Movie Review: No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old MenNo Country For Old Men

“I feel like I’m getting … outmatched.” That’s what Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, says near the end of this armrest-gripping voyage of claustrophobia. Neither Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the novel on which the movie is based, nor the Coen brothers, who turned it into the must-see film of the winter, must feel that way — both are on top of their game.

Quick take: Lots of violence in this hard-to-define, hard-to-pin-down megaplex-busting reflection on personal choices. Bravura performances by Jones, Javier Bardem in the role of psychopath Anton Chigurh, and the surprisingly fantastic Josh Brolin (Josh fucking Brolin?) in the role of the underqualified schlub who gets in way over his head.

What’s amazing: The acting, as mentioned above. The story — which I’ve heard follows the story quite closely — is expertly captured by the Coen filmmaking team. I haven’t read anything by McCormack yet, finding those critical waters too turbulent for my liking. The mood, the sounds — everything works toward the intended purpose here.

What almost missed: Tommy Lee Jones almost falls into the corny overacting that we saw in The Fugitive (“every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area”), but narrowly avoids the trap. There’s a dash too much jokey humor from the Ed Tom Bell character here, but that’s par for the course with a Coen brothers film. Who am I to argue?

Screw you, Bruckheimer: The movie ends (SPOILER ALERT) with Tommy Lee Jones musing over a dream he had the night before about his father. Then –the screen goes black. I love the Coen brothers because they aren’t afraid to turn convention around, kick it in the ass, and send it packing.

The Competition: I can’t help but compare this movie with the other critically acclaimed movie out right now, American Gangster. This is no contest. Someone dropped Denzel Washington into the square hole, and Russel Crowe into the round hole, and threw in some latina spice, and are probably laughing all the way to the bank. I read Dana Stevens from Slate describe American Gangster as a wan buddy flick, and it’s more or less true. On the other hand, she dissed this movie as well, so what does that say about her critical faculties. Sigh.

Rotten Tomatoes: As of today, it’s a clear victory for No Country for Old Men, at 96% on the tomatometer.

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