No Country For Old Men


**Note: There are a few scenes of violence and blood.

I saw this movie just after its release onto DVD as it was one of those up for Best Picture at the Oscars–and it won. I read this book recently as well, just after I decided to start this series on the Top 100 Modern Classic Films. This movie also won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, so I thought before I commented on the movie I might as well read the book to compare.

First of all, I really like Cormac McCarthy‘s writing style. Much like the tone and theme of his books, he writes in a stark manner, not embellishing excessively, but giving the right amount in order to fully convey what he wants. He wastes no words, and every line is flawless.

In the same way, the Coen Brothers (who I reviewed earlier with The Big Lebowski, and I know I’ll discuss them again later) deliver a harsh, bleak film very much akin to the source material. I know that it should be an obvious thing to say about a film adaptation of a novel, but I know that actually adhering to the source material is often ignored (*cough* PercyJackson *cough*). Overall, it’s a good adaptation, other than a few things cut out and rearranged, we have a pretty solid adaptation. At the very least it’s a great thematic adaptation, absolutely capturing the spirit of the novel.

The film depicts Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a welder from a small west Texas town, who happens upon the aftermath of a shootout between Mexican drug runners. There’s a lot of dead men, stacks of heroin, and a suitcase with $2.4 million dollars in it. He decides that he’ll take the money and run. Because of this one of the enforcers for the Mexican drug lords, Anton Chigurh–a cold-blooded, ruthless, unstoppable killer with no conscience (played by Javier Bardem, who won a well-earned Oscar for Best Supporting Actor)–but he’s got rules, it seems. He will kill anyone, just for inconveniencing him, but some he may spare if he feels like it (often due to the flip of a coin). Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff who’s out to keep Llewelyn alive.

“This country’s hard on people. You can’t stop what’s coming”

Just like the writing style of the novel, the themes are pretty straightforward. There is evil in the heart of man, and sooner or later it’ll come out, some in worse ways that others. The Sheriff is now dealing with things unheard of in his younger days, and he’s not fully able to deal with them. He sees things which get increasingly worse as time presses onward, and these things weigh on him and he just can’t reconcile what he continues to see.

While certainly not uplifting, it does reflect a lot of what I can see in the world today. I’m not sure of the need to dwell on it, but I suppose that it’s important to recognize the truth in it.

Verdict: Like the rest of the Coen Brothers’ movies, this is technically flawless–the cinematography is phenomenal. Thematically it’s intensely dark and dreadful, but still significant for unflinchingly recognizing a difficult truth. I’m pretty sure I won’t ever watch it again, but it made an impact on me the first time I saw it. I’d say it certainly deserves consideration as a modern classic for its technical and thematic brilliance.

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