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
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
). 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.