Saturday, February 7, 2009

No Country for Old Men

"No Country for Old Men," Joel and Ethan Coen's magnificent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel of the same name, is the best film of 2007, no questions asked. It does so much with but a few characters, a helluva lot of scope, and great cinematography. Roger Deakins was nominated twice for an Oscar in 2007 for cinematography, for "The Assassination of Jesse James..." and this film, and he got beaten by "There Will Be Blood cinematographer Robert Elswit. As with the other film, Deakins truly captures wonders with his camerawork. Without him, "No Country" would have lost its touch. Edited pristinely by only the best in the business (that is, "Roderick Jaynes"), adapted perfectly by the Coens, and acted with the utmost precision, "Men" is a first-rate, literary action drama.

Javier Bardem got the Oscar he most definitely deserved as Anton Chigurh, a serial killer with a plan of action. He's after Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin, in his best performance, unfairly ignored by the Academy), an ex-welder who stumbles upon drug money and unwisely takes the money and runs. Tommy Lee Jones turns in his best performance as Ed Tom Bell, the sheriff who's interest is in helping Moss escape from the clutches of Chigurh's cattle bolt gun. And Woody Harrelson gives us a performance that will make us forgive him for his dreadful work in "Seven Pounds,": he plays Carson Wells, another man going after the money. Four great performances. They're all solidified by the wonderful, experienced direction by the Coen Brothers. They have made lowbrow comedies ("Burn After Reading," "Raising Arizona," "The Big Lebowski"), a Hollywood satire ("Barton Fink"), and a certain police procedural that made them famous ("Fargo"), but they have not done anything like this. This is their magnum opus, and they were rightfully awarded for their toils. They also make stars out of their actors: Bardem breaks through with a collected and terrifying uber-villain, Brolin makes a name playing a pained man on the run, and Lee Jones proves himself yet again with some terrific work. The Coens definitely know how to play their cards right, and the structure of this film shows just that. It's brilliant, tight, and suspenseful. This is everything Cormac McCarthy could have hoped for and more. A

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