Arts & Life


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Cormac McCarthy's novel, "No Country for Old Men," is about violence in 1980's Texas. The novel had scarcely arrived in bookstores in 2005 when it was optioned by filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.

SIEGEL: The Coen brothers chose actor Josh Brolin to portray the film's rugged, dusty booted protagonist, Llewelyn Moss. In a few minutes, we'll hear from Josh Brolin.

NORRIS: First, our critic Bob Mondello has this review.

BOB MONDELLO: A hunter, stalking a wounded deer in the Texas desert comes across a scene of carnage, a drug deal gone wrong, corpses everywhere and $2 million in a suitcase. The hunter, played by Josh Brolin, takes the suitcase. And knowing that he's about to go from hunter to hunted, he takes a few precautions, too, spiriting himself out of town in one direction, and his wife in another.

(Soundbite of movie "No Country for Old Men")

Ms. KELLY MACDONALD (Actress): (As Carla Jean Moss) I got a bad feeling, Llewelyn.

Mr. JOSH BROLIN (Actor): (As Llewelyn Moss) Well, I got a good one. So they ought to even out. You got to quit your worrying so much.

Ms. MACDONALD: (As Carla Jean Moss) Mama's gonna raise hell. She is just gonna curse you up and down

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) You should be used to that.

Ms. MACDONALD: (As Carla Jean Moss) I'm used to lots of things, I work at Wal-Mart.

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) Not anymore, Carla Jean. You're retired.

MONDELLO: Dreams of independence, however, will have to wait. Already on Llewelyn's trail is a psycho with a Buster Brown haircut and a weird weapon of choice that leaves no clues, which has local sheriff Tommy Lee Jones perplexed.

(Soundbite of movie "No Country for Old Men")

Mr. TOMMY LEE JONES (Actor): (As Ed Tom Bell) Wasn't no bullet?

Mr. GARRET DILLAHUNT (Actor): (As Wendell) Yes, sir. Wasn't none.

Mr. JONES: (As Ed Tom Bell) Well, Wendell, with all due respect, that don't make a lot of sense.

Mr. DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) No, sir.

Mr. JONES: (As Ed Tom Bell) You said entry wound in the forehead, no exit wound.

Mr. DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) Yes, sir.

Mr. JONES: (As Ed Tom Bell) Are you telling me he shot this boy in the head and then went digging around in there with a pocket knife?

Mr. DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) Sir, I don't want to picture that.

Mr. JONES: (As Ed Tom Bell) I don't either.

MONDELLO: The sheriff will eventually connect the killer and the hunter, and will prove pretty good at playing catch-up, in a film that directors Joel and Ethan Coen have orchestrated as one, long, seriously alarming chase sequence.

Like the Coen Brothers early films, "No Country for Old Men" is a genre exercise, controlled, precise and exquisite in its imagery as it makes an audience cringe with pulses pounding. Javier Bardem, playing killer Chigurh, makes humorlessness look scarily psychotic, and one hotel sequence is nerve-rattling enough to make you forget to breathe.

Still, despite working with a plot about implacable malice, the Coen Brothers don't overdo. You could even say they know the value of understatement. At one point, they inspire chills simply by having a character check his boots as he steps from a doorway into the sunlight. Blood has pooled often enough in "No Country for Old Men" that they don't have to show you what he's checking for.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of movie "No Country for Old Men")

Mr. JAVIER BARDEM (Actor): (As Anton Chigurh) You know how this is gonna turn out don't you?

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) No.

Mr. BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) I think you do. So this is what I'll offer. You bring me the money and I'll let her go. That's the best deal you're gonna get. I won't tell you you can save yourself because you can't.

Mr. BROLIN: (As Llewelyn Moss) Yeah, I'm gonna bring you something all right. I've decided to make you a special project of mine. You ain't gonna have to look for me at all.

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