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No Country for Old Men (2007)

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#41 Overstreet

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 02:15 PM

QUOTE
The Coens give Javier Bardim many of the best lines.


And thus, they did the work of literary adaptation.

Hmm. I don't expect Hughes to like the film. I'm just saying that Chigurh is made to seem intriguing, it's because he is like that in the book.

Did the audience laugh and clap because they were supposed to? Or was it like Silence of the Lambs, where some of us sit horrified while others celebrate the malevolence and bloodshed?

#42 Jason Panella

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 02:22 PM

QUOTE(Jeffrey Overstreet @ Sep 13 2007, 03:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Did the audience laugh and clap because they were supposed to? Or was it like Silence of the Lambs, where some of us sit horrified while others celebrate the malevolence and bloodshed?


I really want to lean toward the latter, especially as a fan of both the the Coens and McCarthy. I was drawn to Chigurh during the novel, but never in a "I think he's cool" sort of way. Having watched the various trailers dozens of times, it seems like the Coens aren't making him out to be some wacky antihero. If people are laughing and clapping, that makes me feel sad about the people doing the laughing and clapping.

#43 Titus

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 03:33 PM

Jim Emerson labels the Coens the essence of movies


#44 Overstreet

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 11:39 AM

It's one of the most faithful literary adaptations I've ever seen. A few adjustments here and there, and the ending is a little different. But it captures McCarthy's voice and style and themes perfectly.

But on the question of "masterpiece" ... well...

I don't think it belongs in the top tier of Coen films (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo, Miller's Crossing). I realize that Coen fans rarely agree on what qualifies as a top-tier Coen film. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm more impressed when they make movies from their own scripts. Don't get me wrong... No Country is great, and the Coens have done an admirable job of translating McCarthy's book. I guess I'm just more impressed when a director comes up with a great original story of his or her own. It feels as though the Coens made the film because McCarthy's book follows so closely the plots of Blood Simple and Fargo.

When I read the book, I thought it felt like a tribute to the Coens. Thus, it just feels strange to have them go back over so much similar territory. And the movie is, as you might expect, full of subtle references (intentional and unintentional, I suspect) to their previous work. Tommy Lee Jones plays the male Marge Gunderson, always a step behind the storm, musing about how the world's going to hell in a handbasket and he just can't understand it. There are tense scenes involving darkness and headlights in a night pursuit (as in Blood Simple and Fargo). Chigurh slows down on the road for the sole purpose of shooting an animal by the side of the road... just like the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse in Raising Arizona. A camera glides by a counter where someone has been shot, almost exactly as it did in Fargo's parking garage desk. Josh Brolin's performance will make you wonder if Llewellyn is related to The Dude. And when a bewildered bystander says, "Mister, you got a bone stickin' outta your arm," it sounds an awful lot like, "Son, you got a pantie on your head." Frankly, whether or not these are intentional, the self-referencing bugs me. I'd rather see them blaze a new trail.

The cast is fantastic, with one exception (and I'll wait to see if anybody else agrees). There's minor character who's played in a fashion much more over-the-top than the rest, and comes across more as a Saturday Night Live sketch character than a person living in the world of this movie.

The film's most distinct characteristic: It's lack of music. This film stands out as the finest work of sound design the Coens have ever achieved. And Roger Deakins' cinematography is, as we all knew it would be, fantastic.

One of the year's best films? Oh yeah.

One of the Coens' best films? Well, since almost all of them are great (in my estimation), this is a worthy addition to the collection, but no, not one of their very best.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 19 October 2007 - 11:41 AM.


#45 Christian

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 12:06 PM

Thanks, Jeffrey. Your review reminds me that the Coens' work was treated for so many years -- up until Fargo -- with dismissive remarks about how they were building a style by relying too much on references other films and filmmakers. (EDIT: Just realized that remark sounds like I'm lumping you in with those earlier reviewers; not my intention) Now they're aping their own work!

I've been concerned about this film since finishing the book, realizing what I'm in for. I hope it amounts to something more than a grim look at the dark side of human nature.

Edited by Christian, 19 October 2007 - 12:07 PM.


#46 Jason Panella

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 12:12 PM

I find a weird sort of hopefulness in McCarthy's book...I can't put my finger on it, but I think it's there. And the Coen's have always had this smirking, joyful aspect to all of their movies, even the darkest of the dark. I'm still looking forward to this movie something fierce, and I realize how grim it may be...but I don't think it's going to wallow entirely in gloom and despair.

#47 Christian

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 12:17 PM

It appears that every fear I have about this film may have been realized.

