No Country For Old Men


No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen
2008, Paramount Vantage/Miramax/Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss
122 minutes, English and Spanish

LATAMROB rating: ***

AS AN ATMOSPHERIC challenge to traditional cinematic narrative, No Country For Old Men was critically acclaimed by the usual suspects taken in by its epic landscapes and world-weary philosophy. But despite the garlands and the Texan drawl, the Coen brothers’ blood-stained tale of a chase across remote West Texas is flawed by significant omissions and shallow characterisation leaving the viewer with a strong sense of anti-climax. That said, Javier Bardem’s performance as death incarnate in the figure of psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh has to be one of the most memorable of recent times, and gives such compelling force to this movie that singlehandedly he ensures that it approximates the raw power of Cormac McCarthy’s original novel about a drug deal gone wrong set on the US-Mexican border. Nonetheless, what Bardem’s unstoppable character and the apparently hapless yet merciless Mexican cartels depicted in the movie tell us so colourfully about Anglo-Hispanic relations in the region is another matter, and No Country For Old Men confronts us with some familiar stereotypes: unthinking Mexicans immersed in violence who eventually get lucky, alongside more thoughtful Anglo victims capably outwitting or second-guessing their persecutors, at least initially. While Bardem’s strangely non-national character reveals that the movie is, in fact, about chance and free-will, there is nothing random about the human landscape in which the characters’ choices are made. As Beth Grant, as the mother of all mothers-in-law, Agnes, says to the helpful man who picks up her suitcase for her: “I ain’t never seen a Mexican in a suit ’afore.” – EC