The Coens have been pretty disappointing in recent years after a string of superb thrillers put them on top of the pile in the early nineties, and this is their best effort since Fargo.
The characterisation of the two leads (and a half if you count Tommy Lee's sheriff) is done brilliantly and the movie takes next to no time to drag you in with an intensely watchable first half. I'd go as far as to say that the first two-thirds of the movie set a new standard for the thriller genre, as rarely have I been so drawn into a story as I have this manhunt.
It plays out like one of those bad dreams where you can't shake a baddie, and in Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh the silver screen has been given one of its most absolutely terrifying baddies yet. Goodbye Hannibal Lecter, by rights Chigurh should replace you in the lexicon as a name associated with psychopaths.
So why did they mess up the last third? I'll try to avoid spoilers here, but they could have given us the plot twist in a less mind-boggling way and still adequately put across the film's ultimate meaning. Instead we get David-Lynched with a was-he-in-the-room was-he-not-in-the-room psychological shambles.
Unlike a few reviewers who seemed to think the movie ran a bit slowly, I was left wanting more. A movie that's so well paced for two thirds shouldn't just have a "beers lead to more beers" moment and drunkenly shift tack the way it did. Million Dollar Baby did that and I'd list it as the worst Best Picture winner I've ever seen. No Country for Old Men survives being ruined, but leaving out the movie's pivotal action scene, and a couple of other linking scenes which would have drawn us towards the conclusion better, left me asking questions for the last week.
Suppose it's a good sign that film can still make us think so hard.
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