Literature & Film discussion

No Country for Old Men

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message 1: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:37PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
I just saw a promo for this and it looked pretty interesting. I'm a pretty big fan of the Coen brothers and this looks right up their alley.

But I have not read this book and can't decide if I should bother. The only Cormac McCarthy I've read is The Road and (sorry everyone) I was pretty disappointed in it...

I'd love to know what others think of this book and how it compares to The Road.

message 2: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:37PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Well, I liked "The Road" and "No Country" but there are a few differences between the two. The language is still sparse, the mood rather grim, but obviously "No Country" is in more familiar crime-novel territory. I suspect that McCarthy was inspired by "The Getaway" (the Peckinpah version more than the original novel) but takes that atmosphere into a darker, sadder place.
I should add that the first time I tried to read McCarthy (one of the "Border trilogy" books) I was completely uninterested. I picked up "No Country for Old Men" a few months ago in anticipation of the film and was hooked immediately. I read "The Road" immediately after.

message 3: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Thanks Robert. I just requested No Country from the library. That way if I don't like it I won't feel so pissed off!

I'll definitely be curious to hear what you think of the film.

I'm trying to think off-hand, are any of the other Coen brothers films from books? Probably. I suspect I'm just not familiar with the books... Or I'm forgetting something really obvious.

message 4: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Although many of their films are obviously inspired by literary works, i think this is their first literary adaptation aside from the Odyssey/"Brother Where art Thou" connection.
When "Fargo" opened, they gave many interviews claiming that it was based on a true story, but were usually vague when asked for details. This was in fact a complete fabrication, a private joke. That's one of my favorite things about the film - the way it has so many irrelevant and banal detail of the sort you'd find in a "true crime" book.

Hope your eye gets better soon...

message 5: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Ah, Robert, I knew you'd get a chuckle from Monsieur Melies' moon face.

That oh-so-wicked sense of humor is precisely what I love about the Coen brothers. I'm actually curious as to whether any of that will come through in No Country. Is there any humor in the book? The promo for the film definitely looked serious. As I mentioned, the only McCarthy I've read is The Road and I didn't get the feeling the guy has much humor lurking within him although there was a bit of a wink-wink, nudge-nudge in the bit about the 1950's bomb shelter.

message 6: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Well, the NY Times gives No Country a very good review...

message 7: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Alison I remember when No Country premiered at one of the festivals (Cannes, Sundance?) and Entertainment Weekly said it was the best thing to come out of that particular festival. I was looking back for that article & found an actual review (in addition to the Times one above) that states...

It's the Coens' first movie in ages that doesn't rely on snark as a backup source of energy, the first Coen script that respects its own characters wholeheartedly, without a wink. And it's no accident that this measured yet excitingly tense, violent yet maturely sorrowful thriller marks the first time the filmmakers have faithfully adapted somebody else's work to their own specifications and considerable strengths.

I read The Road recently, and felt that surely McCarthy was capable of better. I would love to read more of his work particularly since he spent a large part of his life in Tennessee, and I feel like we have that kinship...

message 8: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I would have to say that there's nothing even remotely light-hearted about either of the McCarthy books I've read. Which is not to say that the characters wouldn't necessarily translate as recognizably human and even likable on screen. The casting of Tommy Lee Jones in the film is awfully promising in my book....

There's an interesting but brief conversation between the Coens and McCarthy at

I think the charge in the review Alison found
"It's the Coens' first movie in ages that doesn't rely on snark as a backup source of energy, the first Coen script that respects its own characters wholeheartedly, without a wink" is inaccurate or at least a little unfair. The Coens' often come off as full-of-themselves in interviews, but I don't think that applies to their films nearly as often... They're satirists more than they are realists - but there's a pretty big distinction to be made between satire and just being a smartass.

And if I may be allowed a tangential moment here, - "Entertainment Weekly is accusing someone else of relying heavily on snark!????!!!!!
I personally think that "snark" is the most overused and overrated concept in the current critical lexicon - and usually used by people who wouldn't know a Snark from a Boojum if it popped out of their refrigerator.
At least the guy who coined "metrosexual" apologized for it later...

message 9: by Ron (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Ron | 2 comments I just saw the movie last night. It was excellent! The Coen brother's truly write some great dialogue. I have yet to read the book (I know, I know) but I am going to pick up a copy immediately.

The last 15 minutes of the movie really capture a distinct theme and the last scene will make you inspect your life a little bit. A deep, thought provoking movie.

