Daniel P. Barron

No Country For Old Men

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I don’t care what you say, this is a great film.i It’s a film-noir western based in the 80s about a salt of the earth Texan who finds a great sum of money at a drug deal gone bad, and a cold-hearted serial killer hired to track him down, all while the local sherif is perpetually one step behind them both. Through the use of proper foreshadowing,ii certain scenes are more horrific in their lack of showing violence than the many which outright display bloodshed. In fact, the most disturbing encounters are those in which only words are exchanged.

Unlike in most other movies, the good guy is clearly good. There isn’t an underlying deception in which we the viewers are tricked into cheering on a protaganist who does evil things, albeit less obviously evil than the actions of the antagonist. Sure, he takes the money, but it was in the sort of way you might take money off the ground. His goodness even sets off the chase when he returns to the desert, water in hand, for a dying Mexican gangster. Despite being one step ahead throughout, he never sets a trap, lest an innocent party be harmed. And perhaps also worth noting is his relatability in that nothing comes easy; when he needs something, he has to get it himself.

Carla Jean Moss: Where'd you get the pistol?
Llewelyn Moss: At the gettin' place.
Carla Jean Moss: Did you buy that gun?
Llewelyn Moss: No. I found it.
Carla Jean Moss: Llewelyn!
Llewelyn Moss: What? Quit hollerin'.
Carla Jean Moss: What'd you give for that thing?
Llewelyn Moss: You don't need to know everything, Carla Jean.
Carla Jean Moss: I need to know that.
Llewelyn Moss: You keep runnin' that mouth I'm gonna' take you in the back and screw ya'.
Carla Jean Moss: Big talk.
Llewelyn Moss: Keep it up.
Carla Jean Moss: Fine. I don't wanna' know. I don't even wanna' know where you been all day.
Llewelyn Moss: That'll work.

Conversely, the bad guy is very obviously bad. He moves like an act of God; that is, like a natural disaster.iii He is well equipped at every turn without effort. Harming innocents does not trouble him; in fact he takes sick pleasure in toying with them, and even taunts with thinly veiled threats in the form of uncomfortably pointed lines of questioning. He brings to mind the fragility of a life we take for granted, wasting away on trivialities.

Anton Chigurh: What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss.
Gas Station Proprietor: Sir?
Anton Chigurh: The most. You ever lost. On a coin toss.
Gas Station Proprietor: I don't know. I couldn't say.

[Chigurh flips a quarter from the change on the counter and covers it with his hand]

Anton Chigurh: Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Call it?
Anton Chigurh: Yes.
Gas Station Proprietor: For what?
Anton Chigurh: Just call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Well, we need to know what we're calling it for here.
Anton Chigurh: You need to call it. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair.
Gas Station Proprietor: I didn't put nothin' up.
Anton Chigurh: Yes, you did. You've been putting it up your whole life you just didn't know it. You know what date is on this coin?
Gas Station Proprietor: No.
Anton Chigurh: 1958. It's been traveling twenty-two years to get here. And now it's here. And it's either heads or tails. And you have to say. Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Look, I need to know what I stand to win.
Anton Chigurh: Everything.
Gas Station Proprietor: How's that?
Anton Chigurh: You stand to win everything. Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Alright. Heads then.

[Chigurh removes his hand, revealing the coin is indeed heads]

Anton Chigurh: Well done.

[the gas station proprietor nervously takes the quarter with the small pile of change he's apparently won while Chigurh starts out]

Anton Chigurh: Don't put it in your pocket, sir. Don't put it in your pocket. It's your lucky quarter.
Gas Station Proprietor: Where do you want me to put it?
Anton Chigurh: Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it'll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.

And then there’s the sherif, the old man for whom there is apparently no country.

Wendell: [Viewing the desert crime scene] It's a mess, ain't it, Sheriff?
Ed Tom Bell: If it ain't, it'll do till the mess gets here.

  1. 2007. Coen Brothers, staring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin.
  2. I hate it when movies are so obvious with the foreshadowing that you know it’s a reference to something later. When done right, it shouldn’t be apparent until the revisit. That way, you do a sort-of double take: “Did he kill her? Oh, right.”
  3. NKJV:

    10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Leave a Reply