No Country for Old Men
And No Movie for Weenies

When I go to movies I want to be entertained. I want to escape my current life and enter the zone of feelings, not thought. However, as a reviewer, one can’t leave one’s intellect at the door, or in the car, and just chill. After all, people expect us to pay attention and give our best opinion on the movies we see.

Not surprisingly, my top ten list of favorite films is a pretty eclectic set of movies including love stories, romantic comedies, out-and-out slapstick comedies, two dramas, even a documentary. One thing you may note from the contents of my top ten list: I don’t mention genres that include any scary or violent themes. Or maybe I should just note that my list doesn’t include any stories like No Country for Old Men. At least, it didn’t.

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff BellIf I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to the Screen Actors Guild… Nominate Tommy Lee Jones for an Oscar in his role here. Nominate Javier Bardem as a supporting actor. Give a nod to Directors/Writers Ethan and Joel Cohen and an nomination to Josh Brolin. I know you can’t have two best supporting actors; but you see one of my points: this is an incredibly well done movie. No Country for Old Men is a tour de force depicting humanity and its extremes of kindness and evil.

Chigurh (sounds ironically like sugar, and of course the Coens make hay with this free pun) is one of the scariest characters I have ever seen. His effectiveness as a villain is augmented by the fact that he doesn’t really seem scary in the conventional sense. He wears no mask. He looks people directly in the eye. He presents himself full of earnest intent, which throws his victims off. He engages his victims with penetrating questions that are applicable in his private twisted world. He is the uber-villain. He is weird enough and intense enough to make the average person do his bidding—even without the threat of death. He has the added twisted bent of killing almost everyone he sees so there are no living witnesses to his existence. If there is ever a question in his mind about whether someone should die, he flips a coin in an exceedingly cruel game of chance. He is an unredeemable evil with his own strange, uncompromised ethics. This makes him very scary indeed. Even Chigurh’s hair, a cross between Prince Valiant and the Fab Four, adds to this cold-blooded killer’s deceptively passive and solipsistic mission. Very disarming, but queer and creepy.

Then there is Sherriff Bell, a kindly, good-hearted public servant who has seen a rapid increase in violent crime in his small, nowhere county. His philosophical nature is warring with his pragmatic law enforcement pedigree as he sees his slice of paradise overrun with increasingly malevolent criminals. He is at a disadvantage because even though law enforcement has been the family business for generations, the violence is outdistancing his own imagination. Bell looks longingly at retirement, while simultaneously wondering if he will live to see it.

Then Llewelyn Moss finds 2.4 million dollars in what looks like a drug deal gone bad. Since there are apparently no survivors, this mutual destruction looks like a good chance for him and his wife to make a fresh start. He is a good man, who just happens to make an unfortunate split-second appraisal in which he sees no downside. He isn’t totally convinced the money is his so he is somewhat careful. However, he can’t hear the foreboding music. And like Sheriff Bell, he cannot comprehend the level of evil that is looking for the money. You really hope everything will work out for Llewelyn, but Chigurh is relentless and diabolically intelligent. It is tough to muster up any real hope for Moss. There is hope, but the film is desperately dark.

There is so much to commend No Country for Old Men, from additional cast members to set design. The script is sparing yet profound. The photography and music add to the desperate feeling. The stark beauty of west Texas adds its boundless hiding places, yet imperviousness to escape. In this barren world without humor the Coen brothers are able to utilize cliché and culture to find funny observations and insert them into the script. The sophisticated and deadpan humor is deftly handled by the cast.

I started this movie prepared to be critical due to its subject matter. But the quality of this production and the human observations it makes are priceless. It is a terrific film.

I am afraid to see it again. I would not generally volunteer to attend such a film—but it really is a credit to the art form.

No Country for Old Men is rated R for “strong graphic violence and some language.” I find I am torn regarding a recommendation. This is a classic movie in every sense of the art form. I was very impressed. But it is really disturbing. Be prepared if you don’t have a lot of experience with suspenseful or scary movies. Evil is no mystery to any of us, but this is a squirmfest. At least for a weenie like me.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a press screening of No Country for Old Men.