There are several reasons I'm a huge mark for movies made by the Coen Brothers. The audience can usually count on: tightly written and well delivered dialogue, designed to move the plot along as much as--or more, maybe--than the action; the type of pacing that allows the movie to unfold, without fear of using silence and wide angles to tell the story effectively; and the use of humor or drama to tell the aftermath of a single decision made by the protagonist.
No Country For Old Men, adapted by the brothers from a Cormac MaCarthy novel, is being hailed a masterpiece. All the elements you'd expect--a flawed lead who makes a decision that dramatically changes the course of his life, a bad-guy-on-a-mission who will do anything to reach his goal and a character that serves as the moral compass for the audience, watching and commenting from the periphery--are in the film.
Josh Brolin is better than ever as Llewelyn Moss, who happens upon a drug deal gone bad that changes everything for him and several others. Sheriff Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is incredible in his role as social commentator. But it's Javier Bardem, who plays assassin Anton Chigurh who is getting the most critical acclaim, and for good reason. His is a complex character that you hate yourself for rooting for.
But you kinda do.
The Coen film illustrates the cultural shift toward overt greed and materialism that took place in the early 1980s. Sure, we're used to capitalist businesses exploiting and manipulating for a buck or two. But the drug trade that kicked into overdrive during the 70s and 80s allowed individuals to function as a for-profit: bring in the smack on the cheap, keep overhead low and sell at a premium rate. The greed and violence that resulted changed our culture, probably forever. The US of A is no longer the country our fathers knew. And its fast paced, violent, greedy nature isn't for the weak.
That's what the Coen Brothers are highlighting with this movie.
While I really liked the film, I call it one step short of a masterpiece. There is a subplot involving [cough] Woody Harrelson that is unnecessary, and a small number of plot twists that are unbelievable in what is otherwise a very human and believable story. The audience I saw it with--including my friend Bobby, who wondered aloud if he could get half his admission price back--hated the ending. It is inconclusive, and vague at best.
But that's what life--and the stories that come out of it-- is, sometimes.