Nasty and hopeless, long, rambling and complicated. A movie with a dream cast and crew founders on its screenplay, the writer’s first. Cormac McCarthy is one of our greatest living novelists. But his thrillers, violent as they are, are highly literary. Characters in books don’t have to talk as they do in real life. When they talk like that in movies, it can be groanworthy. Here, almost every major character philosophizes, constantly and at length. They sound like French intellectuals. The ideas are interesting, but they read better than they sound. It takes a deft actor to keep this kind of dialogue from sounding silly. Surprisingly(?), the world-weary wisdom rolls quite nicely off Brad Pitt’s tongue. Ditto Bruno Ganz (natch). And especially Javier Bardem, who is the only one to find a warm spark of humanity amid the soulless darkness. A big nod, too, to prison inmate Rosie Perez, who has the least guile and packs a lot of punch in her one big scene. I followed most, not all, of the plot, and although downbeat endings can be fine, this one didn’t satisfy — as opposed to the adaptation of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, for which the Coen brothers, not McCarthy, wrote the screenplay. — Jeff Schultz

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