By: Henry J. Fromage (A Toast) –
This month marks the five year anniversary of the release of No Country for Old Men, which means it’s high times we grab some beer and Prince Valiant wigs and give it a rewatch. Believe it or not, we were very close to a version starring Heath Ledger as Llewellyn Moss and Mark Strong as Anton Chigurh, but it’s hard to argue for any alternate universe No Country that’d be better than the film we got.
Still, this is pretty scarylarious, too
Based on the acclaimed novel by Cormac McCarthy, this is one of the very few films that may actually have improved on the book. In 1980s Southwest Texas, gritty Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong… and a satchel full of cash. Recognizing the fresh start it represents, but also the hell it’s liable to bring with it, he puts his young wife (master of accents Kelly McDonald) on a bus and prepares to contend with the evil that is surely coming. He just underestimates the potency of that evil, as stone-faced, psychopathic assassin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is as bad as they come. Can an aging, jaded lawman (Tommy Lee Jones) get to him first, or will darkness prevail?
I realize that synopsis sounds like it could be off the cover of an Alex Cross novel, but this story is one of incredible depth and complexity, sinking its teeth into themes like aging, greed, death, and the legacy and permanence of violence. Of course, with themes like these, the film is pretty damn dark.
Almost tanning mom dark. Almost.
This is the Coen Brothers duo directing, though, so even in a story this pitch black, there are plenty of small bits of dry humor, delivered in a perfect deadpan, especially from Brolin and Jones, and in a small part as a competing “fixer”, the always great Woody Harrelson. The acting is uniformly strong, but as good as everyone is, Bardem’s performance stands heads and shoulders above the rest. I have to wonder if he agreed to that pageboy hair on a dare that he couldn’t wear it and still be pants-shittingly terrifying.
Well, he won that one.
The Coens are never better, making unconventional choices like using next to no music and staging major character deaths offscreen to take the audience completely out of their comfort zones and remove the feeling that they have any clue what will happen next. The result is a masterpiece of anus-clenching suspense.
Sure, if you look at the story a bit too closely, you might to start to wonder about character motivations (just run already!) and some awful convenient plot points, but I defy your ability to not be swept up in this incredibly tense, beguiling film. And afterwards, you’ll be thinking and talking about it for days. That’s a surefire sign of a great film.
Take a Drink: every time someone speaks poorly accented Spanish
Take a Drink: every time you struggle between fear and hilarity when you see Chigurh’s hair
Take a Drink: every time Tommy Lee Jones complains about the state of the world
Take a Drink: every time a pool of blood is seen or implied
Do a Shot: every time someone has to correct themselves in the past tense when referring to a dead person
Do a Shot: coin flip!