It’s good to have the Coen Brothers back. So good, in fact, that one can now consider the descending quality of their recent output (with the notable exception of 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There) an aberration, a temporary artistic malaise—which started with O Brother, Where Art Thou? and culminated in the low point of their career, The Ladykillers—but one that has now come to a thankful halt. Sometimes you’ve got to hit bottom before climbing back on top, as they say, and the transition from that miserable 2004 disaster to No Country for Old Men is such an about-face in the brothers’ filmmaking that the most obvious of phrases can be unashamedly employed to describe their latest venture: an astonishing return to form.
The clearest reason for the rebound is the new film’s source material and, through it, the reestablishment of gravitas in the Coen universe. A minor but assured novel by one of our greatest living novelists, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men is perfect for a Coen screen adaptation: it’s the sort of macabre/quotidian genre-bender rife with crime, violence, and a kind of everyman pondering that caters to the Coens’ greatest strengths as absurdist chroniclers of the American ethos.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of No Country for Old Men.