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Movie Review

No Country for Old Men

MPAA Rating: R for strong graphic violence and some language

Reviewed by: Kenneth R. Morefield

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Primary Audience:
Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Western
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 9, 2007 (limited)
November 21, 2007 (expanded)
Copyright, Miramax Films
Copyright, Miramax Films
Copyright, Miramax Films
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Featuring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, more »
Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root, Rodger Boyce, Beth Grant, Ana Reeder, Kit Gwin, Zach Hopkins, Chip Love, Eduardo Antonio Garcia, Gene Jones, Myk Watford, Boots Southerland, Kathy Lamkin, Johnnie Hector, Margaret Bowman, Thomas Kopache, Jason Douglas, Doris Hargrave, Rutherford Cravens, Matthew Posey, George Adelo, Mathew Greer, Trent Moore, Marc Miles, Luce Rains, Philip Bentham, Josh Meyer, Chris Warner, Brandon Smith, H. Roland Uribe, Richard Jackson, Josh Blaylock, Caleb Jones, Dorsey Ray, Angel H. Alvarado, David A. Gomez, Milton Hernandez, John Mancha
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, David Diliberto, Robert Graf, Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin
Distributor: Miramax Films

“One discovery can change your life. One mistake can destroy it.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film:
“NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is a… thriller from Academy Award®-winning filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the acclaimed novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning American master, Cormac McCarthy. The time is our own, when rustlers have given way to drug-runners and small towns have become free-fire zones. Featuring a cast that includes Academy Award®-winner Tommy Lee Jones (THE FUGITIVE, MEN IN BLACK), Josh Brolin (GRINDHOUSE), Academy Award®-nominee Javier Bardem (THE SEA INSIDE), Academy Award®-nominee Woody Harrelson (THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT) and Kelly Macdonald (TRAINSPOTTING)… The story begins when Llewelyn Moss (BROLIN) finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law—in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (JONES)—can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers—in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives (BARDEM)—the film simultaneously strips down the American crime drama and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible, and as bloodily contemporary as this morning’s headlines.”


The latest film by Joel and Ethan Coen (“Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) should please their fans a lot and fans of Cormac McCarthy’s novel a little (provided they aren’t squeamish about violence), but it probably won’t win them a whole lot of new fans. “No Country for Old Men” opened at the Toronto International Film Festival, a venue used by many studios to try to create positive buzz for their major fall releases. While most of the critics who saw the film in Toronto have positive (or at least respectful) reviews, the film didn’t create the strong buzz normally associated with an early Oscar push. Looking through the archives of Christian Spotlight at responses to other Coen brothers films served to solidify my impression that “No Country for Old Men” will probably be a polarizing film; those who like the Coen’s style will find it a treat, while those who generally shy away from “R” rated films will have a hard time getting past the stylized violence.

Given the recent surge in popularity of Cormac McCarthy’s work created by the selection of The Road for Oprah’s Book Club, the film may draw some viewers who might not otherwise be drawn. The plot is set in motion by the decision of Lleweln Moss (the surprisingly effective Josh Brolin) to take two million dollars in cash he finds at the scene of a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican border. He is chased by a sociopathic hitman (played by Javier Bardem) who uses an air-powered rifle to kill (which he does a lot) and a dying-breed, old-school sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) who delivers hard earned nuggets of wisdom to his deputy and witnesses.

“No Country for Old” wants to incorporate its source novel’s probing emphasis on themes of chance, free-will, and predestination—all themes that would (or should) be of interest to Christian audiences—but the nature of film as a medium makes it hard for the Coens to incorporate the self-reflective qualities of McCarthy’s novel. Yes, there is a voice-over speech that starts the film, and a longer monologue that closes it, but these serve only to frame the violence at the beginning and the end, not to imbue it with meaning throughout. The assassin tracking Moss is a little too clever and quirky for my tastes, though this rendering is consistent with the source material, as well. Perhaps audiences have been weaned on Quentin Tarantino for too long to not judge this character for his coolness instead of his evil, but the device of having the most morally bankrupt character deliver the most theologically orthodox questions doesn’t really retain the effect it does in the hands of more effective artists. (I’m thinking specifically of Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.”)

The acting is terrific, with Kelly MacDonald and Tess Harper sadly underused in supporting roles and Jones giving a restrained performance when restraint is most needed. There were some minor changes to the source material, including the elimination of a female hitchhiker that I suspect was made to make Moss more sympathetic. These should not bother fans of the novel too much, but I think they will ultimately make the ending harder to accept and understand for those who—reasonably in my mind—have seen three quarters of a straight genre flick and may be miffed by a change of gears in the last act. The cinematography is good, as one has come to expect from a Coen brothers film.

