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No Country for Old Men (2007)


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The next Coen Brothers film... starring Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem.

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IMDB tells me this is the next Coen Brothers film.

Whatever happened to their planned adaptation of Elmore Leonard's Cuba Libre? I guess that project passed on to someone else.

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Well, maybe Hail Caesar is the next project... but I don't see any cast listed yet, and if the leads are already cast in No Country for Old Men...

I guess we'll see.

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Well, I know George Clooney signed on for Hail Caesar. I also seem to recall reading that John Turturro had been cast, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.

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Wow, if the Coen brothers are indeed adapting McCarthy's book, and if they do so faithfully, it will be a change of pace from their normal shtick. No Country... was an excellent novel, but almost unrelentingly dark, with non-quirky sincere characters (some sincerely depraved, but sincere nonetheless). I look forward to seeing how this pans out...

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Wow, if the Coen brothers are indeed adapting McCarthy's book, and if they do so faithfully, it will be a change of pace from their normal shtick. No Country... was an excellent novel, but almost unrelentingly dark, with non-quirky sincere characters (some sincerely depraved, but sincere nonetheless). I look forward to seeing how this pans out...

I haven't read the novel, but a friend has and has relayed much of it. It sounds like it might be aimed more in the vein of Miller's Crossing or The Man Who Wasn't There--an isolated character study of a complex and troubled man. The Coen Brothers are often accused of never taking anything seriously, but some of their darker work is very stone-faced in tone, at times. But, they always make time for witty repartee and goofing around with genre conventions in order to channel their playfulness. Those traits may not be appropriate for this material.

I'm stoked to see that they're aiming high, though. Hopefully it will mark an artistic rejuvenation for the duo and place them back in the front ranks of American Filmmaking where they belong.

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Woody Harrelson and Stephen Root join the cast.

Woo hoo! Root's shown he's a perfect Coen Brothers' talent before, and Harrelson seems to be their kind of character actor too.

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Wow, if the Coen brothers are indeed adapting McCarthy's book, and if they do so faithfully, it will be a change of pace from their normal shtick. No Country... was an excellent novel, but almost unrelentingly dark, with non-quirky sincere characters (some sincerely depraved, but sincere nonetheless). I look forward to seeing how this pans out...

Indeed. Even at their darkest hour, The Man Who Wasn't There, they couldn't resist tossing in some comedy. I like that film a lot, but I just don't see them pulling off McCarthy unless they ditch their schtick.

Maybe some O'Connor, who tosses in some serious notes of black comedy here and there. But not McCarthy.

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Here's a story from one of the locations of No Country For Old Men. The town is Marfa, Texas... the same town where the film Giant was made.

Interestingly, at the same time the Coen's were shooting in Marfa, Paul Thomas Anderson was also filming his next film There Will Be Blood with Daniel Day Lewis, on a ranch just south of Marfa.

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AICN has the first "review."

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I finished the book a few weeks ago, and it really does read as if the Coen Brothers wrote it. In fact, it feels as if it was deliberately crafted as the conclusion to their Stupid Criminals trilogy (Blood Simple/Fargo/and now this).

Even the husband and wife rapid-fire back-and-forth conversations sounded like something from the writers of Raising Arizona. Not quite as zany, but reflecting the same comic rhythms.

But man, when it turns violent... mercy. I am scared of this movie.

I don't know whether to encourage people to read the book ahead of time or not. But *do* read the book, at some point. The conclusion is powerful, disturbing, and mysterious. And there are characters in this book you'll never forget, even though you will probably try.

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Jeffrey Wells loves it: "It's the Coen's best dark film ever -- fuller and more refined than the classic Blood Simple, more solemn and straight-on emotional than Miller's Crossing, and at least on par with their much-loved Fargo. . . . my first occasion for true elevation. I still feel like I'm ten or fifteen pounds lighter. Seeing amazingly well-done films makes you forget about a lot of stuff."

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Wow. Just... wow.

... nothing short of brilliant.

... Javier Bardem ably captures the pathological menace of Chigurh ... And Tommy Lee Jones, in one of his finest performances, stars as Sheriff Bell, the beleaguered lawman who is only able to watch as the carnage unfolds.

It

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Glenn Kenny:

It is always a mistake to make a snap judgement on a Coen Brothers movie. Case in point: Sure, everybody loves The Big Lebowski now, but I well remember the stupefaction with which a helluva lot of critics and much of the viewing public greeted it upon its release. Even with something like Ladykillers, their game is always much deeper than you first might think it is. (Okay, with Intolerable Cruelty, not so much.) So I hesitate before I offer that No Country For Old Men, which premiered tonight in competition at Cannes, is three-quarters of a masterpiece. . . .

Throughout, the Coens modulate their tone -- darkness with an extreme undercurrent of the absurd -- perfectly, at least until [Kelly] MacDonald's show-hick mom enters the picture. She's soon gone though, but by that point the picture itself has changed. It turns ruminant, elides what some might consider major high points of the story, and goes for something more deeply elegiac than anything the filmmakers have ever attempted before. I wasn't the only one thrown by this shift, but I want to let it work over me a little more. Even as I'm chewing on it while typing this, I've got a feeling I may be calling Country a full-fledged masterpiece after I catch it a second time. Or maybe even before then.

