Sunday, March 09, 2008

Gut-Wrenching Movie Experience!

Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, plays one of the most cold-blooded, unstoppable killers to ever grace the big screen. From the very first instant he steps into view in No Country For Old Men as Anton Chigurh, Bardem radiates menace. The captive bolt pistol he carries as a killing device and a one-size-fits-all door opener is grisly and awe-inspiring. When he’s initially introduced at the beginning of the film, gets arrested, then steps back through the handcuffs in the background while the deputy speaks to the sheriff in the foreground, a cold chill cycled through me until Chigurh killed the deputy. By that time I was mesmerized.

The Academy-award winning film is based on bestselling author Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Miller’s Crossing) wrote and directed the film, returning to the crime and cowboy feel they love in so much of their work.

The plot is relatively simple, but it provides a tightly-wound backdrop of tension and motivation for all concerned. Josh Brolin is absolutely amazing as ex-Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss, and most of the screen time the first half of the movie centers on him. The movie is so terse that I had no idea who or what Brolin was or what he was ultimately after for quite some time.

I loved the careful, contained way that Moss walks up on the killing ground where the two rival Mexican gangs shot it out and killed each other during a drug buy. Brolin portrays a competent and savvy hunter, and I was rooting for him the whole way – until I found out he wasn’t as good as I thought he was. Even then, I’d bought so heavily into the character that I was pulling for him the whole way. Especially after I saw that he was clearly out of his league.

The movie delves into character without playing up the backstory too much. It tells you just what you need to know about each person, and I found that amazing. The dialogue is kept terse and to the point, while at the same time being witty and true to character and life. Most of the time you’re just watching action, forming your own opinions about things, and being surprised. There isn’t even a musical score to draw your attention off the developing plot and ever-tightening chase.

With Chigurh and Moss both in motion, both trying to survive, the movie picks up with Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) as he borrows his wife’s horse to go out to the crime scene. I loved Tommy Lee Jones. I think he’s one of the greatest actors to ever step into a movie, and he’s at his absolute best when he’s playing a character like Ed Tom Bell. Those characters are some of the best natural fits for Jones that I’ve ever seen. Bell is a man nearing retirement, but who’s also certain that the world is changing faster than he can keep up with it. Jones provides the voice-over at the beginning that won my heart before the last word floated out of the speakers.

Moss, with over two million dollars in his hands, is determined to hang onto it. Chigurh is determined to kill Moss and take it. Bell just wants to make sense of everything that’s happened and save whomever needs saving.

The Coens are noted for their camera work and angles, and both things are used to the best of their abilities in this film. The scenes move quickly. The background is absolutely stunning in the high definition presentation of the Blu-ray disc. The gunfights are exquisitely rendered, and violence smacks the viewer at regular intervals, often catching him off-guard.

Even though I was prepared for the film to be bloody, I was still blown away by Chigurh’s cold indifference. I loved how the killer moved so methodically, though, never showing any emotions. This is probably Brolin’s best role and best acting ever. Even though these actors are playing larger-than-life characters, never once is a scene overplayed, nor is the drama ever false.

If you haven’t seen No Country For Old Men, you’ve got a great film ahead of you. And if you have seen it, you’ll find that the Blu-ray version brings the audio and video quality of the theater into your home in a big way. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

Rinda Elliott said...

I hadn't realized this was a Coen bothers film! Now I have to watch. I love Fargo. I've been a fan since I saw Blood Simple.