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No Country For Old Men

Year: 2007
Studio: Paramount Vantage
Director: Ethan Coen/Joel Cohen
Producer: Ethan Coen/Joel Cohen/Scott Rudin
Writer: Ethan Coen/Joel Cohen/Cormac McCarthy
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald, Woody Harrelson
Somebody - probably the brothers themselves - told the Coens they'd lost their way. The Zucker brothers-inspired misfire Intolerable Cruelty just wasn't their core service offering, and the dire (by their standards) The Ladykillers seemed the first nail in their coffin.

Evidently they squirreled themselves away in a hotel room and hammered together what they wanted to be their best film yet on the back of a simple premise. Rancher Llewellyn (Brolin) comes across a bloody scene in the Texas desert. A drug deal gone wrong has left a trail of bodies and a suitcase full of cash.

The no-nonsense, pragmatic Lew goes about taking the money and throwing the expected heat off his trail with a convoluted scheme of sending his wife away (Trainspotting and Gosford Park's Kelly MacDonald in a revelatory role as a trailer park Texan wife), moving from hotel to hotel and trying to lay low.

What he doesn't reckon on is merciless killer Anton Chigurh (Bardem), the scariest villain since The Terminator (and a lot like him). Chigurh has used his signature weapon - a gas pressure-powered airgun used to slaughter cattle - to stay one step behind Llewellyn, double crossing his employers and following the trail thanks to the transmitter hidden in the cash.

It's a violent, brutal thriller with little of the humour the Coens are famous for, and you can tell they've put everything into it. The scenery - from blood-splattered floors of fleapit motels to the wide, dusty expanses of the panhandle - is beautiful, the performances all restrained and the result is a work of art as carefully crafted as Fincher's Zodiac.

Tommy Lee Jones has the lion's share of good lines thanks to his downhome Texas homilies as the local sheriff, but his role seems curiously separate from the rest of the action. Despite some contrived plot holes, you're happy for the story to carry you along, and you'll be glad you let it.

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