No country for heroes or Hollywood endings

Movie Review”No Country for Old Men”Paramount Vantage5 StarsThe Coen brothers, it seems, are obsessed with triads. In “The Big Lebowski” there was the Holy Trinity of Jeff Bridg?es, John Goodman Steve Buscemi as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. This theory could be extended a little further to include Freud’s levels of the self: ego, superego and id. “No Country For Old Men,” Ethan and Joel Coen’s latest film, an adaptation of the novel by Cormac McCarthy, is no exception. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is the film’s hero, a cowboy born in the wrong century; he lives with his wife (Kelly MacDonald) in a trailer park in Texas. Out hunting one day in the desert he stumbles on a drug deal gone wrong, the bodies of the men involved (and their dead dog) bloating in the sun. The camera pans across them excruciating slowly as Moss investigates the carnage – driving home the pure ordinariness of the violence amplified in the silence of the surrounding landscape. Moss finds $2 million in a suitcase next to a dead man, takes it and leaves. The film could be described as a “Western-once-the-American-dream-lost-its-momentum-and-ran-into-the-sea-with-an-anti-climatic-plot.” Moss is hunted by Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) a hit man hired to recover the money to whomever it belongs. Bardem here is violence par excellence (he kills people with a cattle gun and a shotgun with a silencer on it) and gives the best performance in the film. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell played brilliantly by Tommy Lee Jones is the drawling Law-man, a plains philosopher who sets out to protect Moss and his wife from the psychotic Anton. He finds that (antithetical to the genre’s standards and expectations) to his latent horror, he can’t. This impotency is pervasive as the action unfolds as a creepy suspicion that we’re not going to get a Hollywood ending, that justice will not be served. Moss isn’t the hero we expected him to be (he’s pretty skittish in a couple of scenes) and somehow his resourcefulness isn’t cutting it. Why couldn’t he escape Anton, meet up with his sweet little lady and ride off into the sunset, why can’t he just drop the whole thing and give the psycho his money? The answer is that he can’t do any of those things because he is the psycho Anton and Anton, the psycho, is him. Moss is just as culpable for Anton’s violence as Anton himself. If Bolin is the ego, and if Tommy Lee Jones is the superego, the little voice of the Law inside Bolin’s head, then Bardem, primordial violence, is his id. He is hovering ethereally wherever Bolin wanders, and wherever he roams. If this is true, then they are – all three of them – the same man. Not only are there no heroes in this country, but every hero is also a villain and the old moral vestiges of the Law, in black and white, no longer apply. Good and Evil, once diametrically opposed, are now two sides of the same coin – heads or tails? It doesn’t matter.