No Country for Old Men (review)

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A Simple Plan

Here’s the thing about Joel and Ethan Coen: they can make anything, absolutely anything, intensely profound and deeply weird — and weirdly deep — and cruelly magnificent all at the same time. Skip back past their recent fluff — not that Intolerable Cruelty and especially O Brother, Where Art Thou? are not as sublime as fluff gets — and recall how Fargo and Miller’s Crossing and Blood Simple simply Blew. Your. Mind. with the unfathomable depths of their indifferent visual beauty and the wide-open expanses of their psychological intuition. Recall how it felt to walk right along a knife edge of understated terror and unexpected humor and modern noir nonchalance.

The Coens are a force of nature, and thank god for them, for reminding us of the spellbinding awesomeness of film to fill you up and knock you down and wrap up the immeasurable strangeness of life in neat, messy packages. Every single one of their movies is the kind of movie that made you fall in love with movies, and each of their films can be defined through the one character at its center who is a force of nature him- or herself. (The Coens pull this off in such a way that you’d think that must be the definition of any movie.) And no Coen human low-pressure system yet has been anything like the nightmare of centered psychosis that is Javier Bardem’s (The Sea Inside, Collateral) Anton Chigurh.

He’s a killer — a hired killer, maybe, or just a madly dedicated one. He stalks into Coens’ big empty flat vastness of West Texas on a mission: to retrieve the suitcase full of money — about $2 millions’ worth — from whoever spirited it away from the desert drug deal that went bad. He’s a machine, as cold and calculating as the Terminator but worse: flickers of sympathy or humanity or something decent tease us. Or, no: not flickers of humanity but of a commitment to his own heartless set of rules, to a capriciousness that is its own weird kind of honor. He is perfectly happy to decide who will live and who will die by his hand on the toss of a coin. Chigurh is the embodiment of the randomness of violence, the unpredictability of the universe in dealing out death, and he haunts this desolate landscape like an malevolent shade.

It’s a landscape not just physical — the Coens’ long, silent takes of cold wind blowing through desert sagebrush are like something out of a forgotten Andrew Wyeth painting — but emotional, too, in an reserved male way. The man Chigurh is after is Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin: American Gangster, Grindhouse: Planet Terror), not the brightest bulb but far from the dimmest, too: he can’t resist the lure of all that money, which he stumbled across purely by accident, but neither can he resist the call of his conscience to do something he should have done before he left the scene of the crime (his own and others’), which is what allows Chigurh to pick up his tail. So now Moss is on the run, trying to draw Chigurh away from his wife (Kelly Macdonald: Nanny McPhee, Finding Neverland); two steps behind is county sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones: A Prairie Home Companion, Man of the House), who’s appalled by all the death and destruction he’s seeing in the wake of whomever it is he’s chasing.

It’s all so simple, really: a simple story simply told. It’s in the how that the Coens show their mastery as perhaps the finest pure storytellers working in film today. Give this same script to, oh, John McTiernan or Edgar Wright, and you’d get a stylish action movie out of it. In the hands of the Coens, it is a literary masterpiece about the flips sides of perseverance, and about a cultural shift that’s barely noticed until it’s past. The year is 1980, at the beginning of the “war on drugs,” when the dealers and the smugglers started getting desperate and even more dangerous, and saw no reason not to raise the stakes as high as they could go: Chigurh is their weapon. And while he doesn’t know it as the film opens, Bell is the old man this country is no longer for — we meet him through a stunningly effective voiceover at the beginning of the movie in which he shakes his head in wonder at the “old-timer” sheriffs of Texas who refuse to even carry a gun, but he is already as obsolete, temperamentally if not strategically, as those relics from a era lost and never to be refound.

If Bardem is the whirlwind here, Jones is the still eye of the storm, the calm axis around which horrors eddy and the world changes — this is Jones’s finest performance ever as he, the actor, teeters along a tightrope the character doesn’t even know he’s walking. But all the most riveting, most tense moments in No Country for Old Men are like that: quiet, uncomplicated, but fraught with dangers sensed and unsensed.


Oscars Best Picture 2007

previous Best Picture:
2006: The Departed
next Best Picture:
2008: Slumdog Millionaire

go> the complete list of Oscar-winning Best Pictures

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Nathan
Nathan
Thu, Nov 15, 2007 6:20pm

Well, I’m sure it helps when your starting point is a literary masterpiece in the first place. McCarthy originally conceived of No Country as a screenplay before he made a novel of it, which may be why it has apparently translated to film so well (I haven’t seen it yet.) No Country as a novel might be McCarthy’s weakest effort to date, but a weak effort from McCarthy is better than anything else out there. Thank god the Coens got a hold of it and not someone else.

When I first heard the movie was being made, I doubted they could successfully portray the menace of Chigurh, but it looks like Bardem has done something really special.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Nov 16, 2007 7:45am

I’m sure it helps when your starting point is a literary masterpiece in the first place.