The review is too impressive for limited excerpts. Read the whole thing. The guy’s nearly 80 years old, but his outlook matches mine at the mere age of 36. What will I be like in my upper 70s? Shudder.

#48 Overstreet

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 06:40 PM

Well... the movie is a perfect adaptation of the tone and character of the novel. So, if your fears about the book are realized by reading it, those fears will be similarly realized by the film.

Personally, I find McCarthy's apocalyptic vision very compelling. It is the voice of a man dying of thirst in the desert, desperate for any glimmer of hope.

As a result, if and when a glimmer appears, it is powerful. And then, how the characters respond when that glimmer appears... or as they think back on it... that is very, very interesting.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 24 October 2007 - 06:40 PM.


#49 Christian

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 07:10 PM

Yeah, the book was fine but disturbing, as I expected. Obviously, changing the tone of the book for the movie would be all wrong, so I'm OK with that. But if the movie makes me feel the way the book did, I don't see myself singing its praises. Of course, I couldn't get past p. 70 of Blood Meridian, which is supposedly a haunting masterpiece, so what do I know?

I'm hoping the visuals bring something to the story that didn't come across in the book -- an extra dimension that makes me rethink the characters (some of whom I did like in the book, BTW).

It's a silly complaint to lament a faithful adaptation of a bleak novel for being bleak, but I just feel a sense of trepidation about this one.

I loved The Road, which was about more than the dismal circumstances surrounding the characters. In No Country, I'm not sure there's much more.

#50 Jason Panella

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 07:32 PM

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, Christian, but I got a loud Why does it have to be like this? from the book. Blood Meridian is a ROUGH book, so I don't blame you for not getting far. It's hard to read, for one, and some of the stuff is so harrowing that it scarred me in some ways. But McCarthy's work--to me at least--always seems to question the bleakness, not just accept it.

#51 draper

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 01:46 PM

McCarthy has always struck me as a master of tone. The old testament feeling of No Country is inescapable. All the characters choose their path and it has to play out according to the codes that they have subscribed to.

When Llewellyn discovers the initial scene of the crime. He has choices. He makes his choice, then returns to the scene and is discovered. All the events result from his actions. Chigurh has a job. He may find a sinister pleasure in it but it is his job and he is trying to fulfill his obligation.

"Every moment in your life is a turning and every one a choosing. Somewhere you made a choice. All followed to this. The accounting is scrupulous. The shape is drawn. No line can be erased. I had no belief in your ability to move a coin to your bidding. How could you? A person's path through the world seldom changes and even more seldom will it change abruptly. And the shape of your path was visible from the beginning."

It is a world without mercy or forgiveness; for me, this is the most difficult thing about No Country.

Edited by mumbleypeg, 25 October 2007 - 01:47 PM.


#52 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 03:03 PM

There is an interesting tension in this film between absurdism and fatalism. Fatalism tells us our lives are meaningless because nothing can change what's going to happen to us, including the fact that we will die. Absurdism tells us our lives are meaningless because the things that happen to us are random and unpredictable, and ultimately there is no one who can take the raw data of our lives and hold it together in a narrative that will make any meaningful sense. So the film tells us that our lives are meaningless, and it mourns this fact. But the WAYS in which it tells us that our lives are meaningless pull in opposite directions -- which might mean that they are working together to make a doubly-effective point about the meaninglessness of our lives, or it might mean that they are working against each other, each theme diluting the other's full impact. I haven't quite decided yet.

At any rate, no scene sums this tension up better than the bit near the end, where Javier drives a car and approaches an intersection; you just KNOW that another car is going to ignore the light and run right into the intersection and hit Javier's car, that Javier, who has seemed so "in control" all this time, is suddenly going to lose control in the most unexpected of ways. But the very fact that you just KNOW it means that, within the dramatic structure of the film, it ISN'T all that unexpected. The CHARACTERS might experience this moment as absurdity, but the film is so masterfully made -- so ably told as a narrative that makes a meaningful point -- that WE experience this moment as fatalism, instead.

Side note: I wonder about the decision to keep the deaths of some of the most sympathetic characters (major or minor) offscreen. If the point of the film is the great gaping void that awaits us all -- the tragic meaninglessness of a world in which God either doesn't exist or doesn't care, and everything we ever were or knew simply ceases to be -- then the loss of any person's life is indeed an enormous loss, and I find myself thinking back to David Cronenberg's remark that the blood and gore in Eastern Promises are put there precisely because he is an atheist and he believes there is no afterlife awaiting these people and he wants to drive home how bad, how evil, how wrong it is to end a life. The Coens, OTOH, keep the deaths of some of the most innocent characters completely offscreen, and I can't decide whether this choice represents a reluctance to underscore their theme as strongly as they could have, or whether it itself makes a nihilistic point, by not even waiting for these characters to die before it drops them from the story. (Reluctance, or haste, for lack of a better word?) So that's another thing I haven't quite decided yet.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 02 November 2007 - 03:09 PM.


