Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day Eighty-One: No Country for Old Men

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #115
Year: 2007
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem

This is my first review of a Coen Brothers movie for this blog, and I have to admit, I'm pretty excited. They are without a doubt my favorite directors. They've dabbled in damn near every genre of film imaginable and have put their unique stamp on them all. My views on what films constitute the Brothers' masterpieces are pretty much in line with the general consensus; The Big Lebowski, Fargo and No Country for Old Men are the only Coen pictures represented on the Top 250, and those are my three favorites. Where I deviate from the list is that I wouldn't hesitate to include Barton Fink, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There and A Serious Man as well. Nonetheless, I'm happy to see their three best films on the list, and I'm excited to try to communicate my love for the Coens in writing for the first time in my life thus far.

No Country for Old Men can't be pigeonholed as a picture belonging to any particular genre. There's influences coming from everywhere. As with every Coen Brothers film, it's a black comedy, albeit their blackest by far. It's also a Western. It takes place in 1980 instead of the rough period between the Civil War and the First World War, but the sprawling, desert landscapes at the U.S.-Mexico border that the film uses as its backdrop are unmistakably Western. It's a drama, too. The Coens get some of their best ever performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and especially the brilliant Javier Bardem, who turns in one of my ten favorite performances of all time as murderous psychopath Anton Chigurh. It's also a revenge flick, an action movie, and an episodic adventure film. Unlike a film by, say, Quentin Tarantino, No Country doesn't wear its genres on its sleeve. It fuses them into one seamless motion picture that feels epic in scope without being weighed down pretension.

Of course, No Country for Old Men is perhaps most famous for winning the Coens their first Best Picture and Best Director Oscar. Sometimes these Johnny-come-lately awards go to great directors releasing films that aren't that year's best as an apology for past snubs – Martin Scorsese taking home the statuettes for The Departed comes to mind – but for the Coens, it was fair. In my opinion, No Country is only their third best movie, but it's still an absolute goddamn masterpiece that probably falls somewhere in my top fifteen films of all time. If you're not chilled to the bone when Anton Chigurh goes into a gas station and makes the clerk call a coin toss "for everything," then you probably don't have a pulse. If you've somehow evaded seeing this film over the last three years, for God's sake, please see it.

The Good: Javier Bardem's as Anton Chigurh gives the most chilling screen performance since Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

The Bad: If I was a moron, I would say the ending. I'm not, so I'll say...nothing. Nothing is bad about this movie.

The Skinny: Well, obviously I'm going to think #115 is too low when it's in my personal top fifteen, but I'm very happy to see it on the list. I would be outraged if it weren't.


  1. This one is quite hard for me, because I am not quite even sure this makes my Coen top 3. I cannot really admit that Coens are my favorite directors (I believe Leone is), but everything they do is amazing and worth spending time and money. Their movies are incredibly different from others who tend to go mainstream, and for this they are really appreciated.

    I think I am underrating this movie, I watched it quite some time ago and while it was an exciting experience, I wouldn't place it among the Greats. But I will watch it again, I am rather sure. The performances and the eerie vibe in the film is great, I can say that.

    As for Coens, I don't hesitate to put Fargo above all their films - a masterpiece, and one of my favorites, that actually gets better and better in my opinion.

    And I think that A Serious Man is terribly underrated gem, I think it could be my second or third favorite from Coens, really sad that it doesn't hold a spot in the top 250.

    P.S. Would like to find out which one do you put above - Fargo or The Big Lebowski, actually wouldn't even be surprised if one came at day 250.
    P.S.S. Sorry if I don't make sense from time to time, my native language isn't english.

  2. Your English is fine! I'm sure it's much better than my Spanish! (If that isn't your native tongue, then I apologize...and if it's not, then I don't know ANY of your language haha)

    And you may be giving away my big surprise for Day 250 haha. Whichever one between Fargo and Lebowski you don't see before that day...you will see on that day. ;)

  3. My native tongue is Latvian and I am silently hoping that Fargo will top your list.

  4. Latvian! That's awesome. Can you recommend me any great Latvian films?

  5. As to Fargo v. TBL...you'll just have to wait and see. ;)

  6. Well I doubt that non-latvian people could appreciate latvian films a lot. And I am not a big fan of most of them.
    There are some in high regard like Ceplis and some else, but this is undeniably my all-time favorite.


    Here is the summary of the movie in imdb:

    Another iconic Latvian film, known to be one of the best movies of director Janis Streics. When old auntie Mirta succeeds in a lottery and wins a car, which she cannot use herself, different family members are suddenly there to 'be helpful' in favor to get the car after aunties' death, not to mention, they never have come before to help her. The funny rivalry between two parts of family, a foolish jealousy to the near living peasants' family, which had always non-selfishly been there for auntie, is a caricature of greasy human nature. This is a slight humor of the Soviet life details as well. But aunt Mirta isn't fool, and is still young in her heart until her last minute, that appears in her last will - to whom the car, the limousine in the color of St. John's night goes.

    An undeniable classic for latvians, maybe a silly movie for others. But I doubt you could find it with english subs.

  7. The coin-flip scene is one of my absolute favourites. The suspence created by the performance of both Javier Bardem and the unknown clerk is remarkable!