“… a benchmark of cinema that was perfectly executed on all fronts.”
Last night I saw No country for Old Men on the big screen, and let me tell you it is every bit as good as I remember. No country for old men features a story about a hunter, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who while out hunting discovers a suitcase full of cash leftover from a drug deal gone bad. He then becomes wanted by a man that will stop at nothing to kill him and take the money. The reason I love No Country for Old Men is because what I just summarized is not what the movie is about. Sure, the movie features that story line, but at its core the movie is about an old sheriff coming to terms with his place in the world. It really is a lot deeper than presented on the surface. But no matter how to take the movie, either as an intense thriller or a movie about life itself, you will enjoy it.
It’s going to be hard for me to write a review that is of any substance for No Country for Old Men, because after watching again I realized that there is not one thing in this movie that I can pick out as a flaw. So instead, I’m just going to talk about what specifically I love about the movie. When I first saw No Country for Old Men back in (circa) 2009, I assumed that the movie took place in current day. As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize that the movie took place in a certain time period until a year ago when I watched the movie. For those wondering, the movie takes place in the 1980’s, but it is not a period piece. I think the fact that I was fooled into thinking it was a modern day story is testament enough to that. Apart from a few clues, and two brief instances of the date being mentioned, No Country for Old Men could take place whenever it wanted. I think part of that charm comes from the fact that a lot of this movie takes place in Texas, next to the Mexican border which seems like a location trapped in time in itself. But I think the fact that No Country for Old Men doesn’t rely on a time adds to its charm, because after all the time doesn’t matter in the slightest to the story. In fact, a large part of the story is the main character realizing that it’s not the world that is changing, it’s the fact that the country has always been no country for old men. Enough about the time period (or lack thereof) of the movie, let’s get into some technical aspects. One thing that sets No Country for Old Men apart form other movies is the use of silence. There is absolutely no music in this movie until the credits start to roll, and that certainly adds to the films atmosphere. Unlike other movies, No Country for Old Men isn’t afraid to let the silence overcome you, it doesn’t need to have a kick-ass soundtrack punctuating your emotions. And the lack of soundtrack adds to the intensity of the movie, not only to magnify sudden loud noises, but also to make you feel helpless. There is no music to help you get your mind off of things in this movie, you are right there in the scene being pursued by an absolute psycho. You don’t become Llewelyn, you are standing beside him, experiencing everything that he is. The lack of a soundtrack also helps the movie be grounded in reality. A small Texas town is of course going to absolutely silent at night, the only sounds being two men walking down the street with cowboy boots echoing off of the pavement. Another thing about the movie that was expertly done was the camera shots, specifically P.O.V. shots. there are (I think) a total of three P.O.V. shots in the movie and they are used beautifully. They only add to your experience when you get to see things through a characters eyes. You get to see what the character sees as they pull up to a location. You have no idea what it could be. There is no dramatic irony, you are in the shoes of the character. You are thrust into this world where men are lurking be hid every corner and every single one of them wants you dead. As you can tell, I love this movie. I think it is a benchmark of cinema that was perfectly executed on all fronts.
One thing I do want to discuss however, is the lack of connection between this and other Coen Brothers movies. Whenever the discussion of favourite Coen Brothers movie is brought up, more often than not No Country for Old Men is going to either win, or get close to winning. I don’t hold this against the movie itself, but to me this movie is almost the complete opposite of a Coen Brothers movie, so when ever it is brought up in conversations like that it always rubs me the wrong way. Of course I’m not just going to leave it at that, I’m going to explain myself. I have always felt this about No Country for Old Men but could never put my finger on exactly why I felt that way, but last night I think I figured it out. The Coen Brothers’ movies are about characters, specifically throwing characters into unlikely situations. What makes No Country for Old Men stick out like a sore thumb is the fact that this movie doesn’t rely on, or even have those characters. No Country for Old Men is about the situation itself. Technically, it could be argued that the movie is about the sheriff, who I mentioned before, but even then the character is not fleshed out enough to feel that. The characters are more just pawns in a larger game at play, and that is not what I think of when I think of the Coen Brothers. Like I said, I don’t hold this against the movie, I just never felt that No Country for Old Men was truly a Coen Brothers film.
Overall No Country for Old Men is a phenomenal movie both on the surface and when you dig a little deeper, and it will always have a special place in my heart.
I give No Country for Old Men an A