead bodies bloated in the sunlight this far from humanity it’s probably best to turn away and head in the other direction. Llewelyn Moss isn’t that kind of guy though and entering the scene will offer him a temptation that is both risk and reward.
Moss’ part in the story is only one of three that run interconnected in No Country For Old Men. As Moss attempts to get away from the area, a ruthless killer hunts him and a weary sheriff looks for the both of them. Three stories that ebb, flow and criss cross into the path of the other. What makes this a special film is the care and attention given to each story. Even the little branches from these three stories add to the weight of the main story it is an offshoot from. It all matters.
There are a lot of things to praise in No Country For Old Men. The pacing and editing is incredible. The Coen Brothers slowly unwind this story, not afraid to take in unexpected directions. It’s a perfectly controlled story that adheres to their motto of making movies that are so well thought out and planned that the way they propel the story with such effortless smoothness is a thing to behold. It might seem easy but it’s the hardest thing to do in the world to achieve such a quality of naturalness and that exists from beginning to end.
The cast is stellar. Josh Brolin, who plays Moss, is having a hell of a year for an actor who has been off the radar for years and years. Planet Terror, American Gangster and No Country For Old Men. I liked The Goonies as much as anyone but I’m shocked to see what kind of an actor, screen presence Brolin has evolved into. No Country For Old Men also has the aforementioned Jones, Javier Bardem (as one of the best villains in years!), Woody Harrelson and Kelly Macdonald in the major parts. But, the smaller roles has some inspired casting with Barry Corbin, Tess Harper and some non-professional types that reeked of western authenticity.
Loving a book and then loving the movie version of it is a rare breed for me. The Coen Brothers imagined the same film as I did and they nailed it from the cast, the tone, the spare script that is eloquent and wise and intelligent and coursing with a dark humor, the violence, the production, the locations, the philosophical qualities and the rugged beauty of men and women who are struggling just to live without ever knowing the great amount of effort they undertake each day we wake up. No Country For Old Men is the rarest of treasures—a great book and an equally great movie. The Coen Brothers have made a perfect movie ladies and gentleman.