On scene: ‘No Country for Old Men’ | SteamboatToday.com

On scene: ‘No Country for Old Men’

Mike McCollum

Steamboat Springs — “No Country for Old Men,” adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen from Cormac McCarthy's novel, is an easy movie to review – if the focus is the craft of filmmaking. — “No Country for Old Men,” adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen from Cormac McCarthy's novel, is an easy movie to review – if the focus is the craft of filmmaking.

— “No Country for Old Men,” adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, is an easy movie to review – if the focus is the craft of filmmaking.

The landscapes captured by cinematographer Roger Deakins are breathtaking and the score by composer Carter Burwell beats in tempo to the relentless violence that unfolds onscreen. There is little to criticize and much to praise about the filmmakers, and the acting is exceptional.

The terror elicited from Javier Bardem’s depiction of sociopath killer Anton Chigurh has drawn comparisons to cinemas most sinister killers, such as Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter.

Three terrific lead performances from Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin are classic examples of the Clint Eastwood mode of acting – witty one-liners, a stern jaw and an icy stare.

The script follows McCarthy’s novel almost scene for scene. Deceptively simple, the story of a drug deal gone wrong in the badlands of Texas transcends small town America of 1980, when both the movie and book are set.

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(Spoiler alert: minimal dialogue and plot details coming up:)

Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, a welder and Vietnam veteran who stumbles upon $2 million among a mess of dead bodies, spent shell casings and a load of heroin.

Impulsively, Moss takes off with the cash and Chigurh is charged with tracking down the blood money. Jones’ Sheriff Ed Tom Bell follows the action, one step behind both Moss and Chigurh.

After discovering the bodies in the desert, Deputy Wendell, struggling to understand what led to the massacre, turns to Bell for help.

“It’s a mess, ain’t it, sheriff?” asks Wendell.

“If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here,” Bell answers.

The line, like many of Bell’s deadpan responses, is sure to draw laughs. But under the humor, Bell is terrified. He knows he can’t stop the evil that’s coming down the highway.

Far from uplifting and free of a Hollywood ending, the dead halt that finishes “No Country for Old Men” has drawn criticism from audiences around the country, and Steamboat Springs was no exception.

Like Moss, each one of us might have a Chigurh chasing us down the highway, whether it is our personal demons or our past catching up to us. If there is a lesson to learn from the film, it’s that we might be running toward Chigurh, rather than escaping from him.

And it’s too late to turn around.

– Mike McCollum, 4 Points