As with Cormac McCarthy's novel (from which the film is adapted) the Coen brothers' film starts with a reminiscence about the hazard of confronting incomprehensible evil.
Set in Southwestern Texas in 1980 the film opens to careful shots of daybreak (magnificently created by cinematographer Roger Deakins) and a voice over by Tommy Lee Jones sets the scene:
"The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. Not to be glorious. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand."As sure a meditation on ageing as has been used in film the tone of No Country for Old Men stays fresh throughout. Although it won't appeal to everyone's taste, due to frequent savage violence bursting forth on screen, coupled with top notch support stars including Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson and Barry Corbin (none of whom are as memorable as Bardem, who gives a very unsettling performance full of cold hatred), the Coen brothers have successfully taken McCarthy's regionally-specific voice and used it as a basis for exploring the frailties of mankind.
The plot centres on welder and Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who stumbles on the aftermath of a shoot-out between several Mexicans, who lie dead surrounding a heroin stash and a satchel containing over two million in cash. Llewelyn grabs it spur of the moment which sets up a three-way cat-and-mouse pursuit. Working to unravel the killings and suspecting Moss's very real peril Sheriff Bell (Jones) pursues Moss, becoming ever more aware of fellow pursuer, hit man Anton Chigurh (an Oscar winning performance from Bardem). So, Chigurh is chasing Moss, while Bell is chasing Moss and Chigurh, and this triple action gives No Country for Old Men its ever mounting sense of dread, tension and savage magic.
And thanks to such top-notch dialogue and unexpected '80s fashion it will be hard by the end of the film to think of rugged western characters the same way ever again.
Stars: Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson, Barry Corbin, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Beth Grant, Stephen Root.
Oscars: Best Picture (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin), Best Director (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen), Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen).
Oscar nominations: Best Film Editing (Ethan and Joel Coen as 'Roderick Jaynes'), Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Best Sound Mixing (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Gregg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland), Best Sound Editing (Skip Lievsay).