Movie Talk: No Country for Old Men

Movie Talk: No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers really raised the bar on this one. No Country for Old Men immediately earned the title of recent classic upon its release in 2007. Today I want to really sink my teeth into this movie and talk about some of the themes and character motifs that truly make it one of the modern greats.


The main cast.


Cormac McCarthy penned the novel of the same name back in 2005, and the movie follows the same basic beats as the book does – although many scenes are expanded upon in the novel, of course. It’s a Neo-Western, and like all great westerns the plot follows a big bag of money and those who want it. We follow Llewellyn (Josh Brolin), are huntsman from rural Texas who while tracking a deer through the desert along the border with Mexico, he stumbles upon a drug deal that went majorly wrong. 



Throughout the movie the Coen’s set up three events that lay out one of the movies key themes, and I think the most interesting: How doing the right thing will not always lead to a righteous outcome, we’ll come back to this more later.
Llewellyn goes back to help the dying Mexican because he just can’t bear the thought of someone else suffering when he could do something to help it – even if that person is a drug mule who he only met briefly once.

Llewellyn goes back with water, only to find the Mexican dead and the cartel have come back to the site only to find him. They fire shots at him, and dogs chase him up the river, leading to the pursuit of the remainder of the movie.





Enter Anton Chigurh; who must be up there somewhere in everyone’s most beloved movie baddies (Javier Bardem is a little too good at playing a psychopath too). Chigurh is the man who has been hired to find the money, and he has no problem dispensing with anyone who inconveniences that plan by treating them like slaughterhouse cattle.  


'What's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss...?'


Chigurh’s morality is truly psychotic. During the famous gas station scene, Chirguh deems the nice, friendly gas station attendant’s life forfeit when he discovers that he inherited his gas station business from his wife’s family. 
Kelly Macdonald was also in Trainspotting, don't ya know?
This exemplifies how much value Chigurh puts into hard work and people earning their place in this world, but also how insane he is for putting an innocent man in such a situation.

He deems people unworthy of living then put’s their death up to fate by flipping the coin and, because flipping calling coin flip is entirely dependent on chance, he absolves himself of any responsibility for what follows. Carla Jean empathises this point at the end of the movie, ‘The coin ain’t got no say; it’s just you.’ His morality is entirely what he makes of it and any decision based on it cannot be merely palmed off onto chance. 

Chigurh ignores this, of course.



No County does this in a couple of ways. First, we don’t see Llewellyn and Chigurh have their final stand-off, in fact we stumble upon Llewellyn's body at the same moment that Sheriff Bell discovers it. In movies (and Westerns in particular) we are used to seeing the main character and the villain having that iconic stand-off during the movies concluding act. No County denies us that catharsis.

The second example of the Coen’s key theme of showing how good actions don’t always lead to positive outcomes, is the scene where Llewellyn.
Had Llewellyn been a less moral man, he may very well had gone off with that young girl and spent the rest of the day drinking beer with her until doing ‘what beer leads to’. But he doesn’t. He stays true to his wife and turns the girl down. This leads him to being in the motel room when the cartel breaks in – leading to his sudden and untimely death. The Coen’s show us again how being a good person doesn’t always lead to good fortune – a theme that has become to movies what the world wide web became to the internet. That is a very dark and well told theme.


Taken directly from the movie.


The third example is when Llewellyn chooses to fight Chigurh at the expense of putting his life’s wife in danger, a decision that ultimately leads to tragedy.

If you’re reading, then I’m sure you agree what a fantastic movie this is and well it both plays with and adds to the western genre. A masterpiece of our era. 
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