One of my favorite films over the last, well I suppose last decade or two, is No Country For Old Men. I’ve seen it a number of times and as a fan of legendary Cinematographer Roger Deakins, I’ve been inspired and in awe of the amazing visuals this film presents.
But it’s not just some special effects masterpiece. It’s a fantastic story and the visuals of the film work in concert with the amazing story to deliver maximum impact to us as the viewer.
The story is actually very simple, very straight-forward. Man stumbles into a drug deal gone bad, finds a bag of life-changing amounts of money and decides to keep it. He’s not a criminal, he’s a good man that is thinking only of bettering his situation in life. In fact, it’s his good intentions that have him going out in the middle of the night to bring water to the last surviving person that is dying in the desert. Had he ignored that need to do a good deed, his journey would have been nearly over and likely with a lot less strife.
When he gets out to the desert he finds the guy is now dead and worse, the cartel rolls up and attempts to kill him as well.
In the meantime a ruthless killer, some may say a psychopath, is also on the hunt for the money. Now both groups are after our main character for something he just happened to stumble into.
Add in the town Sheriff also trying to stop the flow of dead bodies that seems to be piling up and our main character has a whole lot of trouble.
What’s fascinating about this story is that we rotate perspective between our main character (Moss – played by Josh Brolin), the veteran Sheriff(Sheriff Bell – played by Tommy Lee Jones) and the ruthless killer(Chigurh – played by Javier Bardem). We never see the story unfold from the perspective of the cartel and the film is highly focused on character.
I won’t spoil it just in case you haven’t seen it, but it’s WELL worth the watch.
As much as I love the film, I didn’t realize until just a few months back that this film is based on a book of the same name, written by Author Cormac McCarthy. I’m not sure how this escaped my notice, but once I found out I added the book to the top of my “To Be Read” list and last week had a chance to read it.
He(Cormac McCarthy) has such a fascinating writing style. No use of quotes to indicate any difference between spoken dialogue, inner monologue, scene description or anything else. As much as that SHOULD be a train wreck as a reader, it just works and his writing draws you in, even though it’s often very dark subject matter.
The book. Well, it was every bit as fantastic as the film. But it was extremely unique.
Normally when a film is adapted from a book, there is a lot that ends up re-written and changed to flow better on the big screen. There are just things that work well in written form that do not translate to the screen.
We all know it happens and it’s why typically there is the debate over which is better, the book or the movie.
No Country For Old Men is a true exception.
If you have seen and enjoy the film here’s what I recommend. Take an evening and re-watch it(or watch it for the first time if you’ve never seen it). Take note of the characters, the visuals as this story unfolds, the fact there is no musical score in this film, and the fact that everything in the film feels so brilliantly real and efficient with a focus on character and story.
Then, get your hands on the book.
And prepare to be amazed.
Sure, there are some things that have been re-arranged and changed for the film. But more than ANY book to film adaptation I have ever seen, this film is literally a direct translation of the book. To the point where a majority of character dialogue in the book appears word for word in the film.
Trust me, Friendo, it’s going to blow your mind how accurately they translated this film.
I have never, ever, in my entire life, read a book that has a film tied to it that is so directly translated to film. As in, they took the book and used it word for word as a script.
To the point where I have this fear that unknown to me I read some version of the book that was put out AFTER the film as a direct accompaniment to movie, a version that has been completely re-written to match the film note for note…
But I don’t think so.
Check it out, you’ll enjoy it.
*All photos in this post are from the fantastic Film-Grab website. I claim no ownership of the photos and all credit belongs to Miramax Films.