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From the Kenny review:

and there's so much vintage Coen dialogue that I had to stop writing it down lest I cramp my hand. (One memorable exchange: "It's a mess, ain't it, Sheriff?" "If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here." I haven't read McCarthy's book, but that bit sound pure Coen to me.)

Yep. And that's what I thought ALL THROUGH THE BOOK as I read it. I'm pretty sure I remember that line. It's McCarthy... but reading it, I thought, "Man... is McCarthy *trying* to sound like the Coen Brothers?"

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Variety's Todd McCarthy (any relation to Cormac? :) ):

A scorching blast of tense genre filmmaking shot through with rich veins of melancholy, down-home philosophy and dark, dark humor, "No Country for Old Men" reps a superior match of source material and filmmaking talent. Cormac McCarthy's bracing and brilliant novel is gold for the Coen brothers, who have handled it respectfully but not slavishly, using its built-in cinematic values while cutting for brevity and infusing it with their own touch. Result is one of the their very best films, a bloody classic of its type destined for acclaim and potentially robust B.O. returns upon release later in the year. . . .

In addition to the pared down dialogue, pic is marked by silences, wind-inflected ones to be found naturally in the empty expanses of the West, as well as breathlessly suspenseful interior interludes, notably an ultra-Hitchcockian sequence in which Moss, aware that Chigurh has tracked him to an old hotel, listens and waits in his room as his hunter comes quietly to his door. . . .

The manner in which the narrative advances is shocking and nearly impossible to predict; viewers who haven't read the best-seller will be gripped by the situations put onscreen and sometimes afraid to see what they fear will happen next. Those familiar with the story will be gratified to behold a terrific novel make the shift in medium managed, for once, with such smarts.

The Coens build a sense of foreboding from the outset without being heavy or pretentious about it. They have consistently worked in the crime genre, of course, beginning with their first film, "Blood Simple," whose seriousness perhaps mostly approximates the tone of this one, although there are overlaps as well with "Miller's Crossing" and "Fargo." But while they have eliminated one especially poignant character from the book in the interests of time, slashed Bell's distinctive philosophical ruminations and perhaps unduly hastened the ending, the brothers have honored McCarthy's serious themes, the integrity of his characters and his essential intentions.

They have also beefed up the laughs, the majority of which stem from the unlikely source of the cold-blooded Chigurh. From the outset, the powerful and commanding Bardem leaves no doubt that Chigurh would just as soon kill you as ask you the time of day. His conversation brooks no nonsense or evasion. But it is the character's utter lack of humor that Bardem and the Coens cleverly offer as the source of the character's humorousness, and the actor makes the most of this approach in a diabolically effective performance. . . .

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Emanuel Levy loves it

"Brilliant from first frame to last, Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men," their mesmerizing adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Cormac McCarthy, is their best film to date, an undisputed masterpiece that impresses on any number of levels. As of Day 4, it's easily the best film in the festival's main competition."

I'm aching to see this.

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Brian D. Johnson:

The Coen brothers' film is their strongest since Fargo. And in some ways, it's a more ambitious, serious and inspiring piece of work than anything they've ever attempted. After a string of inconsequential, smarty-pants pictures in which the Coens seemed bent amusing themselves more than their audience, it's as if they have suddenly matured. . . .

No Country For Old Men marks a return to the Coens' roots: it's Blood Simple writ large, a diabolical puzzle that spreads a Dostoevskian bloodstain of guilt and fear across an epic landscape. I've been non-plussed by the Coens for sometime now, but this is a thrilling breakthrough. . . .

Mike D'Angelo is a little more tempered:

Despite being their first literary adaptation, Old Men is as close as they've ever come to recapturing Blood Simple's virtuoso atmosphere of indolent mayhem. It's the rare movie so moment-to-moment riveting that you're sometimes in danger of forgetting to breathe. . . .

For most of its two-hour running time, No Country for Old Men jangles your nerves so expertly that there's no time to consider what the film might actually be about. But adapting any novel involves making sacrifices, and that's doubly true in the case of an author as philosophically inclined as McCarthy. To their credit, the Coens make a concerted effort to preserve some of the novel's bone-weary pessimism; in the end, though, I suspect that it's just too deeply encoded in McCarthy's eloquent prose to survive the transition. The film's abrupt, deliberately unresolved ending, which I gather is quite faithful to the book, comes across here less as an elegy for civilization (as it was clearly intended) than as a mere failure of imagination. In a way, Joel and Ethan have succeeded all too well -- they've made such a twisted corker of a suspense movie that their belated stab at profundity feels ad hoc, as if imposed from without. But it's not as if we're drowning in corkers at the moment, so let's not be overly demanding.

