Directed by: The Coen Brothers
Premise: A hunter (Josh Brolin) stumbles on the remains of a drug deal gone bad and finds two million dollars in cash. Upon taking the money, he finds himself hunted by the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and a psychotic hit man (Javier Bardem).
What Works: There is a lot for filmgoers to enjoy in No Country for Old Men. As a Coen Brothers film, it features the usual components we have come to expect from their work. The film features beautiful cinematography and uses the western landscape to its advantage, giving its characters lots of empty space to crawl around in. It also has great performances by Tommy Lee Jones as a local sheriff and Javier Bardem as a psychotic hit man. Jones has a great world-weariness about his character and he delivers dialogue laced with irony and humor but tempered with an underlying sadness. It is Bardem, however, who steals the show. His quiet, intense demeanor and blank expression contrast with the kinds of assassins audiences are used to seeing on film and the character emerges as one of the most menacing villains of his kind since The Terminator. The dialogue of the film is written very carefully and like other Coen Brother’s films, the characters of No Country for Old Men speak in colloquial language that has a lot of local color. The dialogue and the accent do not go overboard like they did in Fargo but retain a fun and character driven sound that invokes the environment of the film.
What Doesn’t: The film is too slow in parts and the ending is a let down. The story plods along with long spaces between plot points, many scenes go on with little accomplished, and too many characters are introduced without any purpose. In the end, the story leaves too much in the plot and the themes unresolved. A contrast can be made with the similarly themed but far superior Se7en. Downbeat and open conclusions may be perfectly appropriate in the right film, and No Country for Old Men is certainly a candidate, but where Se7en brought its storylines and themes to an appropriate climax, No Country for Old Man drops the ball and just ends the film. It is a disappointing conclusion to what is, up until then, a great piece of work.
Bottom Line: No Country for Old Men suffers from some of the same problems as Brokeback Mountain. It features gorgeous cinematography and some terrific performances but it piddles along and finally stops a few yards short of the goal line.
Episode: #168 (December 2, 2007)