Correction

This movie review of “No Country for Old Men” named an incorrect source for the film. The movie is based on Cormac McCarthy’s book of the same name.


Evil in the everyman is chilling premise in four-star film

We've all seen the shot before in movies, the helpless victim frozen a couple of feet away from a coiled cobra, for which it's not a matter of if it will strike but when. Now imagine that scenario in human form, and you will understand the terror of Anton Chigurh, the most memorable screen villain in many years, a cinematic Grim Reaper if ever there has been one. Hurting people is human nature for Chigurh -- as it is for many people, in many forms, Joel and Ethan Coen seem to opine in their latest masterpiece -- but Chigurh takes this everyman flaw to extremes. As you realize he's a psychopathic murderer, you also understand that this quality isn't as unique as you might think. Senseless killing is daily news, the everyman eliminating an everywoman or some other member of society. The Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" makes this point: When someone considers such brutality and opines "I don't know what this world is coming to," just stop right there -- everything under the sun has been done. Evil will never die and neither will greed, pride or any number of other sins on display in this film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel. The writer's dense creations and the filmmakers' atmospheric wonder seem a match long in the making. The result is the Coens being right on schedule to make a brilliant, bleak crime drama once every decade ("Blood Simple" in 1984, "Fargo" in 1996). In "No Country for Old Men," the gritty story is straight out of Jim Thompson territory, a disaster of men facing too much temptation with far too little wisdom. Temptation comes in the form of a Texan hunting antelope in one of cinematographer Roger Deakins' compelling wide open spaces, but instead finding a drug deal gone bad in the desert, a sentry of dead bodies surrounding vehicles containing $2 million in cash and a stash of heroin. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin, completing a career year with "Grindhouse" and "American Gangster" to his credit) is the most lacking in wisdom for thinking he can get away with purloining the suitcase of cash. He knows it, too, but he can't stop himself. Darned old human nature. "When would you stop looking for $2 million?" he asks his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly McDonald, the Brit sporting a dead-on Texas accent), who knows the answer. Chigurh (Javier Bardem, producing a deadpan performance that's unforgettable) will never stop. The money doesn't belong to him, but he's been assigned to recover it, and if that means playing Angel of Death, well, it comes natural to him. He's got a job to do, and he is a man of principles, perhaps more than any other character in the film. If that sounds odd, then that's confirmation that you're watching a Coen brothers/McCarthy creation of complexity and contradiction. Somewhat like the Terminator meets Hannibal Lecter, Chigurh is an unstoppable killing machine with an undeniable sense of style. You cannot take your eyes off Bardem in this role, and I was literally on the edge of my seat, dying to know what the fellow with the goofy haircut and air gun attached to his arm like a prosthetic device would destroy next. Never before has the flip of a coin been so petrifying, Chigurh's twitchy device that seems to embody how rare random violence truly is in a society where people usually kill the ones they love. That may be harsh, but so is "No Country for Old Men," amping up the violence quotient from past Coen brothers' films but never overstepping what this inherently dangerous situation demands. "It's a mess, ain't it, Sheriff?" a deputy asks Ed Tom Bell, the dusty-booted top cop played by Tommy Lee Jones as a seen-it-all Texas lawman nearing his ride into the sunset. "If it ain't, it'll do until the mess gets here," Bell replies, again in the deadpan form that all of the characters employ here, the plain-spoken code of the flawed and the foolish. Jones is in his wheelhouse here, playing the resigned-to-life lamenter of the situation, perhaps content to let everyone kill each other off before his investigation gets serious. The pacing is remarkable, deliberate and determined at the same time, a fascinating study of characters whose mental gears we can usually see turning in the wrong direction. The road to doom is paved with blood and bad decisions in one of the best pictures of 2007.


“NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN”

Stars

Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh BrolinTheaters

Southroads 20Running Time

2 hours, 2 minutesRated

R (strong graphic violence, language)Quality

****


Michael Smith 581-8479

michael.smith@tulsaworld.com