Saturday, December 1, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men, is a tough, gritty, blood-soaked tale of violent encounters and slow death in the hard land of southwest Texas. The time is 1980 and the old days of individual crimes are being swept aside by corporate, high tech drug dealers and big money flowing across the Mexican border. An aging sheriff gets drawn into this paradigm shift when his deputy is brutally murdered by a psychopath who is pursuing a suitcase of drug money. It is not a happy book, but it is a very, very absorbing read.

I read No Country for Old Men last year and was kicked in the gut by its brutality and power. This afternoon I took a chance and went to see the movie, knowing that its full impact could not be readily translated to film. The movie, after all, is never as good as the book. Well, not usually.

The Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, wrote the screenplay and directed the film version of McCarthy’s book. They were true to his story, page for page, with film shots that were so suspenseful one might suspect that they were channeling Hitchcock. The actors, especially Tommy Lee Jones, the sheriff, and Tess Harper, his wife, were as hard and coarse as the land that defined their lives. If there was any make-up used in this movie, it wasn’t applied to them. Javier Barden was a soulless killer who pursued his prey for money or principle, and might decide whether to take a life on the flip of a coin. Josh Brolin found a suitcase full of money at a drug deal gone bad, and had just enough machismo to think that he could get away with keeping it. Woody Harrelson also had a few good scenes in the movie as he tried to neutralize the psychopath and reclaim the drug money. All of these characters inter-played deftly and with a shifting perspective that kept the intensity and punch of the novel and brought it seamlessly to the screen.

Cormac McCarthy’s book is given life by the Coen’s vision. It is not a happy book, and not a happy movie – just an unvarnished view of warm blood oozing into a hard land. No Country for Old Men is worth a visit in either medium.


KreativeMix said...

i'd probably get the book..........

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

Strongly recommended! Let me know how you like it.