no country for old menI’ll be honest with you: the only reason I ever go see a movie adaptation of a book I’ve read is to get all upset about it. There’s something satisfying about walking home from the movie theater shaking your head and saying, “There’s just no way to capture the intricacies of the book – how ridiculous of the director to even try!” and “I can’t believe that they changed that scene/detail/plot point/hair color! That was vital in the book!”

So, when I went to see No Country For Old Men last night, just months after reading and loving the book by Cormac McCarthy, I was ready to jump all over the slightest flaw or inconsistency. Sure, the Coen brothers are among my favorite directors and have made some of my favorite movies – but could they capture the strange, dark feel of the book that was so consuming that I read it in less than a day?

The answer is, yes they can. From the opening scene to the credits, the movie was nothing less than eerily similar to my experience reading the book – each character was cast wonderfully, the barren Texas landscape played just as big a role, the sentiments and moods were spot on. Sitting and watching as each scene unfolded exactly as it should, while every member of the diverse Queens audience was immersed in the story, I was almost disappointed that I wouldn’t have anything to complain about on our way home.

Tommy Lee Jones stars as the grizzled Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, while the equally well-cast Javier Bardem serves as the psychopath who rips apart the lives of pretty much every other person in the movie. While the violence is a bit gratuitous (as in the book), it does serve a greater purpose, and while the movie (like the book) doesn’t come to any sort of satisfying blockbuster conclusion, you will leave the theater affected.

Most of the differences between the book and the movie were in the small trademark touches that the Coen brothers added: the deputy sheriff (played by the very impressive Garrett Dillahunt, who I recognized from Deadwood) added a goofy quirkiness that you can also see in characters in Fargo and The Big Lebowski. Also, some scenes that were 100% disturbing in the book (like when a convenience store clerk is asked to guess a coin toss for his life) are also made more watchable by the directors’ familiar dark humor. Like a jazz musician playing a standard, all of these changes did nothing but add texture to the movie and make it their own while preserving the integrity of the story.

A few changes were not for the better. Some of the complexity in Tommy Lee Jones’ character was lost, but that’s to be expected in a genre shift where we can’t hear what he’s thinking. And a few plot points were changed, but nothing so important that I had something to whine about post-movie.

It’s comforting – I was so afraid of what one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite directing teams would produce together. Rest assured, it’s a wonderful finished product. Although I’d recommend you read the book first.

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