When No Country for Old Men (2007) was released 10 years ago, the Coen brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel was widely regarded as the new climax of the acclaimed duo. The film cleaned up at the 80th Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Screenplay, Dialogue, Director, and Supporting Cast. In a year when masterful films such as The Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford and Eastern Promises were disputed, it was a huge hit.
A modern western thriller, No Country for Old Men, sees Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a welder and Vietnam veteran, stumble upon a drug deal that goes wrong – very wrongly – in the West Texas desert. After a briefcase containing $2 million is found and stolen, Moss finds himself hunted by a relentless, curly-haired killing machine named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem).
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Not only is the money recovering and cashing in, Chigurh takes horrific pleasure in terrorizing or killing nearly everyone he encounters with his captive bolt pistol. As the lives of Moss and Chigurh become inextricably linked, Queens enrich this suspense-packed game of cat and mouse with a thoughtful exploration of themes of fate and destiny.
Besides Brolin and Bardem, there are unforgettable turns from Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald and, in particular, Tommy Lee Jones. The latter’s performance as a devious old local police chief Ed Tom Bell is presented in succinct, captivating global exhaustion. Meanwhile, the drama punctuates masterful cinematographer Roger Deakins’ wide-angle images of the scattered desert, which served as a deadly epic backdrop to the violent chaos that followed.
A decade later, the grandeur of No Country for Old Men has not been affected. Here are five movies you might enjoy if you like modern Coens classics.
The Researchers (1956)
Influencing a host of major filmmakers, from David Lean to Martin Scorsese, John Ford’s popular Western film, A tale of revenge, love and obsession, is considered one of the greatest American films of all time. John Wayne plays weary Civil War hero Ethan Edwards, who is determinedly searching for his niece across the southwestern desert after she is kidnapped by the Comanche. The depiction of epic quest was reflected across the American landscape in fantastic films from Taxi Driver (1976) to Paris, Texas (1984), and the groundbreaking stories of both contemporary Ford and Anthony Mann were certainly a major inspiration for Coens’ new Western.
Touch of Evil (1958)
A infamous tale of crime and corruption in a frontier town that should appeal to Coens fans, Touch of Evil features Orson Welles as a quirky cop and Charlton Heston and Janet Lee as newlyweds immersed in his shadowy world. While now viewed as a masterpiece of the black film, Welles was a box office failure and would become his last Hollywood film. She is still legendary in her opening three-minute tracking shot, which ends with a bomb exploding. Equally intriguing is the scene in which Lee’s character is threatened in her Mexican motel. It presages the horrific nighttime sequence in No Country for Old Men in which Chigurh appears at the hotel where Moss is hiding.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Director: Sam Peckinpagh
Sam Peckinpah’s tale of revenge, rape, and death is a terrible and horrific tale – hard to watch but impossible to ignore. Through the gruesome pursuit of Warren Oates’ Bennie, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a nihilistic journey into the mind of his tormented alcoholic boss. As Penny and his girlfriend Elita go to search for the body of a certain Alfredo Garcia, they hope to receive a $1 million reward from a Mexican baron who wants Garcia’s head to unload his daughter. This terrifying bounty hunt encounters chaos and murder at every turn.
Director: James Cameron
Although the comparison may not be straightforward, James Cameron’s classic sci-fi classic and Queens-directed thriller do share similarities. Anton Chigurh’s armed and tireless pursuit of Llewelyn Moss is largely from the playbook of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg killing machine, which – according to Kyle Reese’s character – “will never stop, until you die!” Sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor before she can have her son, Separator is part man and machine. Cameron’s film was made on a modest budget but proved a huge hit at the box office, astonishing audiences with its thrilling repertoire.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Director: Andrew Dominic
He refers to such “anti-Western” people as Robert Altman McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), directed by Chopper Andrew Dominic, is a sad and lost revisionist work, adapted from Ron Hansen’s 1983 novel of the same name. Unfolded on the snowy, windswept plains of Missouri, the film tells the story of the death of legendary outlaw and gunslinger Jesse James (Brad Pitt) at the hands of co-worker Robert Ford (Casey Affleck). Connecting the film to No Country for Old Men is director of photography Roger Dickens. Combined with the somber and melancholy soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Deakins’ brown-and-yellow palette gives the film a somber, melancholy, grim, and engaging quality.