Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Company: Paramount Vantage / Miramax Films
Runtime: 122 minutes
The film is about three men connected by crime and death.
The first man is Llewelyn Moss, a welder who goes on deer shooting one sunny afternoon. After seeing a crime scene where there are two cars with drugs on their trunks, he discovers a bag filled with money. Because no one was alive in the scene, he took it.
The second one is Anton Chigurh, a mysterious psychopathic killer who runs after the money that Llewelyn carries. He was tasked to get the money, and with his murderous tricks, he’ll do anything just to get the money back.
The third man is Tom Bell, a sheriff soon to retire trying to trace the whereabouts of Llewelyn and Anton. Serving as the moral element of the story, Tom worries what is happening to his life and to his surroundings.
Throughout the movie is a relentless cat-and-mouse game that results to bloodshed.
So, wow! What a movie!
The direction is as good as you can get. This two-headed director brings out the best of the material in creating an unbearably tense movie that surely brings entertainment and brilliance together. Look at how they bring a very controlled and suffocating atmosphere that never drops the ball when it’s not supposed to. Right from the start of the film, the directors already set a very grim mood that perfectly paces the opening. It’s a very quiet opening, but it definitely pushes the tension right into us as we witness the violence being immersed unto us.
As the movie moves forward, the direction gives us time to breathe, but the creeping sensation of danger is always there. There is always an impending feeling that death just clings somewhere. There are scenes where they just talk about life, but we are always placed on a situation where we constantly look out for any signs of peril ahead. There is a lot of uncertainty going around in the whole film, and there are a lot of events that could have been randomly placed, but with the director’s full guidance, the film is tightly made and it is a very effective thriller, thanks to its direction.
The screenplay also works so well in creating this world so tense and so intense. Just like the direction, the screenplay relentlessly envelopes the scenario presented in the film with either unbearable ticking clock of the demented psychosis of the characters, or with a subtle but very effective comic relief.
There are times in the movie is built through quietness, every second of silence accelerating the incoming danger. There is the scene where Llewelyn is trying to get the money from where he hid it. Anton hears noises and goes on a very quiet search, costing three lives of people not even involved with the money. That whole scene doesn’t have dialogue, and yet, the screenplay does a lot of work in it.
And there are also times where it is the dialogue that raises the tension. Two scenes to mention in that statement – the scene between Anton and the gas station owner, and the scene between Anton and the desert aire manager – all of these scenes don’t have blood or guns in it. But Anton himself is written as a deadly weapon that will kill you wherever you are. Each scene of interaction creates a ticking time bomb, every tick leading to the possible death.
Aside from the tension made by the writing, I also want to applaud how it had written the characters. Each character has their motives clear unto us – Llewelyn wants a better life, Anton kills for his job, and Tom does everything because he is supposed to. There are stereotypes used to create a bigger palette of people present in this world.
The cinematography of the film helps a lot in painting death all around it. Sure, the dark shades of the landscapes help a lot in shading the film, but it is the interior shots that will definitely haunt you. Some scenes are lit in such a way that the light is almost confined to a corner, as if the darkness is taking over it all. Or when there is light, that is definitely not the light that will bring warmth and comfort, it is still a dangerous light.
The editing is top-notch. Because of the quiet yet intense nature of the direction, the editing enforces the almost uncontrollable sight of death with the brilliant cuts in the scenes. Wrong editing would automatically give us boring scenes, but the editing itself is in full blast that its pace definitely holds our attention, no matter how bad is happening in front of our eyes.
The sound does a lot with the editing since the movie has almost non-existent music and it’s the sound that feeds the mood to us. Every crunch that we hear from the broken glass provides the rhythm in the scenes. There’s almost no music, but with the editing and sound in synchronization in perfecting the flow of the story, who needs music?
The cast is certainly on the top of their form.
Josh Brolin is great as Llewelyn. He wants no harm, but when he gets into it, he has got no other choice but to respond to the need of a reply from the attackers. Somehow, his actions are really unsympathetic because, who would get money from a crime scene? There’s a lot of crap in it. I myself wouldn’t get the bag of money, even if it is millions. But Brolin anchors a sense of approachability and understanding to Llewelyn the character that we know that he only got the money for the good.
Tommy Lee Jones is good as Tom. He is the most low-key of all the characters in the film and he comes as passive, but that doesn’t mean that he’s got nothing to do. He serves the need for morality and desire for life in the movie. Everybody’s going to die in this game of cat and mouse, but he does his job to prevent it. Something hinders him a bit, and that is his feeling of sadness as he approaches retirement. With all of this thrown in his back, Lee Jones successfully brings every emotion that the role demands. He closes the film with a monologue filled with despair, but somewhat with hope, leaving a remarkable symbol of underlying life ahead of them.
Kelly MacDonald is the only female character in the film that actually means a lot to the narrative, and she serves the role efficiently. Though I did not find her job to be amazing, it’s her performance that profoundly indicates what the movie is about – confusion and desperation. She’s got a husband in trouble, and she faced death face-to-face, and all of these are acted realistically by MacDonald.
Javier Bardem is Anton Chigurh, as someone has said. He completely inhabits the role with such mastery, proficiency, and care that we are just so captivated by his Anton Chigurh. Every move that he makes is calculated, but definitely unpredictable. The haircut could have brought a lot to the character, but without Bardem, the film is nothing. He graces the screen with such confidence and darkness, making Chigurh one of the greatest villains that ever appeared in the history of motion pictures. Words aren’t enough to express how I feel about his. Just watch him.
The rest of the actors in small parts live the spirit of the movie itself. There is the fat manager, the motel receptionist, the businessman, and all of them.
This is a very effective thriller that does not just scares the hell out of you, but it manages to slowly creep under your skin, resulting to better results. The film will stand the test of time, I’m telling you.
For this, the movie gets:
What are your thoughts, dear reader?