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DVD Review: No Country For Old Men
Tripp J Crouse   |  

No Country For Old Men DVDNo Country For Old Men
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Barry Corbin
Miramax Home Entertainment
Release date: March 11, 2008

The movies of Joel and Ethan Coen dare to be compartmentalized, to be labeled one way or another. Generally, a Coen Brothers movie branches across several genres. Their latest, the multiple Academy Award-winning No Country For Old Men, isn’t an exception by any means.

Road movie. Horror movie. Crime story. Noir. Western. Comedy. Action. Drama.

Based on the 2005 Cormac McCarthy book of same name, the film earned Academy Awards for best supporting actor (Javier Bardem), best adapted screenplay (Joel and Ethan Coen), best director (the Coens), and even took home the best picture Oscar, beating Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

The tale begins in West Texas, an arid and dry region, near the U.S.-Mexico border, at the turn of a new decade. The year 1980 belongs between two ages. It’s a time of a generational shift, just as the three main characters — Llewelyn Moss (Vietnam veteran), Ed Tom Bell (a county sheriff), and Anton Chigurh (looming hitman) — that represent different personalities in this flux of ideas and moral values.

Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is the sheriff of the county, who assumes the role of old school Western values — decent kind of salt of the earth guy, yet very capable of the job.

In the opening narrative, Bell draws a parallel between the lawmen of yore to the contemporary life and times, questioning whether those men would be able to comprehend the sullen world he inhabits now.

“Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun,” he says. “Lot of folks find that hard to believe…. I always liked to hear about the old timers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can’t help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can’t help but wonder how they’d a’ operated these times.”

Anton Chigurh, described as the devil incarnate, represents a new evil, a new violence, a shift in moral paradigms. Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, is a complete mystery to most other No Country characters, yet this enigma is actually driven by a very simple concept: In a world with violence without reason, the core of humanity is still subject to fate, represented in Chigurh’s coin, tossed to determine whether presumably innocent targets live or die. Chigurh is methodical — a slow stalking predator with a distinct temperament, relying on his air-compressed cattle bolt and silenced shotgun to dispatch of his hit-for-hire targets, but he’s not above paying someone for the shirt off their back.

The man is evil beyond all things, but not without his own standard of values no matter how incomprehensible. Moss (played by Josh Brolin), the man in the middle, gets swept into a giant rabbit chase when he discovers a case full of money at the wrong-end of a drug deal and Mexican standoff. Soon enough, he and his wife, Carla Jean, (played by Kelly Macdonald) find themselves in the throws of an ever-evolving struggle to survive. Moss is motivated by survival, providing for himself and his wife, constantly tested by his pursuers seeking to reclaim their stolen cash.

“[It’s] a very powerful story of violence, where any option can be taken,” Bardem says during the “Making of No Country For Old Men” featurette.

Every moment, character, and piece of dialogue drives home the film’s overall theme: It isn’t a country for old men, that in a world seemingly devoid of meaning and reason survival becomes everyone’s ultimate goal, and trying to make sense of the increasing violence and other bizarre events will only drive a person crazy.

“What you’ve got is nothing new. This country is hard on people,” says Bell’s Uncle Ellis, played by Barry Corbin. People who know that I’ve seen No Country are often asking me what the point of the film is, and I don’t usually have a simple answer. Trying to console them is futile. And convincing them that searching for answers in No Country isn’t really the answer either. Truth is there aren’t many clear answers. And I think that’s the point.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell becomes disappointed with his inability to solve the mystery. Bell is old-world, desperately trying to understand the depth of the violence invading his quiet county. But in the end, he gives up on searching for answers. And like his opening narrative, Ed Tom Bell gives us an outro that’s equally as bleak.

The biggest downside to No Country for Old Men DVD is the lack of audio commentary from the Coens, discussing the making of the film, but three featurettes offer several behind the scenes morsels. The first is the making-of featurette, talking with cast and crew about the filmmaking process. The second probably gives the best insight to the brothers through cast-and-crew interviews discussing the Coens’ process of putting together a movie such as No Country. The last is a character profile of Ed Tom Bell, providing a glimpse into the life and reasoning of the film’s most majestic character.

No Country‘s biggest home-release benefit is its re-watch value. After two additional viewings, I’m completely blown away by the attention of detail and choice of shots that went into the Coens’ film. Every instance builds to the culmination of events, slowly snowballing. No Country is a rich tapestry of a film, rewarding those who watch it again and again.


  1. I think that is the point too- there are no clear answers.
    I thought the ending was perfect. Very beautiful.
    Great review.

    Comment by Jerry — March 11, 2008 @ 6:58 am

  2. an incredible film, great to pick up, outstanding visualization of a book

    Comment by sir jorge — March 11, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

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