The film is beautifully shot, and expertly acted. I especially liked Tommy Lee Jones’s performance. It’s also and wonderfully written. Delightful and often funny dialogue and exquisite cinematography are interspersed only occasionally with brief sequences of action. And even these action sequences proceed at a measured pace, echoing the methodical determination of the story’s villain. His presence is felt throughout the film, even when he’s not in the scene. Even though the film is slow, it is never boring. The tension is maintained from start to finish.
The film’s violence is shocking not so much for its graphic nature but for its cruel pointlessness. Numb incomprehension in the face of heartless cruelty is a theme revisited many times, in the words of one character after another. Love and bravado aren’t enough to win the day; just when you think there is some fateful justice in the world, you watch as the wicked walk free. The story is a cautionary tale, blasting at once our culture’s slow decline into apathy, and the often simple-minded reactions this descent elicits from everyday people. I wonder how the average person reacts to this film: is it a call to action, or a reminder that life is pointless?
If you have a strong constitution and want to see a great film, No Country for Old Men fits the bill. I’m glad I saw the film, but I still hope the next Cohen Brothers movie is a bit more lighthearted.