"No Country" for bad movies

Nov. 12, 2007, midnight | By Ya Zhou | 13 years, 2 months ago

Coen brothers' newest thriller set to be a classic

Ethan and Joel Coen's new psychological thriller "No Country for Old Men" artfully draws viewers through the too often mishandled subject of horror and torture and into a complex web of fantastic plot and striking cinematography.

Set in the desolate Texas back country, the film opens with handcuffed psychopath killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) calmly strangling a police officer. He then takes his unique weapon — a tank of pressurized gas, and departs. That same day, while hunting, Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers the aftermath of a drug deal gone awry - several dead dealers and two million in cash. Moss takes the cash, but ends up putting a price on his life as the drug cartel sends Chigurh to retrieve the money. As Chigurh chases Moss across the Mexican border, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) follows the horrific trail of Chigurh's ruthless murders, but always arrives at the scene too late.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly shallow plot. The dialogue exchanged among the characters reveals a simple society teetering on the brink of moral destruction. Chigurh's murders spree send a quiet Texan community into turmoil and confusion. The dialogue is at times philosophical, shocking or amusing, eliciting both gasps of surprise and laughter. Rarely does the it become too complex - though Chigurh's monotone inflection sometimes transitions into Bardem's native Spanish accent, it is still barely noticeable.

While Chigurh's bloody acts may make some viewers queasy, his fathomless gaze is even more striking, Bardem fully characterizes Chigurh's deliberate insanity. However, a one-sided killer is not the extent of the Coen brothers' creative vision. Chigurh is not only a pathological murderer, but he can be also quite funny, weighing the lives of several victims on a coin toss.

Likewise, Brolin is a highly flawed character, willing to sacrifice his and his family's lives for a suitcase of cash. Although Jones plays a central character in the movie, his performance is, disappointingly, not notably outstanding.

A more noteworthy aspect of "No Country for Old Men" is its brilliant use of visual parallelism and cinematographic motifs. In one particularly well-delivered scene, both Chigurh and Sheriff Bell sit down, at different times, on Moss's couch and drink milk while seeing their dim reflection on a television set. Subtle emphasis on several recurring images, such as dead dogs, reflects the backcountry's simplistic nature.

Laud the directors for creating a film that can be viewed and appreciated by most. It is a murder and suspense movie set in a western. Moss and his wife are fairly romantic in the brief moments they are together. The psychopathic killer may even excite disappointed "Saw IV" audiences in the film's numerous graphic and bloody scenes. Nevertheless, no one genre overpowers the others and a general balance is maintained. It is rare, yet delightful, to see a film that successfully engages an audience without having to resort to solely using cheap humor gags or exploitative gore.

"No Country for Old Men" is rated R for strong graphic violence and some language and is now playing on limited release at Bethesda Row Cinema. It will open on wide release on Nov. 21.

Ya Zhou. Ya likes what basically everyone needs. Eat, sleep…and more sleep. There can never be too much of it. In her spare time, she obsesses over Asian dramas and music. She often procrastinates, but hopes to remedy her problem by beginning SCO assignments before the weekend … More »

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