Being bad is more fun than being good. If this was not the case no one would have heard of Hugh Hefner. No Country for Old Men is a perfect example of this. The movie has two good performances (Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin), one very underrated and darkly funny performance (Woody Harelson) and one skin crawling, vicious, scare the crap out of Hannibal Lector Performance, in what could be the best performance of the decade (Javier Bardem).
This is a great movie. The Cohen Brothers, in the first of their two entries on this list, prove once again that they cannot be placed in one type of movie. They make brilliant comedies (Raising Arizona, Burn after Reading) and incredible dramas (The Man who wasn’t there and Miller’s Crossing) and movies that cannot be truly categorized (Big Labowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Their only consistency is brilliance. They take chances with the work they do. They focus on making good work that they find interesting and seem to follow the belief that people will seek out good films.
Their work brings up the classic Chicken and the Egg argument about filmmakers. Do filmmakers need to find an audience with commercial films and then make the films they want to make that are much more creative and better? See David Fincher’s arc of Alien 3 to Fight Club to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Or should filmmakers make their own passion projects gain credibility and then make commercial films to secure financing for more adventures films. See Steven Soderbergh’s arc Sex, Lies and Videotapes to Ocean’s 12 to The Girlfriend Experience.
I personally like this film because it introduced me to the writing of Cormac McCarthy. He is a brilliant writer whose work has been turned into other works including All the Pretty Horses and The Road (my favorite book I read in 2009).
However, this movie rises and falls based on the brilliant and evil performance of Javier Bardem. His character of Anton Chigurh is introduced to the audience by having him strangle a man to death with his own handcuffs. Then he gets mean. The character is purely evil. He enjoys exerting his power over other people. He enjoys watching their fear before they die. I cannot adequately describe his work on this page.
Go watch this movie as part of a Cohen Brothers Double feature along with their classic Raising Arizona. Both films have the parallel structure of a Husband and Wife being pursued by an evil character because they took something that does not belong to them. These parallel by polar opposite films show the Cohen’s genus and take the audience on an amazing journey.