Past, present, future and other allegories of the film “No Country for Old Men”
Genre: Thriller, Crime, Western
Year of production: 2007
Director: Ethan and Joel Coen
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Barden, Kelly MacDonald, Woody Harrelson
The crime-drama western No Country for Old Men (original title No Country for Old Men) is one of the best works of the Coen brothers. The film received 4 out of 8 Oscar nominations, entered the top ten films of the decade, sharing fifth place with Zodiac.
In general, the movie turned out to be very simple in plot, but spectacular. However, according to the directors, any film should leave questions after viewing, otherwise it will not be of interest to the viewer. This happened in our case as well. The meaning of the film “No Country for Old Men” is not fully disclosed, and the final picture is not entirely clear. Let’s do a detailed analysis of the content and try to get to the bottom of the truth.
Let’s start with the description of the film “No Country for Old Men”. The content of the storyline takes the viewer to 1980. The off-screen voice of one of the key characters – Sheriff Tom Bell – recalls the old days with nostalgia, and sadly reports that much has changed now.
There are more criminals, and their atrocities become more cruel and inhuman. By the way, this very accurately reflects the meaning of the film’s title. The sheriff is already old, so he simply cannot control the situation in his territory.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Frame from the film.
After a short introduction, No Country for Old Men moves on to the main content. Here Llewellyn Moss hunts antelope in the desert, but misses. He goes to the place where the herd once grazed, and notices several jeeps to the side. Dead people and dogs lie nearby, everything is littered with spent cartridges.
In one of the jeeps, Moss finds a survivor in the showdown. The Mexican asks for water, but Llewellyn has no flask. An experienced hunter understands that one of the participants in the showdown must have survived. He follows the tracks, finds a body, next to which lies a suitcase, inside it is 2 million dollars.
The man takes the money and returns home. At night, he cannot sleep, collects water and returns back. However, the Mexican has already died, but other members of the gang appear. They chase Moss across the desert, but he manages to escape. Llewellyn understands that because of the money they will look for him, so he sends his wife to his mother, and he goes on the run.
The mercenary Anton Chigur is looking for money, who had previously fled the police station, strangling the sheriff’s deputy with handcuffs. At the scene of the shootout, he removes the nameplate from the car abandoned by Moss, and from it calculates the name of the owner. The investigation of the crime is entrusted to the local sheriff Tom Bell, who understands the true state of things, therefore, follows the trail of Chigurh and Moss.
Llewellyn stops at a cheap motel, where he is overtaken by the Mexicans and then by Chigurh. Moss manages to escape by taking the suitcase. The man’s idea is simple. He is going to cross the Mexican border and hide, and then connect with his wife. Not far from the border, he comes to the conclusion that they could not find him so quickly. She shakes the money and finds a radio transmitter in one of the bundles. Anton again catches up with the fugitive, and during the shootout that ensued, the mercenary and the former welder are injured.
Actor Josh Brolin played the role of Llewelyn Moss. Frame from the film.
Llewellyn hides the money in the grass near the border. He decides to get rid of the mercenary pursuing him. Chigurh offers a deal. Moss himself brings him money, and then the killer will not touch his wife. This alignment does not suit the man, and he intends to bring the matter to an end.
The wife of the fugitive Carl decides to accept the help of the sheriff, and tells the one where they agreed to meet her husband. Tom goes there but doesn’t make it in time. Moss is killed in a gunfight with the Mexicans who are taking the money.
After some time, Chigurh appears at Carla’s house. She understands everything, and says that it makes no sense to kill her. However, Anton is adamant. He lives by his code of honor, and promised the already deceased Moss that if he does not give the money, he will kill his wife.
This is a senseless sacrifice, so the mercenary invites the woman to play heads and tails. Carla refuses, so Chigurh makes the choice for her. After killing Carla, the mercenary leaves the city, but gets into an accident. Having tied up a broken arm with a shirt bought from a random teenager, the killer leaves.
Sheriff Bell resigns and at the end of the film tells his wife about his dreams in which he saw his father. This is where the story ends.
No Country for Old Men is a classic western with chases and shootouts. However, the ending here is absolutely incomprehensible, but you can try to give an explanation.
The role of gangster Anton Chigurh was played by Javier Bardem. Frame from the film.
The meaning of the ending of the film “No Country for Old Men” leads the viewer to the fact that evil has gone unpunished. Anton Chigurh, who by definition is the main antagonist of the story, gets away with it. And in the truest sense of the word. And it is unlikely that this mercenary is a real villain. He just does his job, considering himself the perfect tool for it.
Despite the fact that the killer is left with a mountain of corpses, he kills mostly out of necessity, although, apparently, he gets a certain pleasure from this. Even his tool is rather peculiar: a cylinder of compressed air pushing out a pin under pressure. Such devices are used for slaughtering cattle, but Anton uses them to break door locks and kill.
Sheriff Bell is clearly aware that he is no longer able to cope with his duties. Therefore, he decides to resign. He always wanted to be like his father, who really was a tough sheriff. For a while, he succeeded. However, at the very beginning of the film, he says that times have changed. Throughout the film, he practically does not show himself as a sheriff. Bell has little interest in the investigation and seems to just want to save Moss. However, even this he fails to do.
Probably, the sheriff worked for so many years only because he did not see anyone in his place. This is clearly seen in the way he communicates with one of his assistants. Although the guy wears a police uniform, it is clear that he treats work formally.
Dreams about the father are also references to the past. Bell’s grandfather and father died in the line of duty. Therefore, he is the only one in the family dynasty who managed to retire. His grandfather and father must be waiting for him by the fire that the sheriff saw in his dream.
The meaning of the film
In the film No Country for Old Men, the old and the new time are constantly opposed. This is the hidden meaning of the picture. In this interpretation, each of the main characters has its own time: Tom Bell is the past, Anton Chigurh is the present, Llewellyn Moss is the future.
Tom Bell is an old man who can no longer keep up with the pace of modern life. He is a real dinosaur, but his time is irretrievably gone. That is why Bell understands that it is time to leave.
This investigation is his final chord. However, he does not take any part in it and even refuses to meet with representatives of drug control, who are also investigating this case. No wonder Tom lives in memories and sees his father in a dream. After all, in fact, he himself became part of history.
Llewellyn Moss can symbolize the future. He has hope to change his life, in which he did not see anything good. The man went through Vietnam, worked as a welder, being retired, lives in a trailer. $2 million is exactly what is needed for a decent future. However, our hero does not receive money – he is killed. This complements the meaning very well, because the future always remains unattainable. The future is just our dream or plans for the future.
Kelly MacDonald played the role of Carla Jean, Moss’s wife. Frame from the film.
In this explanation of the ending, Anton Chigurh is given the role of the present. He is as ruthless as today. He lives according to his own laws, which are incomprehensible to the past and beyond the control of the future. At the same time, he performs the function of fate. At the gas station, he gives the old man a choice. The man guesses which side the coin fell on and wins a life. Such a choice confronts us almost every day, and the future fate of a person depends on it.
Curious moment. Throughout the film, all three protagonists never find themselves face to face, despite the fact that they are constantly nearby. They follow each other but cannot meet. Similarly, past, present and future never intersect. Perhaps this is the main meaning that the Coen brothers put into their work.