No Country For Old Men
- Kaleem Aftab
- 17 January 2008
After the public ambivalence and critical lambasting of their last two films – Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers – the Coen Brothers return to form with this adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which features many similar themes to their two most heralded films Fargo and Blood Simple. When Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) takes a bagful of cash from a drug deal that goes wrong, he sets of a chain of events that leads Chigurh (pronounced Sugar, Javier Bardem) a psycho-killer with Sophie Ellis Bextor’s haircut, to vow he will do anything to get the money back. Trying to keep apace with the young guns is the film’s moral compass Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones).
Though based on McCarthy’s least interesting novel, the Coens imbue this simple tale with their trademark quirkiness and wry humour. The mise-en-scène is often masterful especially when Chigurh chases Moss across America, which brings to mind the suspense of Hitchcock’s Psycho and later Dial M For Murder while maintaining a stunning level of unforgiving violence.
Yet, staying close to the source material ultimately works against the Coens. The Sheriff’s posturing on the evils of modern life, which starts and ends the film must have seemed positively Shakespearean on the page but transcribed almost word for word on screen it’s completely flat. Whenever Tommy Lee Jones starts on a moralising expositional monotone it feels like the Coens are going through the motions. The denouement is especially unsatisfying in what has hitherto been an almost brilliant film.
General release from Fri 18 Jan.