English Honors 11
April 6, 2010
No Country for Old Men: A Comparative Review
Cormac McCarthy reveals a soulless America in his 2005 novel No Country for Old Men, which depicts a country unfit for anyone, especially old men. The Coen brothers’ script of the 2007 film follows the novel almost scene for scene, showing a point in time when the last vestiges of frontier morality have been washed away by a pitiless modern crime wave fueled by drug profits. Both movie and book offer glimpses of a huge, mysterious pattern that readers and viewers, as well as the characters, cannot see, a pattern only God could see- if he had not packed up and gone home. Sometime in the mid-sixties, after mowing every yard in their neighborhood, little Joel Coen saved enough money to buy a Vivitar Super-8 camera for him and his brother Ethan. They were soon proud filmmakers, and produced their first movie, Zeimers in Zambia. Loaded with amateur special effects, the film featured a “spectacular” shot of a man parachuting from a plane, the boys using miniatures and a white sheet as a background. The problem was, their suburban Minnesota home was nowhere near a flight path, so they had to wait for weeks to get a shot of a plane passing overhead. This kind of patience, present in them even as children, was just one of the qualities that would establish them as modern cinematic marvels (Brent 2). After finishing college the pair began patiently forging their niche in the film industry. With Hollywood budgets growing grossly obese, the idea of making an independent film appealed hugely to the Coens. They spent a year or two pounding the pavement in search of investors for their own feature film Blood Simple. Unsettling and stylish, the film was a huge critical success, and helped usher in the era of the independent film. From this point on their success only grew, producing man big hits such as O’ Brother Where Art Thou? (Biography.com 1, 2, 3). Cormac McCarthy’s works reveal the shadows of human nature, but Cormac had a surprisingly conventional childhood. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island on July 20, 1993. McCarthy grew up in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic high school, and enrolled at The University of Tennessee in 1951. After one year he enlisted in the U.S. Air force and served four years in Alaska before returning to the university, but soon left in 1960 to pursue his writing career. He spent most of his early life traveling around with various grants he won for writing. In 1976 he moved to El Paso, Texas and has pent the remaining part of his life in the Southwest writing (Priola 1 and 2). His past books were hailed for having elevated the western from a pop amusement to a high-art form and he was designated as Hemingway and Faulkner’s sole legitimate successor. He might have been wise to let his writing hand to be removed at the wrist and embalmed and bronzed, but instead he decided to have some nasty fun and write like a person who is still alive, shedding the murky, grand philosophizing that bogged down his last two books for a sleeker, slimmer linguistic manner and a darting movie-ready narrative that rips along like hell on wheels because it has no desire to break new ground, only to burn rubber (Priola 3). Misguided souls will say that No Country for Old Men is out for blood, focused on vengeance and unconcerned with the larger world outside a standard-issue suspense plot. Those people, of course, are deaf, dumb and blind to anything that is not spelled out between commercials on dying TV networks. Set in 1980 in west Texas, where the chase is on for stolen drug money. The film and book both appeal to America’s bloodlust for the easy fix and are also very entertaining. But what do the criminal acts of losers in a flyover state have to do with the life of the mind? Plenty as it turns out. The so-called codger representing the law and order is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played...