by John Stoehr
No Country for Old Men, directed by the Coen brothers, is grim, relentless, and fantastic. Javier Bardem (above) should be recognized for his achievement. He's created a character who never slips into bad guy cliche: the wild lunatic or the blithe lunatic. He shows rage and anxiety without ever appearing deranged. It's truly frightening how cold-blooded he is. But what's more frightening is the theme of fate: how it's amoral and inhuman. When Bardem's victims tell him that he doesn't have to do this (i.e., murder them), he smiles and says that everyone always says that, as if "having" to do something has anything to do with it. In Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, the causes of brutality are of no importance; what matters is effect. There is no why, only how and when. If that's the way life is, that's truly scary. —J.S.