Alright folks, today’s review is about the highly acclaimed and best picture winner of 2008; ‘No Country for Old Men’. Directed by the Coen brothers, this self-contained visual narrative is about Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles upon 2 million dollars after discovering the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong in the deserts of West Texas. As he is about to celebrate, he notices that he is being chased after by a psychopathic assassin; Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). Anton has a feared reputation in the area, after carrying out a series of murders to nearly everyone he meets. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is also looking for Moss as well as the person responsible for wreaking havoc onto his county.
The first few opening shots of the movie look and feel like a Western; they show some beautiful shots of West Texas, capturing the warmth and isolation of the desert as well as the bright blue and empty skies using wide shots. However, I did notice something slightly off putting; wind mills. Not just one, but three. This was the first indication I got that this film was not trying to be a Western, and I was right. When was the last time you saw modernized wind mills in a western? No Country for Old Men is not a Western. In fact, this movie almost pokes some flaws at the Western genre through its unorthodox narrative and conclusion.
For the majority of the movie, the Coen brothers make us believe that we are watching a western. They make us think that there is a clear protagonist i.e. Llewelyn Moss, the underdog who is down on his luck until he stumbles across ”the treasure” to rescue himself from his own miseries. Anton Chigurh is portrayed to be ”the antagonist” as we are made to believe that he is a man without any moral code and just lives and breaths evil. The first 90 minutes of No Country for Old Men is an intense thriller, where Chigurh is tracking down Moss whilst killing a number of innocent civilians along the way. The camera is used ingeniously to evoke a sense of fear. Instead of using fast cuts to intensify the action, the camera is kept mostly stagnant during the more intense sequences to drag out the action. In addition, the film also plays around with lighting (especially shadows) to heighten suspense. This movie also barely has a soundtrack to go with any of the events. Now, for me I didn’t really consider this to be a positive or a negative as I felt the movie to be entertaining and suspenseful enough without one.
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh plays one of the most terrifying on screen villains I have ever seen. He is terrifying because he is not your unconventional villain. He does have a code of conduct, which is based around luck and fate. In addition, he is menacing because he is portrayed to being immune to pain and having a mysterious background. Also the fact that he is always wearing black attire just adds that extra layer of ”omg get away from him” kinda feel to his character. Anton Chigurh totally dominates every scene that he is in. The movie gets less interesting every time the camera cuts away to focus on any other character. Speaking of other characters, Woody Harrelson also makes a brief appearance in this movie. He was a pretty useless addition as the only thing he does is give a bit of exposition to Javier Bardem’s character; nothing which we didn’t already know.
Let me briefly talk about the last 30 minutes of the movie, which a lot of people weren’t happy about. The last 30 minutes for No Country for Old Men was far off from what I had expected. There is no final standoff between protagonist and antagonist. There is no happy ending. The last 30 minutes of this movie takes focus away from our two main characters and towards Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and the existential crisis which was hinted at in other parts of the movie. I had to rewatch the last 30 minutes because I didn’t get what happened the first time around. It irritated me that this movie didn’t go the way I thought it was going and frustrated me how slow and uneventful these minutes were. But upon rewatch, I partially understand why this was done.
No Country for Old Men is not your typical Western or thriller. It is a deep and complicated visual narrative with an excellently written and cast villain, wonderful use of lighting and cinematography and a highly unorthodox plot that goes in a completely different direction in its final 30 minutes. The final 30 minutes of this movie focuses on the character of Sheriff Bell and deal heavily with the themes of fate, mortality and death, which connect well to the other events of this film.