I had mixed feelings about this one. It would be easy enough to tell content sensitive viewers to steer clear (they should), but otherwise endorse it. I certainly think it will be praised in many quarters and would not be surprised to see it garner several awards or nominations. Ultimately, however, I just keep thinking it is at heart a pretty generic action/chase film with a good pedigree. There are parts that are excellent, but these parts don’t seem to be intrinsic to the film so much as inherited from the source material or associations we have with other projects of the talent involved. That said, I’m not the biggest fan of the Coen’s oeuvre; I feel safe to say that those who are, will love it.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild

Viewer Comments
Comments available:
Positive—I give “No Country For Old Men” a positive rating with the disclaimer that the violence is heavy. From a movie quality point of view, this film is intense, stylish, suspenseful, captivating and even humorous. The actors are convincing; the story is gripping. “No Country For Old Men” is artistically directed and written with wit. The villain is cold, methodical and original—perhaps the most convincing I have seen on film. Interestingly, the language is not as heavy as one would expect, and there is little sexually offensive material in the film. The only other drawback of the film other than the violence is the ending which will disappoint most viewers. This is not a morality play, but it does show the cruel extremes people will go to for the sake of money.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Todd Adams, age 40
Positive—This movie is a masterpiece, plain and simple. We’re living in a time where mediocre Hollywood trash such as “Shooter,” “Wild Hogs,” and 'Pirates of the Caribbean: 2' pass as entertainment. Thank goodness for filmmakers like the Coen Brothers who bring up intelligent films every once in a while. “No Country for Old Men,” is all about atmosphere. We’re presented with an insanely scary antagonist, and every moment we’re anticipating what he’ll do next. He gives Hannibal Lectre a fight for his AFI ranking on the “Top Villains of All Time.”

The cinematography is stunning, every frame is filled with the perfectly-shot southern landscape. The performances are pitch-perfect, all of them. On a moral level, this movie is really quite positive. Language and sexual content are virtually non-existent, and the violence, while fairly heavy, never crosses over into gratuity. To be honest, from what I’d previously heard about the violence, I was expecting it to be far worse than it was. Its not all that much more violent than the typical R-rated action film. For older viewers, this is a perfect film.

Philosophically, there is a lot of meat to chew it. It deals with questions of life and death, fate and choice, as well (as the title suggests) a person’s role in the world once he grows older. It’s about a man who expected to find God, but never did. Those who discount this movie because there isn’t a “Biblical worldview,” are missing the point. The movie shows a void in the existence of mankind and leaves the audience to ponder that themselves.

Its remarkable to me, that the Coen Brothers cannot only deliver a perfect thriller that works on an entertainment level, but also manage to fill it with deep issues what affect each and every one of us.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Jeremy C, age 18
Positive—I just got back from the theater tonight, having seen NCFOM with a group of men—my dad and two of his friends, plus our ol' neighbor who’s 27. Understand, it was diverse spectrum of ages in attendance. Here’s the kicker: everyone in the group hated it; they thought the ending was terrible, they didn’t like Anton Chigurh, (SPOILER) especially after he killed Carla Jean Moss, etc. But… I like this movie… a lot. Before I saw it, I read that it’s a cat-n-mouse game kind of movie. As I watched it, I realized it’s actually a serial killer flick, and a well-done one at that.

Other reviewers have praised the antagonist as putting Hannibal Lecter to shame. Well, it’s true. I think this particular subgenre of horror has evolved quite a bit since its early days. No longer are we satisfied with one-dimensional villains who maim and kill random characters that grace the screen for but mere seconds of time. Nowadays, you have to use badguys like Jigsaw whose sense of right and wrong are more than just ambivalent, but also cause you think 'why IS he doing this?' Granted, Jigsaw is on the extreme end of complex serial killers whereas bozos like Leatherface are on the other; Anton Chigurh is somewhere past the middle where Lecter sits.

The actor portraying Chigurh was perfect. He had the build, the skewed gait, the chilling stare, and the deep voice. Chigurh was armed with some original weapons, he was calculating and cold, yet strangely still very human, altogether making him very effective as the killer.

My group’s loudest complaint was the ending—know what? This movie, as I said above, is a serial killer flick. Gone are the days when the serial killer murdered innocent extras and characters we had no feeling for. In the modern cinema, the bad guy not only wins, the filmmakers set it up so you’re rooting for the hero—you identify with him through the course of the film—and then blam! He’s killed off. It’s a total switch from the usual “good guy wins in third act.” Other reviewers I see are calling this sort of work the anti-film. I say it’s really Andy Kauffman like—it’s purely an exercise in eliciting anger and rage from the audience. For that, I say “No Country for Old Men” is brilliant.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jacob Keenum, age 21
Positive—A very disturbing and deeply thought provoking movie regarding the nature of man and what implications that nature has on society. All adults should prepare themselves for a violent, yet realistic look into the demise of small town culture. This is by no means a “happy ending” Hollywood blockbuster (which in my opinion is why it is so good).

