Posted by: ckckred | March 8, 2013

A Coen Brothers Discussion: No Country For Old Men and Fargo

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Watching Fargo and No Country For Old Men back to back, I realized how similar the two pictures were, something I had never really noticed before.  I found regular Coen brothers’ trademarks in both films when I first viewed, such as the offbeat characters, but I found the movies very much parallel each other.  In a sense, No Country For Old Men isn’t just an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel but in a sense a remake of Fargo.

Both films exist in rural lands, in Fargo the snowy plains of Minneapolis and in No Country For Old Men the desolate deserts of Texas.  Both of them are stories where violence erupts out of nowhere (in Fargo from two low life criminals Carl and Gaear and in NCFOM from Anton Chirgurh) that stem from unresolved issues (in Fargo Jerry Lundegaard’s attempt to find a way to pay off a loan and in NCFOM Llewelyn Moss’ theft of a satchel full of drug money).

But not only do they share similar stories but a similar protagonist.  Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Ed Tom Bell isn’t too different from Frances McDormand’s chipper police chief Marge Gunderson.  Both of them observe the heinous crimes that happen in their towns and comment on society’s morality.  By both films’ end, the characters see the same things in life happen again about corruption in everyday life.

Before, it would be difficult for me to decide which was the better between the two films (I consider both flawless films).  However, after reconsidering, I believe No Country For Old Men to be the stronger of the two.  It is in depth a character study rich with details and metaphors and ranks as one of the best films of the 21st century.  2007 was a fantastic year of cinema between this and There Will Be Blood, perhaps the best year for movies in the past ten years.

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Responses

  1. Love this observation. I really like “Fargo” but I absolutely love “No Country”. I never really thought about the similarities but as you point out they’re definitely there. And I also think “No Country” is a slightly better film and watch it and “There will be Blood” duel it out at the 2007 Oscars was an example of where the Academy actual had it right.

    • I love both as well and I think No Country For Old Men is stronger. Watching them back to back made me think about the similarities between the two and I think it’s one of the best Best Picture winners of all time. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Excellent post, you have a real eye for detail.

  3. One of the things I love about Coen bros films is their “signature” that appears in each film. I’ll have to watch Fargo and NCFOM back-to-back and see if I can see the common points. I always felt that Fargo was a close to the bone black comedy while NCFOM is just dark, dark, dark. I love both films equally, but like you, I think NCFOM just nudges past Fargo. Great post, mate!!!

    • Thanks! I love Fargo’s black humor but NCFOM’s structure is stronger in my opinion. Looking at them next to each other made me think about their similarities.

      • Agreed! NCFOM is a much stronger film! 🙂

  4. Interesting observation there! I’ve only seen both films the once. I loved them & will have to revisit to check out these similarities. I loved NCFOM but I preferred Fargo of the two for the black humour.
    Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks! Both are excellent movies and become better after multiple viewings. I think I initially liked Fargo more but I prefer NCFOM now, though I love both about the same.

  5. I haven’t seen Fargo but I found NCFOM hilarious. I don’t think I was supposed to but it was just so unintentionally funny to me…

    • Some scenes in NCFOM have bits of black humor in with them. Fargo’s more of a comedic thriller and I think you’d really enjoy it. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Great thoughts. I never really realized those comparisons, better they’re definitely true. Fargo has a bit more humor to it, but No Country for Old Men is my favorite movie, so it’s my favorite of the two. Both are great movies, as is There Will Be Blood. I agree, 2007 was an outstanding year in cinema!

    • Both are outstanding movies and after seeing them again I think I’d say NCFOM is the stronger of the two. I wouldn’t mind if There Will Be Blood won the Oscar, both of them are classics. Thanks for commenting.

  7. I’m honestly torn over which of these two movies I like better. NCFOM lacks that classic Coen brothers dry humor, but at the same time, adding jokes would definitely ruin the tone of NCFOM.

    • I initially liked Fargo more but NCFOM’s atmosphere is stronger. There isn’t really the Coens’ dark humor but it remains a powerhouse movie. Both are classics though. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Both film’s felt very similar for me also man. Well observed. Like yourself though, I have to side with No Country. It’s one of the best film’s ever made in my eyes. It’s a near masterpiece.

    • Agree. Both are great films but NCFOM is stronger. I really do feel that it is a flawless film. Thanks for commenting.

  9. Yes! Great post!

    I suspect there are differences in how Bell and Gunderson feel about their experience – it’s just a theory as I’ve only seen Fargo once but I plan to review it soon (I just finished a series on NCfOM as it happens). To me, Fargo is more optimistic, but NCfOM is much more compelling and wrenching.

    These two films could also be compared with A Simple Plan (1998), which covers similar thematic (and geographical) territory. Definitely worth watching if you like these two movies.

    • I can definitely see that. Both of them have similar stories, but like you said Fargo is more upbeat while NCFOM is grueling. I’ll try to see A Simple Plan. Thanks for commenting.

  10. I’m hoping that someone noticed the similarity between Chigur’s intimidation in NCFOM and Hanzee’s same with the convenience store man in episode 8. Left me holding my breath! Priceless

    • Earlier in Fargo’s season, I assumed Mike Milligan was the Chigur figure but Hanzee fulfills the role even better. That scene really had me on edge as well.


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