Joel and Ethan Coen

2007

Joel and Ethan Coen’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is a violent, tense and downright disturbing cinematic experience, largely due to the calmly diabolical antagonist, Anton Chigurh (played with evil precision by Javier Bardem).

The film’s protagonist, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong in the desert and chooses to remove the briefcase of $2 million from the scene. Chigurh shortly picks up his trail and a deadly cat and mouse game begins. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) brings up the rear of the story, always one step behind Chigurh and Moss, dealing predominantly with his own philosophical musings about the coming tide of evil, always feeling out matched. As the story progresses, the true nature of Chigurh becomes apparent and the futility of Moss’ decisions creates an overwhelming sense of despair.

The film’s atmosphere is expertly created through the Coen brothers’ use of sound. They create a sense of emptiness, reflecting the environment of the Tex-Mex border: there is no music save for a mariachi band playing momentarily in front of Moss and a peel of thunder. But what, to a degree, makes the film so unnerving is Chigurh. He is an unstoppable wave of evil. With red-rimmed eyes and Clockwork Orange-esque haircut, he mows down all in his path with tranquil precision and infallible logic (yes, he convinces one character that they must die!).

As their first attempt at an adaptation, the Coen brothers are extremely faithful to McCarthy’s text. In some parts they have just used entire chunks of dialogue from the book. Instead of cutting scenes, out of necessity, they have transformed them to fit within the medium of film, taking almost nothing away from the book.

No Country for Old Men will keep you tense and enraptured, it will challenge your thoughts on morality and logic, and it will show you there is someone as scary as Hannibal. Diabolically entertaining.

 

SDH

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