One of my favorite movies of all time is “O, Brother, Where Art Thou?” A Coen brothers' masterpiece that deals with some of the same qualities found in other Coen movies (chance vs. fate, greed, revenge, humor, etc.); “No Country for Old Men” can be added to the list. Although some of the same Coen brother trademarks are present, the overall tone of this film is unemotional and nihilistic. An engrossing thriller about small town life, realistically portrayed, that has lost it’s moral core due to a few individuals. In everyday life, we hear about the same type of violence on the 11 o’clock news (we just don’t see it up close). And like faith, even though we don’t see it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there!

In the film, a sociopathic killer (Javier Bardem), who seems to be much to easily accepted by some, places his own moral code of honor on the “unfortunate” folks he meets; an old time sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) is slowly losing hope in a world almost 180 degrees different then when his father was alive; and a poor, yet ingenious Vietnam vet (Josh Brolin), who lets greed and his pride dictate his actions to a fault, form a triangle linked with violence. The movie does not glorify violence, yet it shows us how prevalent and accepted it is in society. Also, the violence is used to illustrate the extreme human beings will go to in order to get what they want with total disregard for life.

Most importantly are the questions this film raises: Are we as people left to make up or own moral codes to fit our lifestyles or is there something larger that governs us? How can you condemn a sociopathic killer if you believe “to each his own?” “Is there good and evil or is all relative?” There are more questions one comes away with after this movie, and the ending itself will spark many. I heard someone say audibly in the theater at the end, “Stupid!” We often judge without thinking. This is a movie to be discussed and thought about. The acting, cinematography, and script are by far superior then most of what comes out of Hollywood—another reason to recommend it. Go see this with an non-Christian friend. I believe it is an awesome witnessing tool.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Kevin, age 40
Positive—This is a very good movie, in fact, it’s close to brilliant. It’s a simple story about a drug deal gone bad, but directed in a way only the Coen Brothers know how; little music, only tones and heightened sound effects mixed with clever visuals makes this film thrilling and unpredictable. Though it isn’t for all tastes; the film is extremely violent and grim, so caution to those who dislike that sort of thing.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—J. P. Hoban, age 18
Positive—This is one of the best films of the year. I have seen it three times already, and everytime that I have seen it, I have noticed something that I did not notice beforehand. The acting and direction is flawless. The Coens have made another masterpiece to add to their prestigious filmography. Some people may find it pointless, but they obviously didn’t get the point. It’s a film about life and death, and, as a recurring line of dialogue reminds us constantly in the film, 'you can’t stop what’s coming'. Recommended for ages 18 and up.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Adam Renkovish, age 25
Positive—I have given this movie and offensive rating only so parents can know the level of violence that this movie contains. This movie does contain some of the most graphically depicted violence I have seen outside a war movie. However, this does not mean that I believe this is a bad film. The violence, though over the top (and yes could have been dialed back some and still had the desired effect), was used to tell a story of greed and wrong choices. The Bible says that the way of the flesh leads to death. And in this film, the way of the flesh is what everyone is choosing; a choice being made by many of our world today. And these choices demand attention. The story begins with Llewelyn walking up on the carnage of a drug deal gone bad. And when he sees the drugs in the back of a pick-up, well that is when his flesh gets in the way. And he decides to steal the money. The money is then where this story is centered from that point on. Every character from then on is driven by the money. (Except for Llewelyn’s wife, who wishes her husband would forget about it.) And this leads to killings and revenge and one of the best cat-and-mouse tales to come along in years. The love of money is the root of all evil and plenty of evil is displayed, even in the good characters because of this. The remainder of the film is a testament of what chasing worldly and fleshly desires lead to: death. And even those characters who do not die, end up with nothing for all there troubles. So, if you can handle graphic violence and want to see what God meant about the fleshly desires leading to death, this is a good example. And, at least for me reminded me of why I follow God’s will and not my own.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Scott Thomas, age 25
Negative—The movie is, as a whole well-written, directed, and acted. However, it is the ending that I find so despicable. Giving it away would be spoiling it for would-be viewers, but suffice it to say that it is due to a typical viewpoint held by Hollywood. Let the viewer decide for him/herself.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Bret Helm, age 41
Neutral—I cannot understand all the positive reviews of this film. There basically is no ending. The film, for it’s genre, is enjoyable to view, but with no climax, no resolve, and no purpose for putting ourselves through the entire ordeal. There is no payoff to this film. When the movie credits rolled, there was a man sitting in front of me in a packed and stunned theater, who echoed our sentiments as he threw his hands up in the air, and declared, “That’s IT?!!!” I don’t think anyone disagreed, judging by the looks on their faces, and the dejected way we all left the theatre. It was like watching an exciting baseball game for nine innings that was tied at 2, and then the announcer says, “Go home now,” as the players lay their gloves on the field.

