Eight Oscar nods does not guarantee quality

Alex Bethke

Alex Bethke

The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, return to the silver screen with No Country for Old Men. The critically acclaimed film is up for eight Oscar nominations, including: Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Directing, Best in Editing, Best in Sound, Best in Sound Editing, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Javier Bardem), Best Writing Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published and last but certainly not least, Best Motion Picture of the Year. We should be so lucky that the Brookings Cinema 5 finally decided to play this highly praised movie only two months after its initial release date. Better late than never.

Set in Southwest Texas in 1980 somewhere near the Mexican border, No Country for Old Men follows average Joe, but retired Vietnam veteran, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin: American Gangster, Grindhouse). Moss is hunting in the Texan desert when he stumbles upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone sour. All that remains are several bloodied bodies, both human and canine, and a truck bed full of blow. Moss eventually finds “el ultimo hombre” dead some distance from the shoot-out and a satchel containing 2 million in cash. Moss fleas the scene successfully, but his role changes from the hunter to the hunted.

Moss is being hunted by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a bounty hunter hired to secure the missing cash. Bardem gives an intense performance and makes Chigurh the best villain since Hannibal Lecter. Wherever Chigurh goes, he leaves a trail of dead. At times, it seems pointless to kill, but Chigurh finds a motive or creates his own that makes it reasonable, at least in his mind. Whether it be, because someone saw his face or because a coin was heads instead of tails, the reason is just in Chigurh’s mind. You can see Chigurh’s method of thought in one of the best scenes of the movie: a simple conversation with a gas station tenant.

No Country for Old Men turns an air gun into an iconic killing tool, much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre did for the chainsaw or I Know What You Did Last Summer did for the meat hook. It’s an original and unique idea that I can see being copied in the future.

Tommy Lee Jones plays the humble and wise sheriff, Ed Tom Bell, who comes from a family of law men and has seen it all in his years of service. He and Deputy Sheriff Wendell (Garret Dillahunt) converse in some of the most interesting dialogue of the film. The conversations illustrate the large gap in experience levels between Bell and Wendell. Bell also has a nice monologue to conclude the movie. His summary of his dreams from the night before leaves you with the dreary feeling that he does not feel that he accomplished enough in his life or lived up to his father’s expectations. Woody Harrelson has a short role as bounty hunter Carson Wells, the third man on Moss’s trail.

This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is actually very simple. The plot is simple, the characters are simple people, and I don’t believe there was even any music until the ending credits rolled. However, the cinematography was done extremely well. Many images in the movie do speak 10,000 words, and I feel No Country for Old Men has a strong chance of winning the Oscar award for that category. No Country for Old Men is a good movie, but with all the Oscar hype, I was expecting a little more.