The new drama from filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy, weaves a dark and violent - but also fascinating - tale of murder, betrayal and hope on the dusty plains of West Texas. Alan Silverman has a look at No Country For Old Men.
Drug smuggling across the Mexican border into Texas is something that Sheriff Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, has to deal with more and more; so when he and a deputy arrive at a desolate spot along the Rio Grande to investigate the blood-soaked scene of a shootout, it appears to be more of the same.
There was money: $2 million that a local handyman named Moss discovered when he happened on the murder scene before the sheriff got there. And it is not long before the drug smuggler sends out a deadly enforcer named Anton Shugar to reclaim the cash by any means necessary.
Spanish screen star Javier Bardem plays the unpredictable and coldly efficient killer.
"He is not an active person, he is kind of still; but once he has this moment he goes wild," Bardem says. "He can not stop himself. That's what makes him difficult to really expect."
Shugar's quarry shows unexpected qualities, too, as he tries to get away with the stash of money to create a new future for his family. Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss.
"I like the fact that the purity of who Moss is ...the purity of his intent ...he is motivated out of the love of his wife and his future, being able to give something different instead of take something," Brolin says. "He takes dirty money. Dirty money is dirty money. Anybody can take dirty money, especially if they are going to make good with it. Then you have Shugar, who has principles and integrity in what he does, and they go head to head.
"Really, it's a cat-and-mouse thriller, but it is also an absurdist comedy in moments," he adds. "There is a bunch of different things mixed up into this and you can't really pigeonhole it as anything."
It can definitely be described as violent, but co-writer and co-director Joel Coen says that comes directly from the novel on which it is based.
"It is a very, very violent book, as are many of the books that Cormac McCarthy writes. It seemed to us completely misguided to try to soft-pedal that in an adaptation; but it wasn't something we worried about," he says. "It was just an element of the book that was important that we felt had to be included and was like any other directorial problem: you have to figure out how to do it, what to show, how much to show and find some reasonable, appropriate balance with it."
His brother and co-writer/director Ethan Coen also credits the source material for the vivid depiction of the West Texas characters and the landscape in which the story unfolds.
"Most of that sense of place comes from Cormac McCarthy. Part of what attracted us to the novel in the first place is how specific that was," he says.
No Country For Old Men also features Scottish-born Kelly MacDonald as Moss's unsuspecting wife who gets caught up in the violent events.
"I think there was a huge amount of respect and love there," she says."That's why they could be so funny with each other; and I think when he towns, for economic reasons, much of No Country For Old Men was shot in New Mexico.