Pinnacle filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen create a controlled, faithful vision of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, set in 1980. These brothers accept the role of director, screenwriter and producer so well, especially after extensive experience together strengthened by a talented crew of Coen film regulars. The brothers even edit the film together under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. This amazing 122 minute story features three amazing male lead roles.
Tommy Lee Jones drives the main theme of the film as the capable protagonist Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The Texas native Jones is a perfect fit as a practical lawman who investigates a desert drug deal gone wrong while reflecting on violent changes he sees in today’s society. Oscar® winner Javier Bardem plays the memorable villain Anton Chigurh, a violent man with no background and no remorse.
Chigurh, a hired hitman hunting down some missing money, represents a direct contrast to the Sheriff’s view of justice. Nothing about him matches with regular society – his actions, his mannerisms, his choice of weapon or his haircut. Josh Brolin definitely deserved an Oscar® nomination for his role as Llewelyn Moss, the man with varying morals between the Sheriff and Chigurh. He puts himself in the middle of the investigation while trying to make a better life for him and his wife, Carla.
Woody Harrelson seems miscast as Carson Wells, a tracker who has crossed paths with the infamous Chigurh. Just listening to his “bubonic plague” dialogue might make you wonder how he got the role. He’s not menacing or smart…just lucky to be there and possibly shed some light on Chigurh. Kelly MacDonald (Gosford Park) gets her role and Texas accent perfect as Carla Jean Moss.
Action, thrills, crime and drama permeate this dialogue rich story filled with great banter between characters and even some subtle humor among all the characters. “Where’d you get the pistol?” Carla asks Llewelyn. “At the gettin’ place,” he says. The ending definitely doesn’t fit all the issues into a convenient little package, but it doesn’t disappoint.
DVD extras include the standard “making of” featurettes where the usually shy Coen brothers awkwardly describe their movie. Detailed descriptions of violence logistics behind the scenes evoke the Coens’ love for filmmaking as their crew creatively stages scenes of violence, action and gore. The remaining “Working with Coens” and “Diary of a Country Sheriff” featurettes are surprisingly short.
Widescreen options (16:9 format) are available along with Dolby digital sound. Subtitles are also available in Spanish, English and French. Hopefully there are better extras (like a director’s commentary) and other options in possible future versions of this memorable film. This highly recommended film (****) has average DVD extras (**) and is rated R for strong graphic violence, language and some sexual references. Also available in Blu-ray.
This Oscar® winning Best Picture has high-caliber action and thrills, but needs better extras and a Coen directory commentary.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler