No Country for Old Men, the new film from Joel and Ethan Coen, is an unquestionable return to form. It is scary, funny, moving, violent, and meaningful, in pretty much equal measure. The Coens' take on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name is a pairing as successful, as seamless, as delicious as that of chocolate and peanut butter.
Josh Brolin gives the finest of his four excellent performances this year as Llewelyn Moss. Moss is a struggling everyman who stumbles upon a circle of trucks and dead Mexicans in the desert -- a heroin deal gone bad. Real bad. The lone survivor asks Moss for some agua, and Moss ignores the request. He surveys the scene and eventually comes upon a suitcase filled with $2 million dollars. Moss' response upon finding the money? A simple "Yeah." It's a perfect moment in a movie packed with them. Moss takes the money and returns home to his trailer and his wife Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald). Soon, his conscience begins to nag at him, and he decides to head back to the scene of the crime to give the dying man a drink. A compassionate decision, but not, as you can probably imagine, an intelligent one.
Javier Bardem plays Anton Chigurh (start to say Chicago and then growl and you're close to the pronunciation). I'll leave his specific involvement in the proceedings up to you to figure out, but just know that he really wants that $2 million. Moss will come to refer to Chigurh as "the ultimate badass," and that's about right. Chigurh is a classic screen villain, the kind we haven't seen in far too long. Every time he appears on screen, cattle stunner in tow, it just makes your heart sink -- somebody is going down. Much like Hannibal Lecter, the guy is a vicious, remorseless killer, but he has a strangely sensible logic and one can't help but be seduced by him. Bardem, sporting a Prince Valiant haircut, gives a flawless performance here, one that will likely be noticed come Oscar time. He completely disappears into Chigurh.