|No Country for Old Men|
|Starring:||Tommy Lee Jones|
|Distributor:||Miramax Films (US)|
Paramount Vantage (non-US)
November 9, 2007
November 21, 2007
December 26, 2007
January 18, 2008
|Internet Movie Database entry 0477348|
No Country for Old Men is a 2007 crime thriller film adapted for the screen and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. Adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name,  No Country for Old Men tells the story of a botched drug deal and the ensuing cat-and-mouse drama, as three men crisscross each other's paths in the desert landscape of 1980 West Texas. The film examines the themes of fate and circumstance the Coen brothers have previously explored in Blood Simple and Fargo.
No Country for Old Men has been highly praised by critics. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it "as good a film as the Coen brothers...have ever made." Guardian journalist John Patterson said the film proved "that the Coens' technical abilities, and their feel for a landscape-based Western classicism reminiscent of Anthony Mann and Sam Peckinpah, are matched by few living directors." The film was honored with numerous awards, garnering three British Academy of Film awards, two Golden Globes, and four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Joel and Ethan Coen), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem).
The film opens with shots of desolate, wide-open country in West Texas in June 1980, where Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) laments the increasing violence in a region where he, like his late father before him, has risen to the office of sheriff. As he concludes his voiceover, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a sociopathic hit man, is arrested by a sheriff's deputy. Chigurh escapes by strangling the arresting deputy to death with his handcuffs, then follows by stealing a patrol car and killing a man he pulls over using a captive bolt pistol (his signature weapon, which he also uses to break into places by blowing out lock cylinders).
Meanwhile, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), is hunting pronghorn near the Rio Grande when he discovers a group of corpses, vehicles and a lone dying Mexican, the aftermath of a heroin deal gone awry. He also finds two million dollars in a satchel a short distance from the massacre and drives home. Moss cannot sleep from pangs of conscience and returns with water for the dying man, but he's discovered by returning Mexican gangsters. Moss barely escapes, his boots lost and his truck abandoned.
Chigurh does a tour of the crime scene with a pair of well-dressed gangsters. He grabs Moss's truck's registration plate, debriefs the pair, receives their transponder, and kills them.
Bell arrives the next day with his deputy and recognizes the truck belonging to Moss.
Moss realizes the money's owners will trace his truck in the morning and insists that his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) take a bus to her mother's home in Odessa, Texas. Chigurh arrives as predicted, breaks into the trailer using his captive bolt pistol but finds nothing of use but a bottle of milk and the latest phone bill.
Taking hiding in a Del Rio motel, Moss stashes the satchel of money in a ventilation duct and goes out to replace his boots. Upon his return after dark, he realizes he's been followed and spends the night elsewhere.
Chigurh calls a number from the Moss phone bill and talks briefly to Carla Jean's mother in Odessa. He drives to Del Rio and almost immediately receives a signal from the transponder that allows him to trace the satchel to Moss's room. Meanwhile, Moss has returned to the motel to rent another room connected to the ventilation duct. He's rigged a tool of tent poles and coat hangers to reach the satchel. That night, Chigurh bursts into Moss's original room and slaughters the Mexicans. Searching for the satchel, he notices the vent cover, unscrews it from the wall using a dime, and discovers he's too late; Moss makes his way to a border town hotel with the satchel.
Moss finally discovers the radio transponder hidden in the money. Moments later, Chigurh arrives, and the two engage in an intense firefight that spills onto the streets. In the aftermath, Moss is left badly wounded and desperate. Making his way to the border on foot, he tosses the satchel over the fence where it comes to rest in the underbrush of the Rio Grande. Chigurh treats a shotgun wound to his leg with stolen meds and gruesome courage.
Wells finds Moss in a Mexican hospital and offers to save his life in exchange for the cash, an offer that is declined resolutely. Wells leaves his number with Moss and rechecks Moss's likely route to the hospital. There, Wells's eye falls on the satchel in the underbrush. Before he can retrieve it, he is confronted at his hotel by an armed Chigurh. The antagonists spar verbally until the phone rings. Chigurh shoots Wells, carefully keeping his boots out of the blood, and answers the phone. He tells Moss that he'll spare Carla Jean if he brings him the money. Moss's response is defiant; he walks out of the hospital.
