No Country for Old Men

Richard Foreman/courtesy of Miramax Films

The most measured, classical film of the Coen Brothers' career, and maybe the best, No Country for Old Men carries echoes of earlier Coen films—in the Texas setting (Blood Simple) and the idea of simple, small-town folk caught up in criminal business (Fargo). But unlike the loquacious eccentrics the Coens have placed at the center of most of their movies, the characters here are stoic, solitary figures who make their homes in desolate landscapes. One of those men is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a tall, saucer-eyed assassin who seems to lower the temperature in the theater whenever he appears on screen. Another is the out-of-work Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who stumbles on $2 million of Chigurh's bloodstained drug money and decides to keep it for himself. A third is sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a onetime believer in the forces of law and order, made weary by age and time. The mechanics of No Country for Old Men recall those of a vintage film-noir, and it's as gripping and mordantly funny a treatise on the corrosive power of greed as The Killing and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But the Coens are markedly less interested in who (if anyone) gets away with the loot than in the primal forces that urge the characters forward. There are no heroes or villains here, only hunters and hunted, members of some endangered species trying to forestall their extinction.

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