Brutal, Bloody and that's just Bardem and Brolin
"No Country for Old Men" is exactly what you expect from the Coen brothers, it's different. It's slow, silent, violent yet also surprisingly enthralling, but being different means it's a movie which will divide audiences. There is no middle ground, you will either be impressed or you will become bored and I have to say that I am impressed. Impressed by the way such a different movie, a movie which is so slow going can reel me in to this storyline of violence, which plays with characters and leaves you wondering exactly what has happened when the credits suddenly start to roll.
Having stumbled across a failed drugs exchange in the middle of nowhere, hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin - Hollow Man) decides to make off with the case of money he finds amongst all the dead drug dealers. But unfortunately for Moss the owners of the money have sent in Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem - Eat Pray Love) to get their money back and it doesn't take long for the machine like Chigurh to discover that Moss has the money. With it only a matter of time before Chigurh catches up with Moss he goes on the run, leaving a trail of violence every time Chigurh gets close to finding him. At the same time old time Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones - The Missing) finds himself drawn into the case and whilst investigating the bloody murders starts to see the country he has loved and looked after has drastically changed.
One of the first things to hit you about "No Country for Old Men" is that it is violent, within the first few scenes we watch a policeman meet his maker and the character of Moss shooting an animal. And the violence continues through out as we watch the ruthless Anton Chigurh hunt down Moss killing anyone who gets in his way. But it's not over the top violence; this is sharp, brutal violence which is heartless, murders just happening because someone saw Chigurh. It's a weird sensation watching this violence yet feeling so detached from it emotionally, not caring if someone is killed and as such it's shockingly enthralling, causing you to strangely look forward to the next moment when Chigurh uses his air powered killing device to terminate someone.
Adding to this sense of detachment is that between no soundtrack and a bleak palette "No Country for Old Men" is a strange attack on your senses. That may sound completely wrong, but when you become use to vibrant movies which employ stunning visuals and memorable music to then suddenly watch a movie which could be considered as barren it does play with your senses. But it strangely works because you are drawn in to what is happening, the action and the dialogue making you concentrate whilst trying to work out what is happening whilst also trying to work out what will happen. It's a clever trick, not exactly new but it is employed well by the Coens but again will cause you to either like "No Country for Old Men" or end up becoming bored.
As for the actual storyline, well despite being enthralling it's uncannily simple, a game of cat and mouse between two men. There really is little more to it than that, and not even the sub plot about aging Sheriff Ed Tom Bell whose on the case makes it anymore complex. But then whilst simple it strangely leaves things hanging, you know that Chigurh will track down Moss but you are unsure what will happen, you wonder whether Bell will get his man, will he die, who will die and so on. It has to be applauded that the Coens who took Cormac McCarthy's novel and adapted it into this movie managed to make something so simple so more interesting.
And what helps to make the storyline so more interesting are the characters and performances most notably that of Javier Bardem who is stunning as ruthless killer Anton Chigurh. Here we have a character who is human but also the closest thing you will come to a Terminator, unstoppable, emotionless and detached from the violence he commits. It's just a brilliant performance from Bardem making Chigurh not so much an evil character, he's just doing his job, but someone who is fascinatingly detached from what he does, almost machine like.
Whilst Bardem steals the show Josh Brolin is surprisingly good as Llewelyn Moss and I say surprisingly as whilst Brolin has been around for a while much of what he has appeared in hasn't been that great. But here we get Brolin showing what a talented actor he is playing an anti-hero in Moss a man who would rather steal money and go on the run rather than just doing the decent thing of well not stealing it in the first place. But whilst Moss is not a nice guy, a guy who walks all over his wife and leaves men to die, he becomes a hero because we don't want Chigurh to get him and Brolin delivers than your normal guy hero perfectly.
Then there is Tommy Lee Jones as aging sheriff Ed Tom Bell a character perfect for Jones an actor who can express so much from the way he looks. But whilst the performance from Jones is brilliant, filling the character with fear and emotion the actual character doesn't quite fit into the storyline, or doesn't fit in enough. It seems to flit in and out every now and then providing a separate narrative arc and doesn't so much confuse matters but feels just a little too detached.
But there is one major issue with "No Country for Old Men" and that it is slow going. There are long periods where nothing seems to happen, or at least nothing of interest. It takes it's time to build things up despite the storyline not being that complex and unless you get into what is happening makes it hard work. Even if you enjoy the movie the whole slowness of it all grates a little, as if the Coen's purposefully went out of their way to make an almost lumbering movie just to be different.
What this all boils down to is that "No Country for Old Men" is a very impressive movie and one which is worthy of the hype and accolades lavished upon it. It's different and brave with its barren pallet, slowness and violence and as such will split audiences as many will struggle with its complete difference to mainstream cinema. But if it grabs your attentions, drawing you into this game of cat and mouse it will leave a long lasting impression.