Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen (screenplay) Cormac McCarthy (novel)
2007 was a big year for the Coen brothers. They won 4 Academy Awards for this film including Best Picture, Best Direction, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing. This movie was a big hit with the Academy and it was a big hit with the audience as well. Despite that I am not the biggest fan of it. I think it is a great movie but I don’t feel like it was their best movie. This seemed to be the time that everybody realized who the Coen brothers were and that bothered me on some level because I had long since been a big fan of their work. As good as this movie is I still wouldn’t even categorize it as one of their top 5 films and I’m always annoyed when something becomes trendy and people suddenly understand something that had always been there had they taken the time to notice.
I also think this movie drags a bit too much at times. I think it’s the lack of music that makes it feel so slow. Music helps a movie move at a specific pace and the absence of any score in this one slows it down for me. Tommy Lee Jones is incredible and I think he is great in this film but during one of his monologues later in the film I wanted to scratch my eyes out with boredom. The lack of a musical score did nothing to inhibit the movie and in truth the first time I saw it I was so enthralled I didn’t even notice until the second viewing. I think though, once the shocks have been taken in that attempting to watch this movie again seems mundane. I loved it the first time I saw it but the more I see it the less enthused I am about it.
So much of the strength of this film lies in the performance of Javier Bardem, and he was absolutely terrifying in the part. When watching this movie for the first time you literally never know what he is going to do. He is so intimidating and brutal. It’s a role that deserved to win the Academy Award and it will live on forever as one of the baddest of the bad. With his sudden ferocity and unique weapons Anton Chigurh ranks right up there with the greats like Bill the Butcher or Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nevertheless as much as I respect the Coen Brothers and appreciate the performance of Bardem I don’t love this bad guy or this movie. I bought into it all 100% the first time I saw it but I find myself short of lasting love for the any of it and that is unusual for a Coen Brothers film. I’m a guy that loves a good bad guy and can’t get enough of him, but this bad guy hasn’t stood the test of time for me. Anton Chigurh is a ruthless and capable hitman but he isn’t the badass boss type of bad guy that I usually find myself shamefully pulling for.
Around this the time this movie came out Josh Brolin suddenly seemed to be in everything. He was in a number of successful films in 2007 and he continues to be a player in the industry today. I was puzzled seven years ago about it and I’m puzzled still how and why this Goonie suddenly popped into the limelight seemingly out of nowhere. In 2007 he had significant roles in this film with the Coen Brothers, as well as Planet Terror with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, and American Gangster with Ridley Scott. How did this happen so suddenly? These are big time directors all of a sudden casting important parts to a guy who had been around but hadn’t done anything significant for over twenty years. I suppose I have to be wrong, I must have missed some performance that stood out among the rest. I’m not really a fan of his work so I haven’t ever made any effort to research the matter but sometimes in the back of my mind this mystery needles at me. If anybody knows the story behind Josh Brolin’s sudden rise into success please let me know. I would love to satisfy that curiosity without having to actually do any digging to find out. There is something about him I just don’t like and can’t quite put my finger on it. He is well cast in this movie though because I think he fits the part perfectly.
I like what Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root bring to the film because they are both two of my favorites but there just isn’t enough of them in this one. Root has his typical pinch hit of a role but as usual he hits it out of the park. You just never know where he is going to be but you can always trust that when you see him he will be doing great at whatever he is doing. As for Woody Harrelson you can just never have enough of him, and I feel like his part in this movie is altogether too short.
I have been too critical in this review and don’t get me wrong. I think this is a great film, I’m not contesting that. I just don’t particularly like it, anymore. I felt then that it was a shame that most people came to know the Coen’s through this film because they already had a number of incredible films under their belt. Despite their impressive filmography they weren’t well known by any means to the casual film watcher. Their movies were never known in the past to be high grossing at the box office but they were often awarded for their work because despite the money it had made they were great films. When people talked about this movie I would tell them to go watch Fargo or The Big Lebowski. I would ask if they had ever seen Blood Simple or Raising Arizona. I would mention classic scenes from The Ladykillers or Intolerable Cruelty. I know that I’m just an annoying know it all when it comes to films and I take stubborn stances on things from time to time but this one frustrated me. I wanted people to know that they had been missing out on something great and that No Country for Old Men was only one of many incredible films from these two brothers. They are smart filmmakers in a class all by themselves, and like many great filmmakers their movies don’t always reach the widest of audiences. When things don’t involve explosions and special effects not enough people turn out to the theaters.
I think this film is incredibly original and extremely terrifying. It’s hard for me to watch a movie Javier Bardem is in because I think he just did such a great job of being a completely ruthless killer. So scary. Also, there was no music in this movie. That sounds like a crazy thing to do, and yet they did it, and it just adds to the creepiness of the whole thing. It takes a strong movie maker to make a decision like no music. I often think about the Coen Brothers and wonder if their creativity tank will ever dry up. I know that I get burned out doing creative stuff all the time, and it makes me wonder what their creative process is like. Wouldn’t that make an interesting documentary?
I like this poster. It’s very much in the Coen Brothers style. Most important…DO you see how freaking scary he looks? Those dead eyes. This poster is filled with symbolism. The mouth appears to be consuming the body of the running man, and this supports the movie’s tagline…”There are no clean getaways.” The stacked typography is also a symbol for this tagline, and the meaning of the movie. It is staggered and unsupported. It could potentially tumble at any moment. I love this poster and the idea it gives for what the movie is actually about. If you haven’t seen this film, do.
NEXT MOVIE: No Time for Sergeants (1958)