Urban Cinefile
"I wanted to make a movie where the first fifteen minutes of the film a guy's gotta pee "  -- Vincent Gallo on his debut film, Buffallo 66
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



While shooting dear in the desolate country near the Rio Grande, Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles on several dead bodies around abandoned vehicles, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in a large briefcase. Desperate to improve his lifestyle and make his loving, loyal wife, Carla (Kelly Macdonald), happy, he takes the cash but is almost immediately the target of deadly psychopathic criminal, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem). The chase drags in wrodl weary Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and his young deputy Wendell (Garrett Dillahunt). Moss is a stubborn and resourceful prey, even for the determined and vicious Chigurh and the chase ends up in Mexico - with much blood spilled and the changing world looking uglier by the day to Ed Tom Bell.

Review by Louise Keller:
It's the unexpected nature of the characters and what happens to them that makes this return to form from the Coen Brothers both intriguing and satisfying. There's bloody violence countered by black humour, and just when you thought you knew what the film was about, you realise it is actually about something else. No two-ways about it, No Country for Old Men is an interesting film. A disillusioned Sheriff, a drug deal gone wrong, a case filled with money, a crazed killer and an opportunist are the key elements of this moody, violent, philosophical and wryly funny film set in a striking, vast Texan & Mexican landscape that shows off a sunset to perfection.

'This country's hard on people,' Tommy Lee Jones' cynical Sheriff Ed Tom Bell mumbles through lips that hardly move. It's a character not unlike the one Jones plays in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and looks as though he can play in his sleep. Ed faces each day lugging a back-pack of world-weariness, as he waits to see how things play out. Josh Brolin's resourceful opportunist Llewelyn Moss too, is 'just lookin' for what's comin''. It's a good role for Brolin, and he is terrific, constantly thinking on his feet, a stolen briefcase filled with packs of $10,000 under his arm.

In small but important roles, Kelly Macdonald does a first-class job as Moss's wife Carla as does Barry Corbin as the wheel-chair bound Ellis. Tension accumulates as Brolin's Moss is chased by the psychopathic killer who poses unexpected riddles, which brings me to Javier Bardem. Bardem, wearing an unflattering mullet hairstyle and a demented, glazed expression, is unforgettable as the 'peculiar man with principles that transcend money'. When asked to describe how dangerous he is, Woody Harrelson's bounty hunter Carson Wells smirks, 'Compared to what... the bubonic plague?'

Joel and Ethan Coen's screenplay (from a novel by Cormack McCarthy) gallops along effortlessly and the three sets of sensibilities from the key players blend together like a potent cocktail. Stylistically flawless, the film's richness comes from its characters, each of whom is a pleasure to watch.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Those not familiar with Cormack McCarthy's novel will find this film an intoxicating, relentlessly gripping journey with an unexpected ending. It may seem like a standard Hollywood action story set in the dry and dusty backwoods of rough old Texas in the 80s, but it isn't that. At least not in the end - and remember, the film was selected for Competition at Cannes in 2007. There is more on the Coen brothers' collective mind than a story of goodies and baddies. For one thing, there is the dark, wry humour that stick out occasionally like a broken bone ...

For their purpose, Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the ideal protagonist whose world weary wisdom and growing discomfort at how the world is turning out is part of the film's narrative and it's not so hidden subtext. Much like his character in Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, the actor is comfortable in the Tex/Mex region and assumes the character with ease. This time, he is even more philosophical.

Josh Brolin is terrific as the man who stumbles onto the loot and is determined to keep it, risking life and limb in a protracted series of chases. But it's Javier Bardem who steals the show with a cool, vicious characterisation that is defined by minimalist technique and an inner mix of fire and ice. Kelly Macdonald and Woody Harrelson are also wonderful in relatively small but important roles, as is Barry Corbin as an old timer who makes fresh coffee once every week even if he's still got some left over.

One of the smallest but most important scenes belongs to the El Paso Sheriff near the end of the film; Rodger Boyce, a large, no-nonsense kinda guy, expresses all that's wrong with the world going to hell around them in a brief but moving exchange with Ed Tom Bell.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2008)

CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root

PRODUCER: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

SCRIPT: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (novel by Cormack McCarthy)


EDITOR: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

MUSIC: Carter Burwell


RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2007

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020