No Country for Old Men is a crime-thriller movie, directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, and released in the year 2007. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin in lead roles. Adapted from the novel of the same title by Cormac McCarthy, the film is the story of three rustic Texan men, whose fortunes receive an unexpected twist. The resulting interplay of tension as they attempt to exploit their opportunities forms the crux of the narrative. The film has Coen brothers’ trademark elements all over it. Reminiscent of their earlier films like Blood Simple and Fargo, this film dwells on themes of fate and circumstance and the characters’ reactions to these.
Although the Western Country terrain is a time-tested cinematic formula, the directors bring fresh perspectives to it. The acclaimed Western Classicism of past directors as Anthony Mann and Sam Peckinpah are presented within new frameworks. Tommy Lee Jones (Ed Tom Bell) plays the sheriff in a West Texas county, who increasingly grows wary of crime and violence in the region. As tension hangs about the county, a drug deal duel breaks out, in which several men are killed and a few others wounded. Josh Brolin (Llewelyn Moss) who finds himself caught in this swirl luckily escapes injury. More fortuitously, he gets possession of a satchel containing $2 millions, which he hordes away in his trailer park home. But when he returns to the scene to save a wounded man later that night, he is chased by two unknown persons and also loses his vehicle in the process. The tempo increases from this point on, as different parties attempt to get hold of the cash.
Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh) plays the role of a hitman hired to get back the satchel. Hence he starts his chase of Llewelyn Moss. Having already killed a police officer before, he is sought by Ed Tom Bell. Hence a triangle of targets is set up in the plot. The further encounters and the attendant suspicion between the three parties constitute the rest of the narrative. Although such a story line is not unique by any means, the screenplay and dialogue are crisply written and well-executed by the actors. Particularly impressive is the role of Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem. As Houston Chronicle reviewer Amy Biancolli succinctly notes, “he is diabolical in this guise, and he would be even if he didn’t stroll through the movie plugging holes into foreheads with a compressed-air tank. Few actors can play single-mindedness as chillingly as Bardem…” (Biancolli, 2007)
The screenplay is laced with a morbid, dark sense of humor, which goes well with the underlying plot structure. There are semblances to Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but in terms of symbolism and metaphor No Country is richer. Especially striking are metaphors of evil in the actions of the wrong-doers, who are earnestly pursued by the dutiful Sheriff, who comes across as a lone-ranger amid the litany of evil mongers running after quick money. Coen brothers need also be credited for their able handling of the novel form and its smooth adaptation onto screen. Given their poor track record of novel adaptations, this is an impressive and faithful work.
Although gun violence is integral to the plot and the genre, there is too much of it during climax sequences. And as expected it is Anton Chigurh who is at the centre of much of the carnage. His shooting spree at times borders on the insane and the directors might have gone overboard in this respect. Tommy Lee Jones is the stand out actor among the cast, for though he could not prevent the killings or accomplish his mission, his commitment and moral authority is clearly visible. As the story marches towards its conclusion, there is evidence of despondency in Jones’ eyes, which is recognition of his failure to avert much of the transpired violence.
In conclusion, the words of noted critic Ian Buckwalter serve as a suitable summary assessment of the merit of the movie:
“But don’t let the humor fool you. No Country for Old Men is the Coens’ darkest and bleakest film to date, full of as many nervous ruminations on fate and violence and growing old as it is full of breathtaking thrills. The ending recalls the calm, abrupt conclusion to Barton Fink, but without the final bit of surrealist humor. This quiet end after a movie that barrels along like a series of runaway trains is a splash of icy water to the face. The filmmakers leave the audience cold, hopeless, and hollow, yet wanting to go back and experience it all over again.” (Buckwalter, 2007)
Biancolli, Amy, Movie Review: No Country for Old Men, Houston Chronicle, November, 15, 2007, retrieved from
Buckwalter, Ian, Review of No Country for Old Men, Arts and events, November 9, 2007, retrieved from