Ethan & Joel Coen's latest film, No Country for Old Men, is a modern masterpiece in suspense, ironic comedy, & fine acting. With allusions to Hitchcockian storytelling & stylistic film noir techniques, No Country literally leaves the audience scrambling to find time to breathe, only be caught off guard by its continuous intrigue.
With films like Fargo & Raising Arizona, the Coens have proved their mastery of mixing the macabre with the humorous. No Country's humor lies within the subtle honesty of its writing. The Coens offer rustic characters who speak their mind & leave little to the imagination. There is no gracious leeway. Unlike Fargo, whose wood chipper scene can be easily avoided by a well-placed hand & good timing, No Country's violence & suspense is pervasive, unexpected, & wonderfully executed.
Highlighting this subtle aspect is the film's one female character, performed honestly by the underrated Kelly Macdonald. The film could not have been cast better. I don't want to give much away plot-wise, but strong leading man Josh Brolin discovers $2,000,000 & the brilliant (and Oscar worthy...calling it now) Javier Barden, as the horrifyingly demented serial killer Anton Chigurh, wants it back. Barden dominates the film, and unlike the Michael Meyers & Letherfaces out there, the Coens allow us to always know Chigurh's location, making the dramatic irony all the more unbearable. His performance, though amazing, will make his Guido Contini a wee-bit-scary for those who have seen No Country. Tommy Lee Jones gives a wonderful performance as the dry old timer, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. And in a small featured role, Gene Jones & Barden share an early scene in a gas station, showcasing the Coens' stellar writing & No Country For Old Men's talented actors.
And what Fargo did for wood chippers, The Big Lebowski did for bowling balls, & O Brother, Where Art Thou? did for palmaide, you'll never look at a compressed-air gun (or a Little Lord Fauntleroy bowl cut) the same again.