Brutal ‘No Country’ 2007’s best film


The Coen Brothers have proven to not only be two of the best modern directors, but are also two of the best storytellers in the business. Their films flow eloquently, with instantly relatable characters and scenes that feel like a part of everyday life, despite their surreal nature. However, no one is perfect, and after 2004’s less than stellar “The Ladykillers,” the Coens took a step back from Hollywood. Fortunately, the time off proved to be beneficial. The Coens have returned to brilliant form with their latest, “No Country for Old Men,” delivering one of the best films of their illustrious careers.

While hunting in the Texas desert, retired Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a drug deal that has gone terribly wrong. He snatches a briefcase with $2 million dollars, hoping he and his wife can abandon their trailer and live the life they always wanted. Unbeknownst to him, the owners of the money have hired bounty hunter Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) to retrieve it. However, Chirgurh is not looking to return the money to his employer – he wants it for himself, and will kill anyone in his path in order to collect it.

The most amazing thing about “No Country” is how tightly focused the story is. There is absolutely no filler – every scene has a purpose. Everything, from Moss finding the money to Chigurh’s encounter with a gas station attendant either advances the story, develops the characters, or explores many of the film’s themes.

The characters are some of the most well thought out and realistic I’ve seen in any film. Moss handles his situation exactly how you would expect someone who’s a former soldier to act; he’s calm and precise in everything he does, but is not perfect and is bound to make mistakes.

Chigurh might just be the most terrifying villain since Hannibal Lecter. There are few characters that have such an intense presence, let alone one that is felt in every scene, regardless of whether or not the character is even in it. Bardem’s portrayal of the crazed killer will have you on the edge of your seat every second of this film.

But “No Country” has more than just two men engaging in one of the most intense cat-and-mouse games you’ll ever see. It also has one of the strongest supporting casts in any film this past year. Tommy Lee Jones does an outstanding job as the aging and depressed Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The emotions expressed by Jones say more than some films entire scripts do. Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of bounty hunter Carson Wells, who’s attempting to track down Chigurh, is a reminder at how well the Coens can balance a character who is both comical and serious. Even the old clerk at the hotel who hassles Moss leaves a lasting impression.

Being a fan of film music, I was surprised when “No Country” had nearly no score whatsoever. However, this was perhaps one of the most genius moves I’ve seen a director take in years. Instead of mood-altering orchestration, we hear the creak of each footstep, Moss’s panicked breaths as he’s being chased and the deafening crack of Chigurh’s life-ending gunshots. This focus on sound upped the intensity to a level rarely seen in film. Every little detail had an enormous impact, one that stayed with me long after the film had ended.

If you haven’t already seen “No Country for Old Men,” I suggest you do so immediately. There is a reason that the Coens’ latest is the favorite going into the Oscars. Not only does it easily top the list of best films of 2007, but it is one of the rare films deserving of a perfect score.