Last 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.