#53 Overstreet

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 03:11 PM

QUOTE
I wonder about the decision to keep the deaths of some of the most sympathetic characters (major or minor) offscreen.


Well, they're "offscreen" in the novel as well. And the most important one does come as quite a baffling surprise in the book, just as it does in the movie.

I like your speculation, Peter. I wish I'd had time to go into this in my review (which I already turned in). But I also think that the choice to keep them offscreen is a way of letting us know that the movie is not, as we might first suspect, ABOUT those characters. The focus of the story is something else.

I'm also still arguing with myself about whether or not I think the film is completely fatalistic. Bell's words about God suggest that the doom of the world is being brought on my humankind in a hurry, and that nobody is willing to make the gestures of grace that might suggest the world is worth redeeming. But God *is* part of the picture, or at least some characters seem to think so. My sense, from McCarthy, is that the world is destroying itself and not even bothering to look heavenward, while God wait and watches and does nothing either because he's indifferent or because he's never invited to do so.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 02 November 2007 - 03:11 PM.


#54 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 03:31 PM

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: I'm also still arguing with myself about whether or not I think the film is completely fatalistic. Bell's words about God suggest that the doom of the world is being brought on my humankind in a hurry, and that nobody is willing to make the gestures of grace that might suggest the world is worth redeeming. But God *is* part of the picture, or at least some characters seem to think so. My sense, from McCarthy, is that the world is destroying itself and not even bothering to look heavenward, while God wait and watches and does nothing either because he's indifferent or because he's never invited to do so.

FWIW, I think the very final scene -- the very last bit of dialogue, and the final cut to black -- argue against that interpretation. It casts Bell's earlier words in a somewhat different light, does it not?

I now find myself thinking back to Unforgiven, which was also pretty nihilistic (though a lot of Christian commentators miss that point) and which also dragged out the deaths of some characters (not as much as Cronenberg, but still) to ram home the finality and awfulness of death.

#55 Christian

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 05:06 PM

Question for those who have seen the film: Who's Ellis?

In the novel, I believe Ellis is Bell's uncle, but in the movie, although Ellis comments about Bell's father (or is it Bell's grandfather?), I don't know if the relationship is ever stated. The screenplay says only that Ellis is "an old man in a wheelchair, with a clouded eye."

I'm trying to figure out how to refer to this character.

#56 Overstreet

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 05:34 PM

I was frustrated by the same thing, Christian. Ellis's scene may be the most important scene in the film as far as framing the themes and giving us some theological context. The book clearly identifies him as the uncle. The movie never identifies him at all, except for the sense that he and Bell have known each other a long time, and that they both know a lot about war and lawmen.

#57 Christian

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 05:44 PM

Yeah, I called him a "friend" in my review, but I found at least one online reviewer who refers to Ellis as the uncle. I suspect the reviewer based that on the book. I don't think it's clear in the film.

I'd think that might be a deficiency in the screen adaptation, given how pivotal the scene is between Bell and Ellis, but maybe the obvious point is there in the title. All we need to know is that these are two "old men," one of whom is more resigned to the state of things than is the other.

#58 Christian

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:17 AM

It's one thing not to like the ending -- I keep hearing that -- but another to think that it's completely beside the point, as Dana Stevens apparently believes. She doesn't offer a spoiler warning, and I don't think one is necessary, but I'm going to err on the side of caution:

The last scene of No Country for Old Men, in which Bell recounts his dreams to his wife Loretta (Tess Harper) is a tacked-on chunk of Meaning that seems to bear no relation to the tragically futile bloodbath we've just witnessed.

Edited by Christian, 09 November 2007 - 11:17 AM.


#59 Overstreet

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:32 AM

My review.

UPDATE: The review link is currently leading to a blank page. I hope they get that fixed soon.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 09 November 2007 - 11:34 AM.


#60 Christian

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 11:38 AM

When the truck headlights come over the ridge, roaring toward Josh Brolin’s character, was I the only person reminded of … Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

I didn't mention that in my review, but I thought it as I was watching.

Jeff: The CT link don't work.

You mentioned earlier that you thought one of the key players was miscast. Are you referring to Woody Harrelson? I thought he was the least convincing actor, but he had the best line.





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