The films of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen (credited as co-directors for the first time, while remaining co-writers and editors) often feature protagonists wrongly convinced of their righteous actions: The Big Lebowskis the Dude, Fargos Jerry Lundegaard, even Raising Arizonas H.R. McDunnough are all convinced of their understanding of the situation and of the correct course of action. And therein lays the pathos, the comedy, the tension and the drama of the Coens work, be it in comedy, adventure or thriller.
Drawing from a novel by Cormac McCarthy (instead of writing original work themselves), No Country For Old Men is brilliantly Coen-esque. Hunter Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon a deal gone bad in the Arizona desert, where he finds a truck bed full of heroin and more than two million dollars. Moss takes a moment to see whos looking before secreting off with the money. Meanwhile, merciless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, with an absurd pageboy haircut), armed with some sort of air pump cattle gun, is on a blood hunt for the dope, the money and the dope who took the money. Local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) completes this triangle of greed, justice and revenge.
Though theres always a sardonic sense of humour to the Coens work, No Country seems like their most serious film, perhaps due to the unrelenting yet charismatic and compelling air that Bardem gives to the terminator Chigurh. It harkens back to Fargo and to the Coens first film, Blood Simple, while also nodding to Sam Raimis underrated A Simple Plan.
Long-time cinematographer Roger Deakins retains his MVP status as the Coens most trusted collaborator - No Country has a look that recalls the naturalism of the early 70s and avoids the temptation to turn the barren landscape into a John Ford tribute at every turn. No Country For Old Men belongs at the top of the Coen brothers distinguished filmography. (Alliance Atlantis)