“Their Bleakest Work To Date”: Two Reviews for No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men, Coen Brothers

There are few movies that I’ve been looking forward to as much this year as No Country for Old Men. The latest from the Coen Brothers arrives in Lincoln theatres on November 21, but reviews have been rolling in for some time now — and they’re overwhelmingly positive (the movie currently has a score of 94 on Metacritic).

Jeffrey Overstreet has just posted his review on ChristianityToday, where he gives the film three and a half stars out of four:

Powerfully faithful to the McCarthy’s text, the Coens have given us their bleakest work to date. At first it feels like familiar territory, with numerous references to their previous works. Like Raising Arizona’s “Lone Biker of the Apocalypse,” Chigurh happily blasts small animals with a shotgun as he roars down the highway. The guilty and the innocent try to talk their way out of execution, just as they did in Miller’s Crossing. Stephen Root (TV’s Newsradio), who made the Rocky Bottom Boys a recording sensation in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, plays the everpresent Coen Brothers caricature: The Man Behind the Big Desk. And Sheriff Bell, world-weary as he is, might be related to Fargo’s Marge Gunderson.

And yet, in spite of these similarities, we’ve never seen the Coens descend so far into the abyss of human depravity. Their primary endeavor — from Blood Simple to Miller’s Crossing, from O Brother Where Art Thou? to The Big Lebowski — has always been to ask if the human heart might discover grace in a world spoiled by greed, murder, and folly. Mining the brittle stone of McCarthy’s nihilistic narrative, the Coens can’t find any trace of hope.

“You can’t stop what’s coming,” a prophetic old man tells Sheriff Bell. And Bell, so proud of his heritage of lawmen, is miserable at his insufficiency. “It ain’t all waitin’ on you,” the old man cautions him. “That’s vanity.” And we’re left facing questions that haunt so many great works of art: Who is the world waiting on? If God exists, why doesn’t he intervene to prevent such apocalyptic violence? Whatever the answers might be, No Country For Old Men suggests that truth, justice, and the American way are not enough to save us from the dark and deadly winds of change.

And Christian Hamaker writes over at Crosswalk:

No Country For Old Men, based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy and adapted for the screen by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a brooding, powerful film that depicts evil as an unstoppable force. Technically superb in front of and behind the camera, the film’s greatest asset — or liability, depending on how you interpret it — is the struggle at the heart of this disturbing story for answers to profound questions: How can well-meaning people confront unstoppable evil? Is there any hope to do so apart from God?

Between this and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, which arrives here in Lincoln on December 26, it looks like filmgoers have a pretty dark cinematic holiday cut out for them this year. It’ll be fascinating to hear all of the conversations and questions that these films raise in the coming weeks and months, and I can’t wait to join in.

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