Sunday, 6 April 2008

No Country For Old Men

Discovering a pile of unattended bank notes sounds like the beginning of a B movie, with the fortunate recipients readying themselves to spend big. In No Country For Old Men Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds two million dollars in cash after stumbling across a drug deal that went wrong. He is a hunter in the American mid-west who takes the money, but never even gets a chance to use it.

In simple terms the film is a game of cat and mouse, as the drug dealers hire hit man Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) to chase Moss. The pair are unconventional at best; they are certainly not Tom and Jerry. Chrigurh borders on being mentally insane and Moss’ inability to cover his own tracks makes him an easy target to pursue. Sheriff Bell, perfectly played by Tommy Lee Jones, also trails them. It is his character that acts on behalf of the peripheral figures in the movie, usually the lives discarded by Chigurh in his pursuit of Moss and the cash.

The break-neck pace at which the story develops makes it both taut and thrilling, even remaining engaging when nothing appears to be happening. It was adapted for the screen by the Coen brothers from the novel by Cormac McCarthy and delivers uncompromising action along with bitter, twisted moments of humour.

Moss seems only able to dig himself deeper into a hole; continually upping the ante via his poorly conceived escape plans.
Accompanied by a soundtrack that establishes a furious pace both Moss and Chigurh appear to be spiralling out of control. The music helps to charge the scenes with intensity, often forcing the film to become downright terrifying.

Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald, who you may remember as the schoolgirl in Trainspotting, also support the performances of Brolin, Bardem and Jones. They both perform competently, but are undoubtedly overshadowed by a sensational trio of actors, working together to complete an excellent story.

Llewellyn Moss’ decision to take the money initiates their relationship, and is fully understood by a sympathetic audience. The greed that forces his mistake is present in the thoughts of most humans, but the errors of judgement he makes afterwards make the audience lose faith in his plight.

It’s thanks to the maddening character of Anton Chigurh that the plot remains in tact. The tattered events that are thrown together begin to come apart at the seems as the film reaches its conclusion, but the convincing performance of Javier Bardem provides enough strength to hold it together.

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