After Moss retrieves the satchel, he calls Carla Jean to set up a meeting in an El Paso motel where he can give her the money and send her out of harm's way. Chigurh goes to the office of the funds' owner and ends his life. Carla Jean, worried for Moss's safety, contacts Sheriff Bell and gives him the location of the meet. On the way to the bus station in Odessa, Carla Jean's mother inadvertently reveals her destination city to a natty Mexican gangster. On the road, Chigurh guesses that Moss will go to the nearest airport, which happens to be El Paso's.
As Bell approaches the motel, he comes upon the tail end of a carnage that tells him that the Mexicans got there first. Hours later, Carla Jean arrives and learns of her husband's fate. In a meeting with the local sheriff, he is told that very little cash was found in the room. After dinner, Bell returns to the crime scene to find that the lock to Moss's hotel room door has been blown out, Chigurh style. Inside, Chigurh hides silently. His gun drawn, Bell enters the room. All is quiet, although he notices the vent cover has been removed with a dime and the ventilation duct is empty.
Days later, Bell visits his Uncle Ellis (Barry Corbin), an ex-lawman who is wheelchair-bound because a criminal shot him. Bell is planning to retire due to his weariness of the changing times, but Ellis points out that the region has always been violent. Ellis also discusses how the man who left him a paraplegic died in prison. He accuses the despondent Bell of "vanity" in thinking that he could personally make a difference, and adds that no one forced him to sign on as a deputy.
Carla Jean returns from her mother's funeral to find Chigurh lying in wait. He recalls the pledge he made to her husband if he did not sacrifice himself to spare her -- a notion she does not accept -- before he offers her a chance to save her life by calling a coin toss. Carla Jean will not play, instead reminding him that the choice is his alone.
Chigurh comes out of the house and doublechecks the bottoms of his boots before he drives away. As he navigates the quiet, sunny streets, his car is struck by a station wagon running a red light; he suffers a compound fracture in his arm but manages to walk away before the authorities arrive.
Now retired, Bell shares a simple breakfast with his wife Loretta (Tess Harper), relating two disquieting dreams, both involving his deceased father. In the first dream he lost "some money" that his father had given him; in the second, his father rode past him on a snowy mountain pass, going ahead to make a fire in the surrounding cold darkness. Whenever Bell got there, he knew his father would be waiting. Then he woke up.
While No Country for Old Men is a "doggedly faithful" adaptation of McCarthy's 2005 novel and its themes, the film also revisits themes which the Coens had explored in their earlier movies Blood Simple and Fargo. The novel's motifs of chance, free-will, and predestination are familiar territory for the Coen brothers, who presented similar threads and tapestries of "fate [and] circumstance" in earlier works including Raising Arizona, which featured another seemingly unkillable maniacal hitman, albeit less serious in tone.  Numerous critics cited the importance of chance to both the novel and the film, focusing on Chigurh's fate-deciding coin flipping, but noted that the nature of the film medium made it difficult to include the "self-reflective qualities of McCarthy’s novel."
In The Village Voice, Scott Foundas writes that "Like McCarthy, the Coens are markedly less interested in who (if anyone) gets away with the loot than in the primal forces that urge the characters forward... In the end, everyone in No Country for Old Men is both hunter and hunted, members of some endangered species trying to forestall their extinction." Roger Ebert writes that "the movie demonstrates how pitiful ordinary human feelings are in the face of implacable injustice."
New York Times critic A.O. Scott points out that Chigurh, Moss, and Bell each "occupy the screen one at a time, almost never appearing in the frame together, even as their fates become ever more intimately entwined."
