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No Country for Old Men

Good ol' boy Llewellyn (Josh Brolin) discovers the remains of a drug buy while hunting is the south Texas badlands. With everyone shot to pieces he is able to find a large satchel of money. The drug buyers, naturally, discover his theft and set a coldhearted killer named Chigurgh (Javier Bardem) on his trail.

Tommy Lee Jones is a local sheriff contemplating retirement, who witnesses the bodies left in Chigurgh's wake. The reviews for this film so far are calling this movie the best film of the year, and it's up for a few Oscars. After seeing 'Country' my first impression is that the film is a study of despair and hopelessness in the face of an implacable, inevitable evil. Chigurgh sports a Prince Valiant-style haircut and moves through the blood-soaked landscape with a creepy deliberation.

The acting is solid throughout, especially from Bardem as the unstoppable killer and Jones, whose Texas lawman is burnt out and disillusioned from a lifetime of cataloguing the senseless and unstoppable carnage around him. He is contrasted against a younger sheriff who gives him updates about the investigation and invitations to participate, which Jones shrugs off as pointless. The unspoken message: 'Trying to stop violence is a young man's game.' Woody Harrelson puts in a solid performance as a rival assassin set on Llewellyn's trail, but seems a bit underused. It's Bardem's performance that steals the show -- when Chigurgh appears on-screen, you'll know something awful has arrived. The dread he inspires is palpable. 

'No Country for Old Men's unconventional ending will leave some scratching their heads and others feeling vaguely unsatisfied. 'No Country for Old Men' delivers chills through great characters, excellent acting, wondefully real-feeling dialogue and old-fashioned tension-building. There's a scene in which the main character, on the run from Chigurgh, waits in a hotel room, certain that Chigurgh is very, very close -- perhaps on the other side of the door, waiting. The Coen brothers deliver on the thrills.

On one level the story is a standard 'man-on-the-run' tale, but on another it's about the soul-deadening effects of unstoppable violence. At the start of the film, Jones' sheriff delivers a voiceover describing how he's a sheriff, as was his father and grandfather. In that voiceover he says, "Every sheriff puts his soul in jeopardy." But by the film's end we know that the danger Jones describes is not about life and limb, but about a spiritual cynicism brought on by powerlessness to end violence.

It's a great film, period.

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