No Country for Old Men
Old men are not the only ones who perish in the bloody, neo-Western film, No Country for Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (who also directed Fargo, True Grit, and The Big Lebowski), and adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel. Perhaps McCarthy should have titled the book something a little less hopeful. Not even two minutes in, and Anton Chigurh has already killed a man; his first out of 14.
Set in 1980 Texas at the height of the Mexican Drug Wars, the story follows a sheriff, a hunter, and a psychopathic killer. The hunter and Vietnam vet, Llewelyn Moss, comes across a drug deal turned massacre and finds $2 million cash. Rather than reporting his findings to the police, he takes the money, and in doing so, he opens a deadly can of worms. Ironically, the hunter is being hunted. Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, is the coldest killer of our nightmares. He is a man that no one wants hunting them. And once he has his sights set, there is no chance in stopping him.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is stuck in the middle of the chaos. He comes across the scenes of Chigurh’s cold-blooded murders, and attempts to predict where the next one will be. As an old-time sheriff, he can’t begin to wrap his head around the new type of crime he attempts to prevent. Sheriff Bell spends a considerably smaller amount of time on screen than his counterparts, but plays an equally crucial role in the film. The three characters are never in the same frame together, yet their stories seamlessly intertwine, in ways that not even the characters can understand.
At the center of the story is the enigmatic killer with the bad haircut; which only adds to chills rolling down your spine when you hear him speak. His motives are never fully explained, yet as we start to connect the dots between his victims, we begin to understand his end game. As he progresses through the film, he kills almost everyone he comes into contact with; all but five people. For two of the people he encounters, he leaves their lives up to chance with a coin toss, posing the question “how much have you ever lost in a coin toss?” similar to the Batman villain, Two Face. When he does slaughter his victims, he averts his eyes and the viewer can tell that he does not like to get blood on himself. It’s as if he does not like the idea that he is going to brutally murder someone, and he certainly doesn’t want to be reminded of it. Anton Chigurh is the man we love to hate.
The movie is guided by the emotion and dialogue of the actors. It does not use the musical score in order to progress the story. There is only a total of 16 minutes of music throughout the entire film. Chigurh’s slight smirk when he talks to his soon-to-be victims indicates that, if nothing else, he has a crooked sense of humor, contrary to popular belief. Carson Wells, the self-proclaimed expert of Chigurh, describes him as a man who lacks a sense of humor. On the other side, Moss carries a pained façade when he attempts to hide his true plans from his wife. The talent of these actors combined makes for a great showdown between the two.
Like many other films, the plot ultimately comes down to Good versus Evil. After watching the movie, our minds immediately begin analyzation and we associate Anton Chigurh with embodiment of evil, and Llewelyn Moss as the hero we root for. But is Moss really a man with goodness in his heart? His actions that set the plot in motion to do not reflect a man of sound morals. Rather than reporting a drug deal and several murders, he finds the missing link: the man with the cash. Moss runs off with more than $2 million dollars in drug money. You may be saying “anyone would take $2 million dollars if they came across it,” but would you take the money if you knew it was blood money from Mexican drug runners? Like most people, you would probably run away from the crime scene, screaming for help. After Moss obtains the cash, he finds that Anton is hot on his heels. In an attempt to stay ahead of his predator, he sends his wife away. “Your husband had the opportunity to save you,” Chigurh tells Moss’ wife.
The Coen brother’s go above and beyond in showing the gritty, violent, and utterly dark sides of the Wild West. The film uses silence and the emphasis of subtle sounds, rather than music, in order to evoke fear and have you on the edge of your seat from the first scene to the last.