I am a huge Coen brothers fan and agree that The Ladykillers was a mistep but if it hadn't been for the four year gap no other reviewer would be harking on at how they've lost their way. So here is a promise; This review will not feature the words 'Return' 'To' and 'Form'. Well it might contain the word 'To' as its quite a common preposition.
No Country for Old Men deals with that Coen regular, a big stack of cash. Said cash is found by Llewllyn Moss (Josh Brolin), he is then huntered by hitman/psychopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to put an end to the bloodbath that the killer creates. Forgetting those inventive character names for a moment the true genius is just how much tension the film creates from such a simple premise. And boy does it create tension.
Playing at times like a Coen brothers best of (the caring law enforcer of Fargo, the Southern U.S of Blood Simple, even a couple of 'Nam references for the Lebowski-ites and a crotchety old lady straight out of The Ladykillers) No Country expands upon all their past work to great effect and shows the wait was worth it.
The good, the bad and the man in the middle are all fully rounded and represented here. As the middle man Josh Brolin isn't eminantly likeable yet we still root for him to survive, to stay one step ahead. How Tommy Lee Jones has not been used before by the writer/directors is confusing to say the least when he fits so perfectly into their world. His hang-dog, world-weariness this time taking on a sadness that pins the story down, evoking the message that he just doesn't understand the bad things he sees. The baddest thing of all being Anton, the kind of villain that can give a grown man nightmares. He will kill you if you see him and he will kill you if you inconveniance him. For him there is no difference. That he can bleed and he can be stopped only serves to make him more terrifying.
Without having read the book its hard to say which are McCarthys words and which are the trademark Coen dialogue but either way there are lines and phrases that I'd give my left ball to be able to conjure up. (My personal favourite being "A true story? I couldn't swear to every detail but it's certainly true that it is a story.") High parise also has to go to regular Coen cinematographer Roger Deakins who shot both this and The Assasination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford. Two of the best looking films in years in the same year. Well done sir.
Having to watch every film this year is starting to look a lot easier. The problem will now be finding the time to watch the great ones more than once. And this is a great one.