Producer Scott Rudin bought the book rights to McCarthy's novel and suggested a film adaptation to the Coen Brothers, who at the time were attempting to adapt the novel To the White Sea by James Dickey. By August 2005, the Coen Brothers agreed to write and direct a film adaptation of No Country for Old Men, having identified with how the novel provided a sense of place and also how it played with genre conventions. Joel Coen said of the unconventional approach, "That was familiar, congenial to us; we're naturally attracted to subverting genre. We liked the fact that the bad guys never really meet the good guys, that McCarthy did not follow through on formula expectations."  The Coens also identified the appeal of the novel to be its "pitiless quality". Ethan Coen explained, "That's a hallmark of the book, which has an unforgiving landscape and characters but is also about finding some kind of beauty without being sentimental." The adaptation was to be the second of McCarthy's work, following the 2000 film All the Pretty Horses.
The brothers kept the script faithful to the book, only pruning the story where necessary. The script was so faithful to the novel that Ethan described the screenwriting process by saying, "[O]ne of us types into the computer while the other holds the spine of the book open flat." A teenage runaway who appeared late in the book and the backstory related to Bell were both removed. Also changed from the source material was Carla Jean Moss' reaction when finally faced with the imposing figure of Chigurh. As Kelly MacDonald explained to CanMag: "The ending of the book is different. She reacts more in the way I react. She kind of falls apart. In the film she's been through so much and she can't lose any more. It's just she's got this quiet acceptance of it."
The writing is also notable for its minimal use of dialogue, relying mostly on imagery and editing to create the film's dramatic tension. Josh Brolin discussed his initial nervousness with having so little dialogue to work with:
I mean it was a fear, for sure, because dialogue that’s what you kind of rest upon as an actor, you know? [...] Drama and all the stuff is all dialogue motivated. You have to figure out different ways to convey ideas. You don’t want to over-compensate because the fear is that you’re going to be boring if nothing’s going on. You start doing this and this and taking off your hat and putting it on again or some bullshit that doesn’t need to be there. So yeah, I was a little afraid of that in the beginning.
Actors Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones entered talks to join the cast in February 2006. Jones was the first actor to be officially cast in No Country for Old Men. The Coen Brothers felt that Jones fit the role since they wanted to avoid sentimentality and not have the audiences perceive the character to be a Charley Weaver. Praising Tommy Lee Jones' credentials, the Coen brothers said, "He's from San Saba, Texas, not far from where the movie takes place. He's the real thing regarding that region." Joel Coen further outlined the directors' reasons for hiring Tommy Lee Jones in interview with Emanuel Levy:
There are just very, very few people who can carry a role like this one [...] Sheriff Bell is the soul of the movie and also, in a fundamental way, the region is so much a part of Sheriff Bell, so we needed someone who understood it [...] It’s a role that also requires a kind of subtlety that only a really, really great actor can bring to it. Again, the list of these is pretty short, so when you put those two criteria together, you come up with Tommy Lee Jones. Being a Texan, the region is a part of his core.
Josh Brolin joined the cast shortly after in April, prior to the start of production. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino filmed Brolin's first audition for the movie on a Panavision Genesis camera during lunch while filming Grindhouse. However, Brolin was initially overlooked for the role of Llewelyn. Other actors had been offered the role, including Heath Ledger, who turned down the offer to take time off from acting. According to Brolin, the Coens' only response to the audition tape was, "Who lit it?" Brolin said it was only due to his agents' persistence that he eventually got a callback:
What I found out now was their last casting session, they were focused on a couple of actors. They called me the night before and they said, basically, no harm, no foul. ‘Leave us alone, have him come down.’ I studied a few scenes and I came down and I met them, and there was really no reaction in the meeting. I walked out thinking, ‘It was great meeting the Coens. I’m a big fan. That’s cool.’ And by the time I got home I found out they wanted me to do it.
Brolin broke his collarbone in a motorcycle accident a few days before filming was due to begin; however he and his doctor lied about the extent of his injury to the Coens and they let him continue in the role.
