I confess I have not read a single work by Cormac McCarthy, but I know now that I must. I’ll make him my summer reading project. “No Country” is a complex and often mystical story of people and place. It is deeply embedded in the here and now (of 1980 West Texas, at least) but is at the same time off-center in its fantastical storytelling. It is a marvelous middle, with no beginning (the drug deal gone bad happens before the story starts) and no end (no loose strings are neatly tied). McCarthy gave the brilliant Coen Brothers all the material they needed to build another cinematic masterpiece, and they didn’t fail.
I am sure that a half-generation of film scholars have picked through the Coen Brothers filmography and deconstructed their methods, but I haven’t read any of them either. The mystery of how a Coen Brothers movie is better than someone else’s movie is still a mystery to me. But it doesn’t matter when the end result — the result of just sitting and watching — is so satisfying. However, one aspect of their movie making does stand out even to me, and that is the brilliance of their casting. I doubt that Tommy Lee Jones has ever been more perfect for a role; and Javier Bardem is a marvelous slab against which the waves of the story crash. And, as always with them, the secondary and minor roles are cast with an equally perfect eye.
To my regret, “No Country” is the only one of the Best Film nominees we have seen this year. Any one of the others would have to be sublime to defeat “No Country” though.