Wednesday, November 07, 2007

No Country for Old Men

I love the Cohen Brothers' films, and I have enjoyed the Cormac McCarthy novels I have read. So it seems like a match made in heaven for the Cohens to make their first literary adaptation a McCarthy novel.

Rolling Stone gives it 4 stars (out of 4):

Misguided souls will tell you that No Country for Old Men is out for blood, focused on vengeance and unconcerned with the larger world outside a standard-issue suspense plot. Those people, of course, are deaf, dumb and blind to anything that isn't spelled out between commercials on dying TV networks. Joel and Ethan Coen's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel is an indisputably great movie, at this point the year's very best. Set in 1980 in West Texas, where the chase is on for stolen drug money, the film — a new career peak for the Coen brothers, who share writing and directing credits — is a literate meditation (scary words for the Transformers crowd) on America's bloodlust for the easy fix. It's also as entertaining as hell, which tends to rile up elitists. What do the criminal acts of losers in a flyover state have to do with the life of the mind?

Plenty, as it turns out. McCarthy reveals a soulless America that is no country for anyone, never mind old men. The so-called codger representing besieged law and order is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones with the kind of wit and assurance that reveals a master actor at the top of his game. On the page, the sheriff is a tad too folksy, dishing out cracker-barrel wisdom to his good wife, Loretta (Tess Harper), with a twinkle written into his homespun truths. As you already know by now (and In the Valley of Elah categorically proves it), Mr. Jones does not do twinkle. He's a hard-ass. And when he chews into a good line, you can see the bite marks. Here's the sheriff on how crime has gotten so out of hand: "It starts when you begin to overlook bad manners. Anytime you quit hearin' 'sir' and 'ma'am,' the end is pretty much in sight."

That unpretty end takes the form of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), an assassin who rivals Hannibal Lecter for dispatching his victims without breaking a sweat. Bardem, with pale skin and the world's worst haircut, is stupendous in the role, a monster for the ages. Beneath his dark eyes lies something darker, evil topped with the cherry of perverse humor. Chigurh carries around a bulky cattle gun. He'll politely ask a mark to get out of a car before he caps him in the head; that way the car won't get messy with gristle and brain matter. And he has this little game he plays. Staring at the human species like a visitor from another planet, Chigurh flips a coin. Your choice of heads or tails might just save your life. Only don't piss him off.

Read the whole review.

Reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.

The trailer:

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