Intrigued I am, having just caught No Country For Old Men, directed by the Coen brothers. I never knew it was so well received until now, getting home and checking the web. Although I have read a coupla thumbs down that appear to be impulsive, the majority of critics rate this movie.

Some (a supreme minority) berate the film for it being violent without reason or simply too nihilistic and depressing. I found it rather existentialist really. For me, it was more about finding your way through life and accepting it for what it is, brutal and cold.

Josh Brolin plays a cowboy, Llewellyn Moss, who stumbles onto 2 million dollars in a suitcase. He then gets chased relentlessly by Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh, the indefatigable villain of the piece. Tommy Lee Jones plays a wizened retiring sheriff who follows onto the trail.

I have to admit. At times, I found the film naggy and even boring. The slow bits weren’t excruciatingly so for me, but they were slow enough. The intension was to provoke thought and intensify the mood and suspense, but for my tastes, I coulda skipped a few of the sermons on the continued degradation of societal mores in contemporary Western culture. That’s probably my 3 minute pop song loving alter ego speaking though.

I’m not really familiar with the Coen brothers oeurve, and that is to my detriment, but I attribute it to a prejudice and lack of knowledge about things American. To think I actually did a short course in American history once in school.  Yet, my shortcomings in this department do not mean I am unaware of the various issues the film appears to be discussing. I suppose the fact I don’t know too much about the Coens is also a good thing, since my thumbs up for this film isn’t down to fanboy voyeurism alone.

Then perhaps, it must be my sadistic inner self that enjoys the violence in the film. It is at once graphic and ludicrous, given Chigurh’s weapon of choice, a cattle gun. Powered by compressed air, he basically carries around a rather innocuous and cumbersome looking execution device. None of the killing is gratuitous though. It is exact and calculated, designed and minimalist. Chigurh is unrelenting in his rampage but he only kills to avoid implication and trouble. I admit I found myself laughing when Chigurh killed because I simply couldn’t believe anyone would be so emotionless when murdering someone, so careful. Still, I was at the same time revulsed by the violence which I’d suppose is part of what the film is driving at. This depiction of violence is fine by my book. Yes, it is gory, stylish even, but with every single killing, I get a greater sense of the film’s ideas.

Everyone who dies in the film dies because of fate. They’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or they’ve made a bad decision, even one made in good faith. This relates back to why I find the film un-nihilistic in every way. If it were, there’d just be senseless killing or a whole lot of nothing. No Country isn’t quite that empty. In the film, people die because Chigurh needs them to in order to preserve his own life. He is surviving as much as he is killing.

As inhuman as Chigurh might be at times, we are reminded of his mortality throughout the film. His tall frame, dark clothes and mop of a hairdo certainly serve to bewilder and aggrieve the viewer, delivering a sense of an unstoppable evil. Still, I thought he was quite stoppable and not quite evil. Or is that the optimist speaking? His fallibility is evident and he was as much a speck on the landscape as Moss or any other character, albeit one which does not care to kill someone.

Moss, the main character is the optimist. Faced with Chigurh, he keeps going even if it seems impossible. He tries his best, in the hope that he can give himself and his wife a better life. I found my sympathies going out to the man all too often and I’m sure everyone would easily identify with him. He is, in fact quite similar to Chigurh. Both do their darndest, their most natural, survival instinct based actions to get ahead. This part of the film, which details the thought out preparations for every encounter and situation are a sight to behold. It is man kicking and pushing with all his desire to stay alive.

The story though, is bound largely by Jones’ sheriff. He’s sort of on the edge. Involved in the action, yet removed from it as well. At one point, he consciously opts to get in but then again, realizes its already gone past him. He is the character the title references, although the “Old Men” refer to times gone by just as much. He is the law but he feels too old, too overwhelmed by the inexplicable violence that has de-sensitized him. This is the character that provokes the morality issues, the question of life getting cheaper. I got too much of it in the slow moments, where the film halts to allow Jones his speeches and symbolism. By the end, his Texan accent was as much confusing as it was offputting to me that I couldn’t remember exactly what he said. I got enough of it about halfway through though. I am rather impatient after all.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed the film. It made me feel. It made me think. Its dark humor is certainly along my lines. The cinematography is also incredibly superb and the sounds haunting. They perfectly complement the strong acting and script. Its probably the best film I should’ve seen in 2007.

Is there a country for young men then?

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