Thursday, 26 June 2014

Brief Review of "No Country For Old Men" (2007)

It’s bizarre, violent, unpredictable and authentically American. Yes, it’s a Coen brothers film.

Written by the Coen brothers but based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men is possibly the Coen brothers’ most violent film, which is saying something. From the very beginning Anton Chigurh, played enigmatically by Javier Bardem, is killing people left and right in brutally creative ways.

The narrative meanders contemplatively, but essentially this is the story of Llewelyn Moss. When Llewelyn happens upon the scene of a drug deal gone wrong and consequently two million dollars, he decides to keep the money for himself - despite the danger he knows comes with it. Said danger comes in the form of Anton Chigurh, a hitman who has been hired to reclaim the money. Very quickly Anton is recognisable as an utter psychopath. In his first scenes he is seen strangling a sheriff’s deputy and stealing a car by killing the driver with a captive bolt pistol.

Carving a trail of destruction through West Texas, these two men play cat-and-mouse through ingenious set pieces involving switcharoos and a lot of spilt blood. Both parties are proficient and practical: good at improvising and even fixing up their injuries after a violent encounter. It’s always refreshing to watch such clever and driven characters on screen.

The authorities trying to keep up with this conflict however, are not so quick on their feet. Or they’re just unlucky. A handful of police die while trying to intervene in the million dollar chase. Perhaps the police fail because they are simply less driven, without the money as an encouraging prize.

The film’s soundscape is a subtle and carefully designed construct which plays a huge role in the success of the production. Dialogue is minimal and music is non-existent, leaving the few sound effects to stand out as powerful and punchy. Every time Anton blows open a door handle the accompanying “bang!” is unexpected enough to make the audience jump.

The film’s style and narrative is unconventional and unpredictable in the usual Coen brothers fashion. You never really know what’s going to happen, who are the lead characters, and how much longer anyone will be alive. But as viewers we are allowed to enjoy this uncertainty, because this is an impeccable piece of filmmaking. The audience is always in the safest of hands with the Coen brothers, despite the terrible danger of their narratives.