But I agree with Marshall; I missed some of that classic Coen brothers comedy.

message 10: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:57PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I saw the film tonight and probably still need time to sort out my thoughts, but I can say that I recommend it highly. Not to everyone, of course. It's pretty brutal in places. It's very faithful to the book, yet still (I thought) provides much of the absurd view of life that one might expect from the Coens. (They have a thing about gas station and convenience store clerks.....)
But one thing that interested me: when I read the novel, it was easy to read "between the lines" as it were and see the bare bones of a genre piece - Elmore Leonard of Jim Thompson, perhaps.. The movie plays with that a little, but doesn't really indulge in noir material as much as one expects (if anything, it owes as much to slasher/horror movies like "Halloween"). And the characters - even the murderer - come of as more human than in the novel, simply by virtue of being able to give them a face and a voice.
I'll have to give this a bit more thought and wait for other comments before i add any more.

message 11: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:59PM) (new)

Michael | 13 comments Saw it over thanksgiving. Loved it.

MN represent.

message 12: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments The Onion A.V. Club has posted a fairly-detailed comparison of the novel and the movie. It's a bit more literal than I think film criticism needs to be (yes, I know that's a poorly constructed sentence...) but still worth a look. The Spoiler Police will of course want to avoid it at all costs...

(but listen up: Rosebud is his sled. Darth Vader is Luke's father. Bruce Willis is dead. Soylent Green is people!)

message 13: by Tony (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Tony | 5 comments Robert,

Thanks for the heads up on the Onion A.V. Club link. I loved the movie, but at the end of it I felt like there were a couple of loose ends I missed and thought I'd need to read the book to make sense of it all. After reading Onion article though, I think I'll pass.

One thing I will say about the movie, most of the time Tommy Lee Jones's character does almost nothing to advance the plot, but without his moralizing and weight, you'd be stuck with little more than a slasher flick.

As for "The Getaway" comparison, I am not sure I'd agree -- same local but different feeling. "No Country" was shot and paced more like a western, at least the opening scene set that tone. Well, maybe not a western "No Country" had the villain but most westerns ... opps, don't want to include spoilers ... let me just say westerns don't play out that way.

message 14: by Katie (new)

Katie | 1 comments I'd agree with Robert's assessment of the movie and it's relationship to McCarthy.

I'd also add that I think that the Coen brothers and McCarthy are a good fit. I've read a couple of his novels and I find that what the Coen brothers have to add to McCarthy's poetic sensibilities makes for a real amazing stuff. To me, McCarthy's characters sometimes come off a little cardboard (but then fable-ish, allegorical type characters often do) and the Coen brothers add a human element to the characters that makes the whole picture, for me, complete. In other words, they seem to compliment one another very well.

Saw the movie last night and I loved it. I had to laugh though...people audibly groaned at the ending (which I will not reveal). I think the ending is justifiable...but maybe that's worthy discussion for when more people have seen the movie.

message 15: by Robert (new)

Robert | 111 comments I've seen a lot of comments suggesting that many viewers really hate the ending, and I really don't get it. I realize that I saw the film after having read the book, so I didn't necessarily have the same expectations that a "cold" viewer might have, but it still seems a valid conclusion to me (I'm trying hard not to give anything away here). I would like to think that the audience knows better than to expect a typical action movie climax(the sheriff outruns a fireball, leaps from a roof and guns the villain down after smirking "Hasta la Vista, Baby!").

message 16: by Tony (last edited Dec 14, 2007 06:38AM) (new)

Tony | 5 comments I am going to amend my previous post. The end makes sense if you look at the sheriff's story arc. The movie opens with him talking about his past and ends with him talking about the future. All of the stuff in between completes the picture and makes you understand his motivation at the end.

I'm also up for a more detailed discussion once more people have seen the film and that should be soon, given the hype the movie's been getting around awards' season, a time when people normally go to these types of films.

Reading the book now.

message 17: by Kate (new)

Kate Walker (wolfiesma) | 10 comments No Country reminded me so much of the Coen's Fargo. In both movies you get the slow, small-town police up against these inexplicably, profoundly evil villains and they end up being nearly equally matched. Frances McCormand's character catches the wood chip killers and in a sense Tommy Lee Jones could have caught the killer, too. The fact that he thinks to go back to the crime scene and, in fact, he does track down the killer, ends up in the same room with the killer cowering and crying in the corner, shows us he is mentally up to the challenge of this brilliant, evil villain. He is smart enough to beat the killer- but somehow he isn't emotionally strong enough. He is too emotionally involved, and too vulnerable. In Fargo, you get the sense she solves the crimes just to put bread on the table and provide for her new baby. She's a little sad and disgusted with the criminals who have wasted their lives, "over what? over money?" But you get the sense tomorrow there will be another crime and she'll deal with it in the same matter-of-fact Midwestern way she deals with everything. Wheras, poor Tommy Lee Jones just gets done in by what he has seen. It's as if his own son's been killed. The movie starts with him talking about his father and grandfather and then in the end he talks about seeing his father in the dream so you are seeing this father-son theme again. The last bit of dialogue just happens and its over. I can't recall it word for word. Something spiritual and sparkly about meeting his father in heaven?

