NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Alliance, 2007) D: Ethan and Joel Coen, w/ Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
The best reason for watching No Country For Old Men is the storytelling. The Coen brothers have always had a strong talent for artful use of space (remember the body-dragging sequence in Blood Simple?). Here, they create drama and suspense from tiny people in a vast, hostile landscape, then turn around and do the same thing in the cramped confines of an air vent.
They give their actors space, too. Bits of throwaway dialogue and long pauses build character and audience involvement. Taken together, those senses of physical and human space make this one snappy thriller.
The second-best reason to watch is Javier Bardem as the psychopathic killer. He’s a hulk and a hunk (casting is another Coen brothers strength) with a sweet smile, a serene approach to his loopy dialogue and a bizarre weapon. He’s the best A-picture villain since Hannibal Lecter.
The best reason not to watch is the story itself, which sets up a climactic confrontation between the cowboy who’s stolen the drug money (Josh Brolin), the killer on his trail (Bardem) and the sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) chasing both of them. The showdown never happens. This, I’m told, is true to Cormac McCarthy’s source novel, but it plays false to audience expectations.
Senselessness is part of the Coen brothers’ aesthetic (think Fargo), but here they must’ve sensed the letdown, because one of the three making-of docs is devoted entirely to explaining precisely that this is really the sheriff’s story. That’s true enough, but it’s no excuse. Compare this to In The Valley Of Elah, a solider movie in which Jones plays an investigator beated down by what he can’t comprehend.
EXTRAS Three making-of docs. Widescreen. English, French audio and subtitles.