**** out of ****
Some of the best movies make the backdrop one of their most interesting characters. Such is the case in “No Country For Old Men, “ the Coen Brothers dark masterpiece, which takes us on a chase through Texas in the 1980s and it gets everything right from the stark rolling plains to the lonely mom-and-pop motels dotted along desolate highways.
The movie takes your breath away from the very beginning, where merciless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) strangles a deputy in a scene in which the camera never blinks. We see it coming, but the deputy does not. That’s just as the Coen Brothers intended. We know what evil this killer is capable of even though the people he kills along the way often underestimate him.
Chirgurh looks ridiculous in his page-boy haircut and his face, not quite flesh in tone. He is a novel assassin - he kills with a tank of compressed air. In his pocket he carries a quarter that will decide the fate of many who are unfortunate enough to cross his path. Bardem should be an Oscar favorite, as he breathes mystery and humor into what could easily have been a one-note performance.
The plot revolves around money. Two million dollars to be exact. That’s the amount that Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) found in the desert in a drug deal gone wrong. Moss stumbles onto the scene one day while hunting, and he sees shot-up pick-up trucks, dead bodies strewn all over the red dirt, dead dogs and a briefcase full of money.
Soon Chigurh is after Moss. Enter Sheriff Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who will try to intercept Chigurh before he kills Moss. The three characters intertwine beautifully, each one is fully developed, in fact, this is the best ensemble cast of 2007.
Moss, as played by Brolin, is a true bad-ass. He served in ‘nam, and he fears no one. Moss sees the money as his ticket out of the trailer he shares with Carla Jean (Kelly Madonald). He figures if he can just hole up in a seedy motel for a few weeks, a new life waits for them both. Unfortunately, Chigurh keeps tracking him down.
Bell, as played by Jones, is weathered and wise. He’s seen a lot of bad men, but no one quite as determined and ruthless as Chigurh. Bell is a man who is torn between his principles to serve and his desire to come out of this murder spree alive.
There are movies you watch and there are movies you find yourself in. This one is a ride that just happens to play out on a big screen. But make no mistake, you will wonder at times if you are going to be killed before the end credits roll.
No Country For Old Men is adapted from the novel of the same name, by Cormac McCarthy.