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After a string of inconsequential, smarty-pants pictures in which the Coens seemed bent amusing themselves more than their audience, it's as if they have suddenly matured. . . .

Man, this just drives me nuts. The Coens are versatile. They play in a variety of modes. And they love to change things up and surprise us, one movie to the next. To say that they're amusing themselves more than their audience just shows that this fellow is either ignorant or deliberately ignoring the Coens' cult following. If I recall correctly, a fair number of people were very much "amused" by Lebowski, O Brother, and even Intolerable Cruelty. And if anything, The Man Who Wasn't There toed the line of being a little too deliberately "mature."

And what was Barton Fink, which scored impressively at Cannes? Wasn't that an ambitious, thoughtful, complex piece of work that was about a whole lot more than amusement?

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Man, this just drives me nuts. The Coens are versatile. They play in a variety of modes. And they love to change things up and surprise us, one movie to the next. To say that they're amusing themselves more than their audience just shows that this fellow is either ignorant or deliberately ignoring the Coens' cult following.

I like the Coens a lot, but I can appreciate how their extreme knowingness can be read as condescension. Although their recent spate of comedies are amusing enough, I've been longing for them to make another Fargo (the only film of theirs, with the possible exception of The Big Lebowski, to feature fully realized characters, and not just cruel parodies of real people).

This movie sounds like it could really deliver.

Edited by Nathaniel

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: And what was Barton Fink . . .

It was before Fargo.

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Although, now that I think of it, I am reminded of the Owen Gleiberman review which said the film was ultimately about nothing so much as it was about itself.

Hmmm... Ah yes, here it is: "In its dour, detached way, the movie is fun to watch-you have no idea what's coming next-but, even more than such previous Coen pictures as Raising Arizona and Miller's Crossing, it's finally not about anything but itself."

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I like the Coens a lot, but I can appreciate how their extreme knowingness can be read as condescension. Although their recent spate of comedies are amusing enough, I've been longing for them to make another Fargo (the only film of theirs, with the possible exception of The Big Lebowski, to feature fully realized characters, and not just cruel parodies of real people).

I disagree with this. I think the majority of the Coens' films have fully realized characters, its just that the characters and the world(s) they inhabit don't perfectly mirror our own. Miller's Crossing, in particular, has the Coens' single most complex and conflicted character in Tom Reagan, he just happens to be the fast-talking noir archetype that we all know from classic hard-boiled literature and cinema, as well. Ed Crane from The Man Who Wasn't There as well. And H.I. from Raising Arizona.

I've never felt Fargo was the Coens' best film, or even one of their best, really. I think the reason why it earned more mainstream critical success than the rest of their work is because it's perhaps their only film (along with, possibly, Blood Simple) that does exist in the real world with real people. But I don't think sculpting characters that may be some sort of tweaked genre fixture necessarily precludes them from being fully realized -- I think this is one of the duo's strong suits, actually; creating these characters that simultaneously work as genre commentary and real characters with real depth. I also don't see why people are so keen on labeling intelligent filmmakers who often utilize somewhat less-than-intelligent characters as condescending.

Having said this, I still found their last two films awful.

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Anne Thompson:

It's going to be hard to beat for the Palme d'Or.

Andrew O'Hehir:

If there's a favorite for the Palme d'Or among the competition films shown so far, it's probably the Coens' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel (second place, by a nose, goes to "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," a wrenching film about abortion in Ceausescu-era Romania). It's the most ambitious and impressive Coen film in at least a decade, featuring the flat, sun-blasted landscapes of west Texas -- spectacularly shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins -- and an eerily memorable performance by Javier Bardem, in a Ringo Starr haircut, as a Terminator-esque hit man with a cattle-killing air gun.

Edited by Christian

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I think the majority of the Coens' films have fully realized characters, its just that the characters and the world(s) they inhabit don't perfectly mirror our own.

I can accept this as a rationalization of their peculiar (and highly stylized) aesthetic, yet I still feel as though the majority of their characters lack spontaneity. No one seems to be moving of their own accord; the puppet strings are always visible. (This is also an accusation commonly leveled against Quentin Tarantino.)

I've never felt Fargo was the Coens' best film, or even one of their best, really. I think the reason why it earned more mainstream critical success than the rest of their work is because it's perhaps their only film (along with, possibly, Blood Simple) that does exist in the real world with real people.

This, of course, is crucial to the film's greatness. The Coens' scrupulous attention to detail (with special attention paid to Minnesotan dress, cuisine, and verbiage) for once did not feel like mere ritual but had a connection to real life, and consequently moved me as no previous film of theirs had. Since I hold genuine emotion in higher regard than practically anything else in movies, I have no misgivings about hailing Fargo as their greatest achievement. A strong case can also be made for it being the funniest, most thematically rich, best-acted, best-made film in the Coen canon, as well as the most optimistic (or rather least pessimistic) about human nature.

Based on early reports, it sounds like No Country for Old Men flirts with nihilism, but that only raises the stakes. A mere modicum of grace could turn it into an emotional powerhouse.

Edited by Nathaniel

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