A good script is always an excellent place to start, of course, but many bad films have been made from great source material. See *Love in the Time of Cholera* the film for a prime example.

E
E
Fri, Nov 16, 2007 2:31pm

I don’t even want to read the rest of the review after the first few lines. As long as its awesome, I don’t want to spoil it anymore for myself. I hope that’s not a terrible fact to a film reviewer, but this is one of maybe two films per year where I isolate myself from most information and hope to god it’s as good as I want it to be.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Nov 16, 2007 7:17pm

That’s not terrible at all. I try to make my reviews as interesting to those who’ve already seen a film as it hopefully is to those trying to decide whether to see something, so come back after you see this one.

Moe
Moe
Wed, Nov 21, 2007 11:02pm

Tommy Lee Jones gives his speech at the table and then the credits come up. Everybody in the audience looks at each other and quietly shuffles to the exists. I just sat there and screamed in my head, “That’s it?!?! Where’s the ending?”

No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose. The scenes without the killer was like a suction void that drained the movie of all tension/conflict/interest and i couldn’t wait until the film went back to him.

I hate it when movies don’t have endings.
I’d give it a 5/10 but probably around 8/10 if it had a proper conclusion.

The Party Crasher
The Party Crasher
Thu, Nov 22, 2007 5:23am

Here I am again.

Here I am to announce the fact that Josh Brolin has shot a dog…again. Two consecutive films in a row, Josh Brolin shoots a dog. Two brilliantly made films (No Country for Old Men and American Gangster). Both containing a scene where Brolin shoots a dog.

My predictions for Oscar:
Best film category:
1)No Country for Old Men
2)American Gangster

Best supporting actor:
1) Josh Brolin
2) Dog in No Country for Old Men
3) Dog in American Gangster

JT
JT
Thu, Nov 22, 2007 12:48pm

No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose.

I think the car crash showed that Chigurh, who seemed to be invincible for most of the movie, was as vulnerable as everyone else.

The movie was open-ended, but TLJ’s words at the end pretty much say to me that he has accepted his fate and he feels too old to continue chasing this killer. One final showdown doesn’t need to be shown.

Moe
Moe
Thu, Nov 22, 2007 1:05pm

The aftermath of that late night street shootout showed Chigurh was human. So what was the point of the car crash?

Who hired Chigurh? Who were those two “managerial” men?
Was he in that abandoned crime scene in that motel?
Did he just run out the window? That doesn’t seem like him.

The movie should’ve ended with TLJ and Chigurh at the motel. No matter what happened, that would’ve been the proper conclusion. Or, even better, have his final speech as a voice over on his way over to the motel where Chigurh was resting and fade out as he enters. Let the audience decide that way.

That would’ve been not only an ending, but a great one.
The way they left it, makes TLJ’s character seem cowardly.
What the sulty old sherrif is too scared to hunt down the psychotic new comers? Didn’t he state at the very beginning that he’d be okay with dying on the job?

God, i really hated that ending.
I don’t care if the Coens followed the book’s ending to a T, it’s just wrong to leave the audience that unfulfilled.

Nathan
Nathan
Fri, Nov 23, 2007 12:06am

the car crash — earlier in the film Chigurh tells the gas station attendant not to mix the lucky coin in with his other coins because then it would just be another coin. then he turns to the man and says, “Which it is.” Chigurh says more than once that he got here the same way the coin did… he is a lucky coin in that he is the “ultimate badass” and seems to be the arbiter of others’ fates, but he is also just another coin in that he is subject to chance as much as anyone else. the random crash makes this clear.

i thought it was interesting that, just like Moss, Chigurh is forced to purchase a piece of clothing from a stranger with bloody money. in any case i think the image of a battered Chigurh shambling down a sunny, Odessa, Tx street is as perfect an image of evil as i might ever see in a film.

Sheriff Bell is renouncing the world because this world has become (drumroll) No Country For Old Men. and maybe he realizes that this world has always been that way. there will be no killing of Chigurh because Chigurh in many ways is the face of the world itself — violent and random even if it seems at times to follow some kind of untethered logic. if a man as resourceful and full of classic, western values such as Moss is snuffed out unceremoniously off-screen, what chance does an old sheriff have?

the only thing we can do in that kind of a world is to carry the fire, no matter how small, into all that darkness, like in the dream. Bell’s way of doing this is to retire, settle down, live out his life, and tell his story.

but anyway, if you didn’t like NCFOM, i saw the trailer for the new Rambo movie and i’d be willing to bet he kills the bad guys in the end following all the usual narrative conventions that people like so much; so you might want to check that out.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Nov 23, 2007 3:20pm

What Nathan said.