The Coens later wrote a short tongue-in-cheek piece for Esquire magazine called "Josh Brolin, the Casting Mistake of the Year," in which they claimed to have believed that they had cast James Brolin in the role of the aging Vietnam vet, and upon realizing their mistake were forced to reset the movie in the year 1980, and attempted, unsuccessfully, to recast Tommy Lee Jones' role with Shia LaBeouf.
Kelly Macdonald's agent originally wasn't sure she was right for the part of Moss' wife, and Macdonald is reported as having to "fight for the role". Her persistence paid off though, as she was nominated for a BAFTA for best supporting actress.
The project was a co-production between Miramax Films and Paramount's classics-based division in a 50/50 partnership, and production was scheduled for May 2006 in New Mexico and Texas. With a total budget of $25 million, production was slated to take place in the cities of Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as in the state of Texas. Filmmakers estimated spending between $12 and $17 million of the budget in New Mexico. A movie set of a border checkpoint was built at the intersection of Interstate 25 and New Mexico State Highway 65. The bulk of the film was shot in New Mexico, and primarily there in Las Vegas, which doubled as the border towns of Eagle Pass and Del Rio, Texas. The U.S.-Mexico border crossing bridge was actually a freeway overpass in Las Vegas. Other scenes were filmed around Marfa and Sanderson in West Texas, and the scene in the town square was filmed in Piedras Negras, Coahuila in Mexico.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, collaborating with the Coen Brothers for the ninth time, spoke of his approach to the film's look: "The big challenge on No Country for Old Men is making it very realistic, to match the story. It's early days, but I'm imagining doing it very edgy and dark, and quite sparse. Not so stylized."
One of the Coen brothers' influences was the works of director Sam Peckinpah. In an interview for The Guardian, they said "Hard men in the south-west shooting each other – that's definitely Sam Peckinpah's thing. We were aware of those similarities, certainly." In an interview in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Coens discussed choreographing and directing the film's violent scenes: " 'That stuff is such fun to do,' the brothers chime in at the mention of their penchant for blood-letting. 'Even Javier would come in by the end of the movie, rub his hands together and say, 'OK, who am I killing today?' adds Joel. 'It's fun to figure out,' says Ethan. 'It's fun working out how to choreograph it, how to shoot it, how to engage audiences watching it.'"
Josh Brolin discussed the brothers' directing style in interview, saying that the Coens "Only really say what needs to be said. They don’t sit there as directors and manipulate you and go into page after page to try to get you to a certain place. They may come in and say one word or two words, so that was nice to be around in order to feed the other thing. What should I do right now? I’ll just watch Ethan go humming to himself and pacing. Maybe that’s what I should do, too.'"
Unusual for a thriller, the Coens worked against Hollywood convention and minimized the score used in the film, leaving large sections devoid of music. The concept was Ethan's, who persuaded a skeptical Joel to go with that idea. There is some music in the movie, scored by the Coens' longtime composer, Carter Burwell, but after finding that "most musical instruments didn’t fit with the minimalist sound sculpture he had in mind [...] he used singing bowls, standing metal bells traditionally employed in Buddhist meditation practice that produce a sustained tone when rubbed." The movie contains a "mere" 16 minutes of music, with several of those in the end credits. The music in the trailer was called "Diabolic Clockwork" by Two Steps From Hell. Sound editing and effects were provided by another longtime Coens collaborator, Skip Lievsay, who used a mixture of emphatic sounds (gun shots) and ambient noise (engine noise, prairie winds) in the mix. The cattle gun used by Chigurh was in fact voiced by a pneumatic nail gun.
No Country for Old Men premiered in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2007. The film commercially opened in limited release in 28 theaters in the United States on November 9, 2007, grossing $1,226,333 over the opening weekend. The film expanded to a wide release in 860 theaters in the United States on November 21, 2007, grossing $7,776,773 over the first weekend. The film subsequently increased the number of theaters to 2,037. The film opened in Australia on December 26, 2007, and in the United Kingdom (limited release) and Ireland on January 18, 2008. As of February 13th, 2009, the film has grossed $74,283,000 domestically (United States).
