I remember watching No Country For Old Men when it first came to home video, I was hip-deep in discovering everything that the Coen Brothers had made, and loving every single one of them.
Unfortunately, my first time through it, I didn’t pay lots of attention to it, though some moments are burned into my memory. And this is a film that you have to watch and pay attention to as emotions and thoughts play out across actors’ faces. The narrative, the directors, the performances all expect the audience to pay attention and piece together things as the story moves along.
I didn’t do that the first time. I was a goof, though I still liked it.
This time around, I paid attention to everything and loved how it played out, the setups, the payoffs, and the little character beats.
Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin headline this film that the Coen Brothers wrote and directed, adapting the novel by Cormac McCarthy to deliver a riveting crime thriller beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins.
Near the American/Mexican border trouble is about to erupt when Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) stumbles across a drug deal gone wrong and decides to walk away with the money he finds there.
But the cartel involved has sent along a professional, and truly psychopathic, cleaner Chigurh (Bardem) to hunt down the missing money with his unique weapon and focused determination.
Seemingly one step behind the chase the entire time is the local sheriff, Ed Tom Bell (Jones). Much like Chigurh and Llewelyn, he’s determined, intent, and is very set on justice.
With gorgeous locations, this beautifully shot is unnerving, and is a tense thriller, that still plays fantastically. All of the performances are on point, including the supporting cast which is rounded out with Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root, and I was absolutely wrapped up in the story.
Filled with intense and well-crafted sequences, the motel, the chase, the river, No County for Old Men could arguably be one of my favourite Coen Brothers films. I tend to lean towards their comedic work, O Brother Where Art Thou, but this one is an incredibly solid piece of work .
I wasn’t the only one that felt that way, as the film was nominated for multiple awards, including eight Oscars. It took home four Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actor for Bardem (and watching him in this film, that’s just a gimme, he’s captivating and terrifying), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.
Thrilling, beautiful, intense, and fantastic performances No Country for Old Men is a fantastic watch and is a great example of cinematic achievement and I can’t believe I couldn’t give it its due when I first watched it.
Revisiting films can often pay off. It certainly did this time.