“No Country for Old Men”
The last words of Tommy Lee Jones’s hero in the final scene of No Country for Old Men can completely and exactly describe the meaningful and deep work written and directed by the Coen brothers. No Country for Old Men is the result of the awakening of the outstanding directors after a period of mainstream films. At the time, it was high time for the brothers to rethink their earlier works and show their skills.
Released on November, 2007, No Country for Old Men is a powerful, allegorical story, whose creators did not care much about how many awards it received. However, to tell the truth, the list of awards not only impresses, but also gives confirmation to everything mentioned above and, of course, to the film’s stunning success. The film won numerous awards, most of which were given for the direction, script, and acting. Among the awards, there are the Golden Globe 65th ceremony awards for best screenplay and supporting actor and three Academy Awards. Also, the world’s leading cinema editions included this picture in the lists of the best films of the past decade (Georgaris, The 21st Century’s Most Acclaimed Films). It should be mentioned that Javier Bardem, who played villain Anton Chigurh, became the first Spanish actor who managed to win Academy Awards.
No Country for Old Men is a western with elements of the noir film, targeted at a more sophisticated audience that is able to appreciate not only special effects, bright episodes or humor. There is the magic of the classical movie. All the most typical film noir elements can be found in the film: a typical story with a briefcase full of money and attention to detail. Each location of the camera makes the viewer think about the message that the authors wanted to convey at this very moment.
The entire film is shot considering three main noir characteristics: accuracy, excitement, and ease. The plot is quite simple: Texas silent men and Mexican bandits. However, the story catches the viewer’s attention from the very beginning. An ordinary man, a hard worker, finds a pile of dead bodies in the desert together with a truck full of heroin and two million dollars in cash. He decides to take the money and the result is a wave of violence that the entire police force of West Texas is not able to stop.
The film focuses on Moss and Chigurh, dull hunters who, in spite of the genre, are not traditional antagonists. Bardem’s acting is really outstanding throughout the film. He is the embodiment of terrifying evil. However, a striking difference between lucky Moss and Chigurh is that Bardem’s character plays by the rules and Josh Brolin’s hero tries to avoid them. The first scene that is worth paying attention to is the one representing villain Anton Chigurh’s immobility, when he could not find the victim and stayed calmly sitting in front of the TV, sipping milk from a bottle. He looks calm and relaxed, which in fact hides his brutality. Frank Miller characterized such a hero and his behavior in the following way:
Raymond Chandler defined it best. He described the Film Noir hero as a knight in dirty armor. He is a knight, he just doesn’t look like one. And he’s never rewarded for what he does. He’s this lonely character who’s out there and he’s just bugged by stuff. (Cinema Station)
Secondly, it is evident that the novel of Cormack McCarthy provided directors with an extraordinary plot outline, where their usual sarcastic mocking at different genre peculiarities does not ease this depressing prose, but makes the problem of universal chaos even more evident in the film. A beautiful and “calm” landscape, filmed by experienced operator Roger Dickens, is diluted with the help of the discriminating and sharp dialogues. The viewer can observe such a scene at the very beginning of the film. While hunting, a man finds a car with a pile of dead bodies around it. A peaceful, serene landscape with deer and birds turns into a massacre. The picture is gradually gaining its force. The first image makes the viewer think it is the right place for old men. However, this picturesque, tranquil landscape is illusory. This is just an interscene between the previous massacre and the following mass murder. The violence in the film goes along with the feeling of deep sorrow and pity for mankind. The characters are visual images, words, and sounds. They convey the directors’ message who tried to show the drama with the help of slow-motion and fast-motion, proper lighting, and camera angle and its movement. It all works out to communicate to the viewer a certain value or moral. A variety of close-up scenes at the beginning of the film focus the viewer’s attention on characters and their emotions.
Furthermore, the Coen brothers violated all canons of a traditional western, leaving the music sound only in the closing scenes. They tried to create their characters without any possible help of music, sounds or special effects. All that the viewer can see is a character and his emotions, conveyed with the help of the camera work, its high and low angles, and lighting. The directors also decided to cover the plain with blood, at the same time leaving violence somewhere in the background, in which the silent duel ends. Moreover, even the finale here is not the end, touching even the most impudent and notorious rogues in the world. Therefore, No Country for Old Men is a cruel story, filled with the deep philosophical meaning.
The film No Country for Old Men in some way resembles Fargo that was also shot by the Coen brothers in 1996. Both pictures show some hasty and even stupid decisions that lead to big troubles and death. In both films, the police take part in the action and play an important role in the plot. In Fargo, there is a policewoman who is five months pregnant but still could do a lot of things, while in No Country for Old Men, the old sheriff could only grumble about old times. No Country for Old Men is somewhat more complicated than a criminal drama. This is a drama, a philosophical parable, a way to think over the hustle of the world around us.
This picture provoked contradictory thoughts and feelings in me, but I liked the movie without doubt. This is a great example of the noir film genre and everything in the picture speaks about it. The events are completely random, they are not related to each other, and they gradually stick together to form a very clear idea. However, for each viewer, the idea of the film is different, because of the very indefinite finale. Everything happens by chance and not as we would like it to happen being accustomed to certain stereotypes. The title of the film itself provokes different thoughts. No Country for Old Men: you can feel the depth and significance of this title only after watching the picture, which is another proof of how complicated and philosophical this film is.