Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to a world of guns, gore and blood, where rustlers have given way to drug runners and small towns have become free fire zones. Writer-director duo, Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, paints a bleak and dreary picture, almost equating a Biblical significance to many underling themes and occurrences in their film No Country for Old Men. A scorching blast of tense genre filmmaking shot with rich veins of melancholy, down-home philosophy and dark, dark humour, the movie represents a superior match of source material and filmmaking talent. It’s a film that almost becomes paranoid with its own course, becoming eerily Greek in its magnitude, a lament about fate, age, time, violence and life itself.
Reduced to its barest bones, No Country for Old Men, set in 1980, tells a familiar story of a busted drug deal and the violent wages of one man’s misguided attempt to make off with ill-gotten money. The Coens, in adaptation of McCarthy’s novel, have injected into a story, surpassing terseness with gasping velocity. Writing in marvelous Texan vernacular, they have created an indelible portrait of a quickly changing American West whose new surge of violence and gore leaves a haunting and gothic feeling with the audiences. One may say that No Country for Old Men is a lament on the Fall of Man as well as a dirge on the follies of man. It is definitely meant for tough viewing and the strong ‘R’ rating for graphic violence and lewd language, suggests it is definitely no film for weak men.
The story begins when Lewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law, in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers, in particular a mysterious mastermind Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who flips coins for human lives- a tense and thrilling drama of human emotions and violence ensue, that bares open the basest feelings and desires of man, all culminating into a mindlessness that have come to characterize human living in today’s world.
Sounds simple enough – and it is – yet what sets this movie apart from the flock, is the exceptional writing and direction. We now know why, the Coen’s just bulldozed through every writing award this season; it is hard to ignore such exceptional work. They are able to brilliantly capture the barest of human emotions and present them in the most basic and often bewildering ways, in a subtle way giving it a grand Biblical touch of the ever going battle between Heaven and Hell, with man in between. Their direction, too, is extremely praiseworthy, bringing out the best from every actor, including the supporting ones. The scene in which, Moss waits in his hotel room, as he realizes that his assassin have traced him to the hotel, as Chigurh roams outside is chilling and almost Hitchcock, albeit with more natural suspense and soft, haunting background score.
The performances stand out. The grand prize definitely goes to Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, who gives us one of the finest villains in the history of cinema after Hannibal Lector. His performance as the hitman from Hell with no emotion, no inflection in his voice, no soul behind his eyes – his depiction of pure evil is wonderfully disturbing, to say the least. Brolin is also good, as is Kelly McDonald as his wife. There isn’t much to say about Tommy Lee Jones. He loves to play the grizzled law-man and once again he nails the performance. He’s undoubtedly one of the better actors of his generation.
In the end, I can definitely say that No Country for Old Men is one of great talent and understanding. It’s a film that simultaneously strips down the American crime drama and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as blood-ily contemporary as this morning’s headline. It requires and deserves multiple viewing.
[image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/herzeleyd/2248619251/]