My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Timothy Wiebe, age 44

Response to above from another viewer: Positive—I don’t want to go into why this film is the masterwork that it is, but you mention there being no climax, or no ending and I do want to respond to that. The film very much has an ending. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the protagonist and once one recognizes that the film becomes all the more powerful. The ending is exactly what it seems. A good man has given up, the evils of the world have overwhelmed him and as a result evil moves on free to do whatever it pleases. It is a bleak view of the world we live in but a powerful meditation on the evil and violent world around us. 'Evil triumphs when good men fail to act'. This is by far the best film I have seen this year and possibly the best I have seen in the last five or so years. Try to appreciate it for what it is and don’t fit it into the standard box of what a story or film has to be and you may enjoy/take more from it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—John, age 27

Neutral—I expected violence and language coming into this film I am not a Coen brothers fan but I don’t dislike their work either. This movie was stylishly done. The compressed air rifle, if I may be so bold, is a chilling weapon, as (the bad guy) was able to use it for things I would have never have thought of. The movie wasn’t perfect, but it was good. I agree with the part of the review that people have become too used to violence. Still this movie was clever and well done; I enjoyed myself, though only mature audiences should see this. I wouldn’t recommend anyone under 16 seeing this even with adult supervision.
My Ratings: Offensive / 4
—Matthew, age 18
Neutral—If you’re a fan of great moviemaking and aren’t sqeamish about onscreen bloodshed, this one’s worth checking out. Content wise, there is no sexuality, and curse words are surprisingly sparse. This movie is very grim in its outlook on the world, and the ending is certain to dissapoint many (initially, at least), but it’s so beautifully made, I was still glad I saw it.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Neal, age 19
Negative—A well made film, but what dreadful subject material! None of the characters aroused any sympathy, and I couldn’t have cared less who’s head was blown off. And there was plenty of that, with strong, bloody violence! It was all pretty nihilistic stuff, and the ending was poor, as if they didn’t know how to finish the film. Should carry a warning: “Likely you make you exit the cinema feeling totally depressed.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Ken Edwards, age 60, United Kingdom
Negative—If you enjoyed “Heaven’s Gate,” or if you idea of fun is having someone spit in your face, then this is the movie for you! It is filled with blood, gross violence and gore. But if that doesn’t bother you in the least, then consider the endless dialog that has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot or anything else. Maybe you enjoyed the ending to “Heaven’s Gate” or the “Sopranos,” or you like to make up your own ending. Then you will love this movie! If you do pay close attention to the plot, remember one line in the movie that brings it all together: “It just doesn’t matter.” The Cohen brothers have just spit in your face. That’s the real plot.
My Ratings: Offensive / 1
—Don Caldwell, age 56
Neutral—I don’t know how anyone can give this movie anything other than an “extremely offensive” rating. It is one brutal killing after another. And the worldview of the movie is bleakness, hopelessness, and Godlessness. It is a well-done feature film, with the Coen brothers utilizing their many movie-making skills. Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin put in powerful performances. For that reason my reaction is “neutral,” rather than “negative.” However, this is a disturbing story. Unlike Fargo, also by the Coen brothers, where there was hope despite the evil actions of wicked people, in this movie there is no hope.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Halyna Barannik, age 61
Negative—I was very disappointed in the positive comments on this movie. I watched it, hoping there would be some great message or meaning, since Christians were recommending it. Even if the acting was good, that doesn’t make it automatically a good movie. If I want to learn about human nature and how bad greed is and where it can take you, I just have to watch the news. I don’t need to wallow through the blood and gore and watch the sick character of the movie, Chiguth, acting out his sick crimes, to learn that there are psychopaths and serial killers on the loose.

The message it seemed to give at the end of the movie was one of a good man simply giving up for the sake of self-preservation. He (the sheriff) could have asked for help with this case and more assistance. Are we as Christians supposed to just give up fighting for that which is right, because there is so much evil in society at large? Should we just let insane criminals walk the streets because there are just too many to handle? I wouldn’t recommend this movie for any true follower of Christ to watch. There is already too much apathy in the world without this movie justifying it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Janis, age 59 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Questions come to you as you leave the movie, which I believe is the best one for this picture. 'What is our world coming too?' The older generations feel outdated and overmatched. “The insanity of Greed.” The psychotic killer tracking down stolen drug money. “Death of innocence.” “Disloyalty.” It will make you think.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Daniel Varela, age 17