No Country for Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers have visited most genres, but their area of interest has recurringly been the same: American rural and small-town life of past and present. With No Country for Old Men the Coens' thematic line has come full circle and culminated in an all-encompassing and timeless tale of the perpetual ambiguity of the American west. Set in 1980, No Country for Old Men is the logical continuation of the western in a way no filmmaker has been able to convey it before. It is not a conclusion to the genre (there is little conclusive in here) - it is rather an interpretation of what became of the cowboys, the sheriffs and the lone gunmen.
Through the short-sighted but insightful and philosophical third generation sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones), the Coens tell of the cyclic and unalterable nature that characterises the system of human interaction we call society. And in that society, there will always be a breed of men whose moral system doesn't fit in with that of the general public. Like the Coens' best criminal settings, such as in Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing or Fargo, life in No Country for Old Men is grim and unforgiving, but never hopeless. It is the auteurs' poetic language that makes us see that on a basic level, No Country for Old Men is a universal tale that shares a lot of filmatic traits with films ranging from A bout de souffle and Taxi Driver to Unforgiven - tales of tormented characters and environments that despite their highly local and particular nature, have a timelessness and an allegoric quality to them that characterizes the great artworks they are a part of.
In addition to being visionaries, the Coens have become increasingly skilful craftsmen over the years. No Country for Old Men is a captivatingly well-made film - one that is so full of vigour and potency that you are afraid to touch it for fear that it will go off in front of you. The Coen brothers fill their film with nerve and tension and packs it in their usual peculiar warmth. It is when the simple becomes complex in an unforced manner like here that the film medium is at its very best. Like with Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, this film combines the delicately entertaining with the harrowingly realistic that we dread contemplating. Joel and Ethan Coen have finally gone all the way.