Reviews of the Film

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No Country For Old Men

It’s a completely rare occasion when an adaptation of a celebrated novel is regarded as both a faithful celluloid reproduction and a masterful film by its own merits. No Country For Old Men is an unique animal– Cormac McCarthy’s widely celebrated novel that almost anyone who has read its pages agrees that it was perfectly adapted for the screen by Joel and Ethan Coen. The motion picture won itself four major Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay in 2007, proving that even the Academy are mindful of a great adaptation sticking the landing.

The bleak tale of crime and death is pretty much universally heralded by almost every reviewer I came across. Reading Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott, and Todd McCarthy’s reviews is a study of laying out a great film’s soon to be massive success. A destiny filled with various awards and acclaim hangs upon each and every reviewer’s words surrounding their critical reaction to No Country For Old Men. This wasn’t an average movie at all. Most of the reviews seem like they are tripping over themselves to praise either an actor or someone behind the scenes. The truth is is that everything works in this film. Where one unit may outshine the other, each individual working part creates a incredibly magnificent machine.

Since this movie wasn’t made by any Joe Schmo Hollywood, the talent and legacy of The Coen’s stands front in center in everyone’s minds. A.O. Scott of the Times puts No Country up on the shelf  amongst the lexicon of  Joel and Ethan’s other perfect crime movies: Blood Simple, Fargo, and Miller’s Crossing. The fact that this is an adaptation at all is secondary to the execution of the Coen product. The movie’s release came at an interesting time as well. The directing/writing team of Joel and Ethan Cohen previously had released two major duds that put their long standing status as auteurs in question returned to form with this powerful motion picture. Instead this was the Coen’s return to form with a powerful vengeance.

Each of the reviews relay the importance of the story and it’s setting. Sparseness, morality, and death litter each article and display that this is a heavy movie laden with complexities and deeper meaning you would expect from a great film. What I noticed was that each and every reviewer loves to describe the scene where Josh Brolin encounters the drug bust gone wrong. It works to setup the overall plot of the movie to the reader but interestingly they all mention the dead dog. Now, this is a quick little shot that could have gone unnoticed or been overshadowed by another piece of equally or more important imagery but they all chose this one. I don’t have a theory about why they choose to include this in all of their reviews or think there is some deeper conspiracy. I just found it interesting that the dead dog is some literary continuity between all three writers.

One of the elements of the film that reviewers tend to focus on is Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh the force of nature hit-man with the air tank and the weirdo haircut. The role that would win Bardem an Oscar dominates the word-count of the various reviews and understandably so. Everyone agrees that they were witnessing the birth of an iconic role on film that just happened to be plucked for a novel. So much so that the fact that the film is a near perfect adaptation of the source material is almost taken for granted by most reviewers.

What’s fascinating is that two of the three reviews I choose almost gloss over that this film is an adaptation of highly regarded novel. It’s not that the New York Times or Variety ignore that fact but it comes across as an afterthought because the film is just so damn good. Instead they choose to praise all involved in this endeavor and rightfully so.  Roger Ebert, noticeably impacted by the film, celebrates the Coen’s ability to create such a spot-on recreation of McCarthy’s novel. Most of his review not only focuses on the film itself but the fact that it got everything right in terms of an adaptation. Ebert writes as both a fan of McCarthy and of the Coen’s. Holding both creative sources in such high regard it seems as if No Country exceeded his expectations. He mentions that nothing was cut from the source and that the film stands as close to being synonymous with the novel as humanly possible.  The most telling line in Ebert’s review is when he includes both the Coen’s and Cormac as almost one entity; “You want to applaud the writing, which comes from the Coen brothers, out of McCarthy”. Three become one creator in this particular case. Blurring the line between source and recreation could possibly be one of the most important elements of adaptation.




No Country For Old Men. Dir. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. Perf. Javier Bardem   Josh Brolin Tommy Lee Jones. Paramount Vantage, 2007. DVD

Review: November 8, 2007

Review: New York Times A.O. Scott Published: November 9, 2007


Review: Variety Todd McCarthy Posted: Fri., May. 18, 2007

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Published on May 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm Comments (0)

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