The Region 2 DVD (courtesy of Paramount) was released on June 2. If purchased from Play.com the DVD comes with a set of limited edition art cards. HMV is selling the DVD in an exclusive Steelbook case. The film was released on Blu-ray Disc in the UK on September 8, 2008.
A 3-disc Special Editon with Digital Copy has been announced for release on April 7, 2009
As of October 22, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes recorded that 199 of 211 (94%) critics gave the film positive reviews, while another review aggregator, Metacritic, records an average score of 91%, based on 37 reviews. The film was widely discussed as a possible candidate for several Oscars,   before going on to receive eight nominations, eventually winning four Academy Awards in 2008. Javier Bardem, in particular, has received considerable praise for his performance in the film. Roger Ebert gave the movie a four star review saying that it was "a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, human nature and fate." Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central also praised the film as an effective adaptation of the source novel, declaring "...the Coens have distilled the essence of McCarthy's gash-deep nostalgia for the illusory, ephemeral past... and packaged it in the very best moments of their own well of extraordinary visions". Two minority, dissenting voices were Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader) and Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Stephen Hunter (The Washington Post). Rosenbaum gave it 1.5 out of 5 stars, saying while admiring the film's aesthetics, questioned its moral culpability: for him, the Coens expend great energy on depicting horror, while encouraging us to "hypocritically shake our heads at the sadness of it all". Hunter gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars and also acknowledged the Coens's film craft, but "just [didn't] like it very much": "Nobody goes to the movies for the irony. They go for the satisfaction."
David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz both gave the film five stars. Stratton remarked "this magnificent film represents the best work the Coen Brothers have done since Fargo. Like that movie classic, this is a cold-blooded thriller with a darkly humorous edge" and "Hitchcock wouldn’t have done the suspense better." Pomeranz said "it resonates within me. It's got such a sense of place and language." Time magazine's Richard Corliss named the film one of the Top 10 Movies of 2007, ranking it at #1. Corliss praised Bardem’s performance as “mesmerizing” and “astonishing”, and the film as “dry, funny, beautifully acted, thrillingly cinematic.” Corliss’ fellow Time writer Richard Schickel ranked the film #2 on his own Top 10 list, saying that the film returned the Coen brothers “to their best emotional territory of Fargo and Miller's Crossing, a place where comic innocence and unmediated violence explosively coexist. You don't know whether to laugh or cry, but you cannot avert your eyes from the resulting chaos.”
The film appeared on more critics' top ten lists (354) than any other film of 2007, and was more critics' #1 film (90) than any other. Some of the notable critics' placement of No Country for Old Men are:
See also: List of No Country for Old Men awards and nominations. No Country for Old Men was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture. Additionally, Javier Bardem won Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role; the Coen Brothers won Achievement in Directing (Best Director) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Other nominations included Best Film Editing (the Coen Brothers as Roderick Jaynes), Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.
The film was nominated for four Golden Globe Awards, winning two at the 65th Golden Globe Awards. Javier Bardem won Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture and the Coen Brothers won Best Screenplay – Motion Picture. The film was also nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Director (Coen Brothers). Earlier in 2007 it was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The Screen Actors Guild gave a nomination nod to the cast for its "Outstanding Performance". The film won top honors at the Directors Guild of America Awards for Joel and Ethan Coen. The film was nominated for nine Orange British Academy Film Awards's in 2008 and won in three categories; Joel and Ethan Coen winning the award for Best Director, Roger Deakins winning for Best Cinematography and Javier Bardem winning for Best Supporting Actor.
Consonant with the positive critical response, No Country for Old Men received widespread formal recognition from numerous North American critics' associations (New York Film Critics Circle, Toronto Film Critics Association, Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Online, Chicago Film Critics Association, Boston Society of Film Critics, Austin Film Critics Association, and San Diego Film Critics Society).     The American Film Institute listed it as an AFI Movie of the Year for 2007, and the Australian Film Critics Association and Houston Film Critics Society both voted it best film of 2007.