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Film Reviews from 2007

Film Reviews
from 2006

No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men
a review by Tom Condon, OP (St. Martin)

The newest film from the Joel and Ethan Coen, best known for Fargo, is based on the award-winning novel by Cormac McCarthy.  No Country for Old Men has been receiving great reviews, and is now winning end-of-the-year critic’s prizes of its own.  It’s certainly well acted and impressively shot.  It’s also pretty bloody.  However, when it was over, I had no idea what to make of it.

No Country is set in Texas in 1980.  It follows three characters:  Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who happens upon a suitcase full of money from a botched drug deal; the psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who is fast on Llewelyn’s tail, and  Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is trailing both of them through the border towns of West Texas.  Chigurh is one of the most cold-blooded killers in recent movies, blowing away his victims with some kind of pneumatic rifle, without a trace of emotion or remorse. 

No Country for Old MenCinematically, the film is well done.  A particularly suspenseful scene involves Llewelyn in a dark hotel room, watching and listening for Chigurh outside his door.  Chigurh bursts in, and chases the fleeing Llewelyn through the streets of the small town.  Technically, it’s a great scene, expertly photographed and edited, and eerily silent without any background music.
Throughout the film, Sheriff Bell, tired and ready for retirement, muses philosophically over all he sees.  The Sheriff is like a one-man Greek chorus, waxing eloquently over the rise in violence with the cross-border drug trade; the meaning of life and the existence of God.  The Coens confound expectations when the final scene is not of a violent confrontation, but of the recently retired Sheriff wondering about the meaning of life at the breakfast table.   The whole time, I was wondering if a woman in the previous scene was dead or alive.  For whatever reason, after a suspenseful buildup, the Coens don’t inform us of her fate.   

Perhaps had I read McCarthy’s novel, I would have had a better sense of what to make of this mix of violence and philosophy.  Without doubt, the rise of violence and the drug trade over the last few decades alarms us all.  The randomness of violence and fragility of life are themes in the film.  On two occasions, Chigurh forces his terrified victims to call “heads or tails” while he flips a coin to determine their fate.  Yet, none of these themes is original, or explored in ways that shed any new light on them.  I left the theater with more questions than answers.

So, while I enjoyed some of No Country for Old Men for its technical merits, it added up to a very puzzling experience for me.  I did not see the greatness in it that so many critics apparently have.  I just wondered, “What was that all about?”  If anyone has a clue, please let me know. 

Tom Condon, OP 




The USCCB Office for Film & Broad-casting classification is A-III -- adults.

The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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