Last Monday, Jago and I went to see two movies in the theater, because we love movies. The first one was Ridley Scott's "final" cut of Blade Runner, which is easily one of my favourite movies and one Jago had never seen before. We basked in its full-screen, sci-fi glory for two hours, then came into the light for ten minutes before diving into the dark of the Coen brothers' new movie, No Country For Old Men. And o brother, do I mean dark.
Jago and I are big fan of the Coens, and No Country For Old Men finds them back at their old stomping grounds. Sure, I like Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? just fine, but my favourite Coen brothers movies are their rougher, darker movies: Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple. And No Country is definitely more along those lines than those of, say, Intolerable Cruelty. It’s slow, moody, and tense, and although the comedy is dialed down a bit, it’s still there, albeit very black. The story is simple and wears its influences with pride, which allows the Coens to play off the audience’s expectations, sometimes doing what you’d expect, sometimes not. It's a two hour experiment with genre, and if that was all it was it wouldn't be so good. But it's well-paced, clever, and beautifully shot, so you keep watching with a growing intensity that explodes loudly at points during the movie.
As well-shot and clever as the movie is, it wouldn’t work without the performances of its three lead actors. Josh Brolin creates an Everyman character you can get behind but with something dark hiding within him. Tommy Lee Jones plays the small-town sherrif who’s in over his head, but weary with experience and with a sense of worldiness that you wouldn’t expect. And Javier Bardem fills the entire screen with tension as one of the scariest killers I’ve ever seen. At times a crime movie, at others a western, with scenes of explosive but not exploitative violence, No Country For Old Men is easily the best movie I’ve seen all year. But it’s not easy.