The Coen brothers No Country for Old Men, adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s inimitable novel, is the most perfectly directed genre-movie since Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai.
There isn’t a single flaw in its meticulous construction, like a drill bit with helical symmetry, it’s a wonder to watch it methodically whirl. And when our craftsman’s attention has been exhausted, the Coen brothers take it up a notch and move past mere genre conventions and formalistic symmetry, imbuing their film with the very complexity of nature via deliberately skewed asymmetrical constructions.
To the uninitiated observer, such fluctuations or deviations may appear arbitrary, like the unexpected and unseen death of “protagonist” Llewelyn Moss for instance, when in fact these disturbances or hiccups are methodically chosen to bring about an altogether new symmetric state. Yes, it all gets very academic and Byzantine when we enter the field of physics and discuss pattern formations, yet it is so tempting to attempt a mathematical formula to surgically lay bare what the Coen’s have so expertly concocted when all we have is mere words to ply our trade.
As the Academy illustrated, No Country for Old Men is not a difficult film to watch, understand, or even appreciate. However, it is a difficult film for critics to intellectually bleed dry. The film is a master-class in ambiguity, ambivalence, and understatement. It is no mere crime thriller. No Country for Old Men is alternately a comment on the state of the nation; a Manichean allegory depicting a battle between the quick and the quicker and the quickest; a cautionary sermon on the economics of social Darwinism; a philosophic inquiry into the role of chance amid predetermined affairs. It is something to behold.
With its 122 minutes of kabbalistic odds and evens gamesmanship, it is the best film the Coen’s have ever made and possibly the best film the Coen’s ever will make. No Country for Old Men is their profound omega point.