From their debut with Blood Simple in 1984 through to bowling classic The Big Lebowski in 1998, the Coen brothers went on a pretty much unrivalled 7 film run of non-duds. Sadly they followed this with a sequence of four films that fell far below The Dude inspired peak - from Lebowski follow up O’Brother Where Art Thou? in 2000 to the universally panned Ladykillers in 2004. After that they went on a bit of a hiatus, resurfacing briefly to contribute to Paris J’Taime - a collection of short films about a French city.
Now they are back and in some style with No Country for Old Men. Taken from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, ...Old Men opens with generally decent man of few words Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) hunting deer on the plains. Through the telescopic sight of his rifle he spies a bunch of pickup trucks and corpses, which, on closer inspection proves to be the endgame of a drug deal gone badly wrong. With a big briefcase full of money laying there without any obvious (living) owner, Moss the opportunist grabs the loot, believing he and his sweetheart back at the trailer park (Kelly Macdonald) have just stumbled upon a life changing slice of fortune.
Which is true, but not as he thinks. You see that money belongs to somebody and soon Llewelyn realises he’s got a serious problem, in the form of weird assasin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), on his tail. As the tagline says “There are no clean getaways”. Throw reluctant Sherrif Tommy Lee Jones and a bunch of angry Mexicans into the mix and a bloody game of cat and mouse across the southern states and into Mexico ensues.
Whilst there are a few obvious ‘Coen Brother’ touches where they find humour in some of the darkest places (Chigurh’s haircut for example), they generally play it straight - allowing the story, scenery and performances to drive the film leisurely but efficiently over its two hour duration. In this respect it resembles the excellent The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, the Tommy Lee Jones directed revenge film from a couple of years back. Like that film, the Texan born Lee Jones once again proves himself to be a master of the actions-speak-louder-than-words old school character of the South. But it’s Spanish actor Bardem (along with his hair and possibly the biggest gun-silencer in movie history) that really steals the film, as he menacingly takes no prisoners on his pursuit of Moss and the cash.
Rightly cleaning up plaudits all over the place, No Country for Old Men is a mighty return to form for the Coen brothers. Amen to that.