When a film ends with the recounting of a dream in which a weather-beaten, life-weary man searches for the fire his father is building to warm them, it’s impossible not to think of the love we all yearn for and can hopefully muster. It’s also a welcome spiritual respite when that film has seduced its audience on a journey into a hell of the relentless violence that follows a man after he steals drug money in the naïve belief that its owners might ignore him, and the slow-moving chase that ensues when a truly psychopathic person pursues the man and the cash. No Country for Old Men, the new picture from the Coen Brothers, based on Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel, is probably the most accomplished film released this year.
I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, as it would be unfair to assume that readers have seen it. So I must skirt around the issues that cause me to praise this film so highly. In short, No Country for Old Men is a slow, thoughtful, frightening, and beguiling film about the selfishness of people and the desperate need to restore the virtue of community bonds. Its central character – called Anton Chigurh, and played by Javier Bardem – is one of the most titanic characterizations of evil intent I’ve ever seen in a film. He simply kills what gets in his way, and even plays sport with some of his potential victims – inviting them to toss a coin to determine their fate. Josh Brolin is the man who finds the money belonging to Chigurh’s employers, and Tommy Lee Jones the sheriff baffled by the trail of death that ensues in their wake.