Coen brothers: back in form

(Canscene) — After two productions on which they seemed to have lost their bite Joel and Ethan Coen have come up with the kind of black comedy at which they excel in No Country for Old Men.

The film is much more noir than comic. A drug deal gone wrong results in bullet-riddled bodies strewn over the Texas landscape. They’re discovered along with bundles of money, by border patrolman Lewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) taking some time out for a litttle hunting. Lust for the loot triumphs over conscience but Moss soon finds himself on the run from drug deal mastermind Anton Chigurh (Xavier Bardem) and local Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who’s after them both.

The chase turns deadly and corpses pile up as Chigurh searches for Moss and the money. The portrait created by Bardem stops short of caricature and brings us a figure of total evil with a psychotic delight in killing.

No Country for Old Men
Bardem: a psychotic killer par excellence

The overarching theme is the disappearance of the old West, personified by the ageing Bell, on the edge of retirement and knowing that his days of authority are over. Tommy Lee Jones gives a superb performance likely to get him an Oscar nomination as is also his role in In the Valley of Elah.

Tess Harper and Kelly Macdonald also shine as wives, respectively of Bell and Moss and Woody Harrelson injects humour into a shadowy character who gets in the protagonists’ way. One regrets his elimination so quickly.

Altogether a great comeback for the Coens.

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