No Country for Old Men (2007)

I realized when I was watching this how long it had been since I had seen a new movie by Joel and Ethan Coen.  I have always been one of those people that thought they did on and off films.  Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing and Fargo have all earned their place in American film history.  I recently began to appreciate Raising Arizona (which I originally had a problem with because they made us look like Southern hicks instead of Southwestern ones) and The Big Lebowski.  Maybe it depends on what time in your life you see certain films.  I still don't have fond memories of suffering through Barton Fink.

In truth, O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the last Coen Brothers movie I remembered seeing until I remembered the True Grit remake was from them.  Their early noire films and their connections with Sam Raimi caught my attention long ago, but for some reason their later stuff escaped my notice.  Therefore, I missed No Country for Old Men when it came out.  Still, I heard enough about it, including a long analysis that this movie itself was a metaphor for growing old, as embodied in the form of the relentless assassin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).  That may be, but I personally see it more along the lines of ancient Greek plays, where the main spends all their time trying to escape the fate the gods have planned, only to stumble headlong into it due to their own actions.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is a man living with his wife in a trailer on the outskirts of a Texas town.  While huntin, he comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad.  Using his tracking skills, he finds where one of the survivors managed to run to with the cash before succumbing to his wounds.  However, he finds another survivor in a truck before he heads home.  The man begs for water, but Moss leaves him.  However, in the middle of the night he begins to feel guilty, and returns to the scene with water.  The man is long dead and, unfortunately for Llewellyn, the men whose money he stole arrive and give chase.  He leaves his truck behind, which lets them identify him easily, and Anton Chigurh is sent to kill him and retrieve the money.

Llewellyn tells his wife Carla Jean (Kelly McDonald) to visit her mom to get her out of danger and, using his resourcefulness, manages to avoid Chigurh, but is eventually tracked down by another hit man named Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) while recovering from wounds in Mexico.  Wells wishes to remove Chigurh and return with the money instead. 

Also in the equation is Sheriff Ed Thom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who is near retirement and suddenly has the whole drug deal and Moss's predicament dumped on him.  He tries to help as he can, but starts to realize that his pursuit may be as futile as Moss's attempts to hold on to the money and make a better life for him and Carla Jean.

The movie is based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, and often his stories work toward an inevitable end, but with no true resolution.  This is no exception.  It is well acted as all Coen Brothers movies are, and, as usual, well-shot.  What I like about all their films is that they take place in a cinematic world.  They never try to go for any sense of belief that you are watching reality, so No Country for Old Men once again has that dreamlike quality.  It's just that the Coens' particular cinematic world doesn't follow the normal Hollywood rules.

Still, I can't get over the act that puts everything in motion.  I understand it may be in Moss's character, but the man who asked for water was obviously long dead by then.  Moss is obviously a man of resourcefulness and intelligence, so this entire action seems to be nothing more than a device to get the plot moving.  Everything could be avoided by simply accepting that he did a bad thing and had to live with it.  Or that could be the point; Chigurh, at any point, may have been the result of his bad decision, and he would have had to deal with him no matter what.  Chigurh was the fate waiting for Moss since birth, and nothing he did, good or bad, was going to change that.

No Country for Old Men (2007)
Time: 122 minutes
Starring: Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Kelly McDonald
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

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