No Country for Old Men (2007)

t’s amazing that the Coens have only once strayed from their trademark style and made what is arguably the best film of the first decade of the twenty-first century. And indeed, “Old Men Don’t Belong Here” has neither the brothers’ favourite irony, nor the darkest noir, nor the blackest humour, and even up to the end credits not a single song can be heard in the film. Miraculously, all the things for which we love Joel and Ethan’s iconic pictures have been rendered superfluous. All that’s left is a textbook crime story (or rather Cormac McCarthy’s book) and some stunning camerawork by Roger Deakins. I venture to guess it was from this film that he began to pay special attention to the clouds and the sky. “Old Men Don’t Belong Here” is the film makers’ benchmark treatment of the book’s source material. Not only did the Coens shoot and then edit exactly as the events in the book unfolded, they also restored almost all the dialogue and monologues from the book. In this way, the filmmakers wanted to preserve not only the spirit of the novel, but also its letter.

The Coens put together an amazing trio of lead actors. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is a hero-thinker. He’s been where he’s been and seen a lot. And now he has a story to tell. Javier Bardem displays probably his strongest acting performance yet, and the well-deserved Oscar doesn’t even confirm half of his skill shown in the film. Josh Brolin has never been better either. Everyone probably knows the tale of how he got the part, but it’s worth telling it again, it’s too colourful. At first, the Coens turned him down for an audition and decided to take Heath Ledger for the role of Llewellyn. He refused, and Josh in turn did not want to give up without a fight. He asked Robert Rodriguez to help him record a short video. Robert happily got behind the camera, but the director of the video message to the brothers was Rodriguez’s long-time friend Quentin Tarantino. I don’t know if that played a significant role in Brolin’s approval for the film, but as we can see, he’s won his part. “No Country for Old Men” received eight Oscar nominations in 2008.

Four of which the film won. The Coens took the jackpot for the adapted screenplay (I wasn’t the only one to see the exemplary treatment of the source material) and, of course, for the direction. Also, apart from Bardem, a statuette was awarded to all the filmmakers, as he won the main category. And, as per the latest information for the 2016 Oscars, Old Men Don’t Belong Here is firmly in the top ten best films to have taken the top prize in the entire existence of the award, according to various publications and critics. Stylistically and genre-wise, the film is very similar to Villeneuve’s The Killer, as Brolin also starred there and Deakins was the cameraman. And there are very similar shots in both films, like the night sky or the curtains. However, where Villeneuve drowns the viewer in the dystopian truth of our cruel lives, the Coens leave a small but ray of hope (Bell’s Dream). But, of course, Old Boys also wins with dynamics. No music, no unnecessary words, but every movement of the characters, every action and word spoken seems appropriate and necessary. A grim movie, but no less magnificent for that.

No Country for Old Men trailer