And then there is The Road which was all about the father-son relationship, the father trying to save the son, and the father failing him by dying, leaving his son alone in the cold brutal world without him. I don't know about y'all but I thought that book was freakin *eviscerating.* I've never read anything like that. Not even close. Guess I better read No Country now.

message 18: by Alison (last edited Dec 22, 2007 11:48PM) (new)


I just came in from seeing this movie and I have to say, I am REELING! I am stunned and still don't think I have acclamated myself to life outside of this movie. I feel like I have been shot in the forehead with one of those cattle branding devices (Hold still!)

I can't remember when I have ever been so engaged in a could have heard a pin drop in that theater about 90% of the time. The cinematography (especially in the first thirty minutes) is stunning 2)the acting: Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, TL Jones, but especially Javier Barden and all of the extras were fantastic 3) the atmosphere is so tense and charged and it sustained that throughout to me 4) all of the metaphors and the great, great dialogue. I loved it!

I got a "Halloween" feel,too. I think it was the way JB was so otherworldy. He felt like Michael Myers--and not in the cheesy Halloween sequels way, but in the original John Carpenter's Halloween way that is scary as crap. But I thought this film had so many layers. I can't associate it with a slasher flick outside of that. If anything, a contemporary western. Substitute all the vehicles for horses, and the killer for a psychopathic Indian chief, and you've got a modern day John Ford movie? Very reminiscent of The Searchers or even High Noon at one point (with a different resolution)...

Kate: I liked what you said about TL Jones character being too vulnerable: "mismatched" he says of his situation at one point.

I loved the ending! I have to admit that about a half second before the credits rolled, I thought, "Holy crap! The credits are about to roll!" I grabbed by friend's arm and squeezed. It was a gut-punch...but I loved it no less. A very visceral response to a very visceral experience. Maybe I'm just hopped up on popcorn & diet coke right now, but I was impressed.

message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael | 13 comments I'm gonna go see it again tonight!

message 20: by rinabeana (new)

rinabeana | 7 comments I saw the movie (when it opened early in Austin) because I love Tommy Lee Jones (and the Coen Brothers). I've never read any of McCarthy's work, and I have heard that he doesn't exactly write feel-good novels. (ha!) It's not that I can't handle it when everything isn't sunshine and roses, but I'm at a point in my life when I need some goodness/hope/faith in humanity. I saw the movie anyway, and I thought it was fantastic (though ridiculously depressing), but I didn't run out and get the book. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I want to read it. I gleaned (from reading some commentary) that Sheriff Bell's character is more developed in the book, and I think I would like to know more about him. So what do you think? Is the book worth it, or will I never be happy again after I read it?

message 21: by Kimley (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
rinabeana, I haven't seen the film yet but just recently read the book. For some reason, I didn't find the book to be all that depressing, certainly not in the way McCarthy's The Road was but it definitely doesn't have a happy ending. For me it was more of a good, classic, crime novel - a very well-written crime novel. I read it through pretty quickly, had a hard time putting it down.

I can't comment on how much more the Sherrifff Bell character is developed in the book but the book does have whole sections written from his point of view so you do get a good feel for who he is and where he's coming from. I imagine these sections would make for good voice-overs in a film and will be curious to see if they did that though they're long so they'd need to edit.

The book almost reads like a film script - pages and pages of dialog and then almost filmic aside type descriptions.

message 22: by rinabeana (new)

rinabeana | 7 comments Kimley - Thanks so much for the insight. I did add the book to my reading list, but I may not get to it for a little while. I definitely recommend the movie, though! (I will say that I was a bit unnerved by it and not entirely pleased to go back to my empty apartment, but it was still worth seeing!)

message 23: by Jenna (last edited Jan 04, 2008 08:53PM) (new)

Jenna (jentobox) | 1 comments I just saw the movie yesterday and the Coen brothers have made another great film. I loved the way this movie was made and the story line had me hooked. I haven't read the book yet but I just bought it and can't wait to read it. My friends that I saw it with said that the screenplay was very true to the book's themes and plot. Great film

Also when I saw the movie there was a trailer for a film called,"There Will Be Blood" which is based on an Upton Sinclair novel called Oil, which also looked great. I am not sure how much of it is derived from Sinclair's novel though.

message 24: by Alison (last edited Jan 05, 2008 09:05AM) (new)

Alison Jenna: There's actually a "There Will Be Blood" thread within this group. There may be some insight there.

I am still reeling from No Country (the movie). I loved it so much. Did anyone see that the Hollywood actors are boycotting the Golden Globes ceremony? So I may not get to see Javier pick up his Golden Globe? Is this just a scare tactic, or is this really happening? And what about the Oscars? :(

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