Ed Tom Bell: You can’t help but compare yourself against the old-timers. Can’t help but wonder how they’d’ve operated these times… 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. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “OK, I’ll be part of this world.”
There’s a lot going on in this film. I feel like every time I watch it I take away a little bit more. And every time I watch it I’m still on the edge of my seat. You might have noticed that I have a predilection for tense films. No Country for Old Men is no exception. Incredibly tense, with its meticulously measured pace, almost as cold and calculating as antagonist Anton Chigurh. Every time he’s on screen I get a knot in my stomach, a churning of dread.
The Coen brothers are in top form here, crafting a dark neo-noir/western/thriller, sprinkled with black humor, that hearkens back to their debut, Blood Simple. Their cinematic sensibilities seem perfectly paired with Cormac McCarthy‘s writing, with a similarly wry approach to themes of circumstance, fate and chance. The film is pitch perfect, which I couldn’t imagine being the case in any other hands.
Each of the leading men adds a unique layer to a complex blend of ideas. Josh Brolin‘s Llewlyn Moss is a manifestation of hope, of man trying to make his own way, to etch out a place for himself in the world.
Javier Bardem‘s haunting Anton Chigurh seems to represent death incarnate. Inescapable. Unflappable. Without remorse. Secure in the belief that if fate finds you in his sights, your time has most likely come. Chigurh is content in dealing death not out of malice, but with belief in the fact that it is predestined.
Tommy Lee Jones‘ world-weary Sheriff Bell, with his sage-like wisdom and perplexity at an increasingly violent age, provides the sort of narrative rumination on it all.
Roger Deakins’ cinematography is gorgeous. He captures the desolate West Texas landscape, juxtaposing it with the grisly violence and dark noir back streets reminiscent of the border towns in Touch of Evil. And the sound design… my god… silence that is beyond unsettling…
A simple story about a drug deal gone wrong, No Country for Old Men is anything but. It’s an almost nihilistic examination of the dichotomy between fate & chance, in an age increasingly marred by violence, which more often then not seems completely random. My dad doesn’t get, which I think is kinda fitting.