Tag Archives: Cormac McCarthy

Do They All Die?: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

dtat.jpgLast week, we looked at Cormac McCarthy’s book, No Country for Old Men.  To start off this week, we take a look at the Coen brothers’ cinematic adaptation of the same book. 

As with the book, the movie focuses on the three characters of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who finds the money, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) who chases Llewelyn, and Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who slowly and steadily paddles in the wake of their destruction.  All three leads are played outstandingly.  Jones is known for his frequent role as a law enforcement-type, but the personality of his role is not the brash, respected law officer he has been known for, but, rather, a reserved, contemplative small-town sheriff. 

Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss laconically, and Moss very clearly comes off as a man who understands that he is in immense danger, but doesn’t quite understand the extent of that danger.  Bardem’s Chigurh is as menacing as villains come, but his vaguely philosophical banter, and his remarkably restrained politeness give him an edge of black comedy. 

The movie, from what I noticed, features little to no music, which reflects Cormac McCarthy’s stark writing well.  It also features a great deal of his dialogue, nearly verbatim, and, most importantly, the movie reflects the odd non-climax of the book.  As I alluded to in the book review, the climax of No Country for Old Mentakes place off-screen.  The audience only arrives to the climax as Sheriff Bell does–that is, far too late.  We see the shocking aftermath, but we’re not sure quite how we got there. 

Chigurh, at two points, forces people to call a coin toss.  What each person stands to win or lose goes undefined, but powerfully implied, and this shows an element to Chigurh that is reflected in the movie.  Mostly, that we can make choices, like “heads or tails”, but the results of our choices are inevitable.  Every time “heads” is called, something shall occur, and there is no getting around it.  McCarthy elucidates that point fantastically in the narrative, and the Coens are masterful in their reflection of the theme.

Leave a comment

Filed under Do They All Die?, Movies

Mr Thursday’s Book Shelf: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Over this past summer, at some point, I read my first Cormac McCarthy novel, Blood Meridian, which is a wild sort of Western novel starring a Kid and a Judge and their harrowing deeds.  I didn’t review the book here largely because I didn’t know what to make of it.  At times, the book seemed meandering and lost, which some critics seem to dismiss as a non-problem, but I, however, like a tight, aggressive narrative, which Blood Meridian, at times, failed to provide.  However, the book did possess some spectacular prose and one of the most interesting characters I had ever read.  When the book was good, it was fantastic. 

I assumed I’d re-read Blood Meridianat some point to try to grasp it better, but I didn’t give Cormac McCarthy much thought otherwise, until I saw the trailer for the Coen brothers’ film, No Country for Old Men, which is, in fact, based off a McCarthy novel by the same name.  The trailer is fantastic, and this coupled with the high points of Blood Meridian led to an Amazon package on my front doorstep two days later.

No Country for Old Menis the story of Llewelyn Moss, a sniper in the Vietnam War, who comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone sour in the Texas border area.  While investigating the scene–two trucks, a few dead bodies–Moss finds a sack full of money.  Over two million dollars.  Soon enough, a cold and vicious man named Anton Chigurh is chasing him, with intentions to reclaim the money and kill Moss.  In the wake of their destruction is Sherriff Bell, an aged, small-town lawman, who is always two steps behind Moss and Chigurh, but provides a moral relief for the story. 

Unlike Blood Meridian and, from what I understand, most of McCarthy’s other works, the language of No Country for Old Men is of a simple, stripped down nature.  Few words are spent on scenery.  Nearly every word furthers the plot, every paragraph a step in the book’s relentless action.  Deep breaths are only occasionally taken with Bell’s occasional diary-like entries, talking about life, and love, and the law. 

For a book with so much action, the climax is strangely indirect, off-stage, as it occurs, and is then re-told from one minor character to Bell, after the events.  To repeat, the action has occurred, and we roughly understand the nature of the climax, but we only get its details after we know its results. 

It would seem that the novels main protagonists are Bell and Chigurh, although Llewelyn Moss seems like the obvious main character at first glance.  But Moss is surprisingly static, by the end, whereas Chigurh and Bell seem to find extra depth.  I honestly don’t know what to make of it.  From page 1 through just before the climax, the book reads as a thriller, and a good one.  From the so-called climax onward, the book is not thrilling, but instead contemplative and reflective.  Such a tonal shift is hard to grasp, even as both tones ring strong and loud. 

No Country for Old Men
Cormac McCarthy
Paperback: 320 pages
Vintage Publishing

2 Comments

Filed under Book Shelf, Print