The way they left it, makes TLJ’s character seem cowardly.
What the sulty old sherrif is too scared to hunt down the psychotic new comers? Didn’t he state at the very beginning that he’d be okay with dying on the job?

Cowardly? It’s just the opposite. It’s Bell bravely recognizing that the world has passed him by and that he is not prepared to face it in any way that fits into his self-image of himself as a lawman. His whole opening monologue becomes ironic in retrospect. Not his stated willingness to die on the job (though, I suppose, an argument could be made about self-delusion, that he believed he could be satisfied die on the job only when he was in control enough to think, perhaps unconsciously, that that wouldn’t happen). But his respectful but just slightly condescending portrait of those old geezers who preceded him, and whom he can see are on the way out. Now Bell is the one on the way out.

What difference would it make who hired Chigurh? Isn’t it enough to assume that it was someone who had a stake in that drug deal that went bad just before the film opens? How would knowing the identity and precise motive of Chigurh’s employer change anything?

Moe
Moe
Fri, Nov 23, 2007 8:19pm

In the time that it took to film and show that pointless car crash, a few expositional words about his motive would’ve helped the movie.

Remember Vincent from Collateral? Remember how well it was portrayed what his victims had done?

“How do i know, you know? They all got that witness for the prosecution look to me. Probably some major federal indictment of somebody who majorly doesn’t wanna get indicted.”

A few sentences like that could only have made the movie better.
And to leave the most compelling character of the entire with so many question marks around him was just not smart.

Believe me MaryAnne, if you only could’ve seen the disappointment of the audience that i saw it with when the credits came up, you’d see what i mean.

reed
reed
Sat, Nov 24, 2007 12:55am

The film peters out two thirds of the way through and it’s a rip off from there onwards. The film makes you care about Bolin, the Vietnam vet character and then it doesn’t even pay off where it counts. A show down between a resourceful man and an insatiable killer who looks and acts like Lurch but who has ghost like supernatural power to carry out evil, was needed. But the movie didn’t deliver. The last quarter or so of the film rambled on without much of a story left to tell. What a disappointment in its deficiency to remain connected to the story of a strong-willed, tough-minded, resourceful and determined man to make his stand against evil. The film couldn’t even be bothered with showing how a man who decided to protect his wife and take on a malevolent grotesque monster went down fighting. His stand was the purpose and heart of the story and what made the film worth watching and redeeming. All this emphasis given to an almost supernatural man possessed of evil undermined the credibility of the film. As the film went on and on, its emphasis on the violent acts of a reprehensible character and the inability to retaliate effectively against him or to outwit him because he is just unstoppable and too powerful made the story repulsive. Eventually the film’s story became so futile and repelling it lost it compass as it meandered and sputtered to an inconclusive and pointless ending, but by then who cared anymore?

Alex Knapp
Sat, Nov 24, 2007 3:44pm

A show down between a resourceful man and an insatiable killer who looks and acts like Lurch but who has ghost like supernatural power to carry out evil, was needed.

I completely agree. Even if Llewellyn had LOST, and the killer had won, the showdown would have redeemed the movie.

I was horribly let down by the ending. I don’t need the good guys to win all the time. I don’t need there to be a happy ending. I DO, however, need there to be a MEANINGFUL ending. An ending that gives the film a thematic capstone.

Too many potentially great movies are ruined by their endings. This is doubly disappointing because the Coen Brothers have brought us some amazing, amazing endings that take their films to new heights.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sat, Nov 24, 2007 11:15pm

In the time that it took to film and show that pointless car crash

But the crash was NOT pointless! It shows that Chigurh is NOT the “supernatural” being the most recent commenters seem to believe he is — that he is subject to the same random chance that we all are. What is supernatural about him, anyway?

An ending that gives the film a thematic capstone.

Just because the thematic capstone isn’t one you like doesn’t mean there isn’t one there.

Moe
Moe
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 10:32am

“But the crash was NOT pointless! It shows that Chigurh is NOT the “supernatural” being the most recent commenters seem to believe he is — that he is subject to the same random chance that we all are. What is supernatural about him, anyway?”

Don’t you think his gunfight injuries with Josh Brolin did that already?

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 6:39pm

No, I don’t. Chigurh believed himself above the vagaries of random chance, but getting shot in a gunfight doesn’t seem to negate that. But that car crash, outta nowhere… whew. It’s as shocking to us as it is to him… and that’s the point. It HAD to come out of nowhere for us to feel something of the shock he feels.

JDR
JDR
Sun, Nov 25, 2007 11:14pm

Thank you for the best review/discussion I’ve read of the film, yet. I just saw it a few hours ago, and I knew I’d be reading some review sites this evening to try to get a better understanding of the message (especially after the ending – which made the majority of the audience groan in obvious disappointment when the lights came up).

Tommy Lee Jones’ performance is better and more haunting the more I think about it. At first I was bothered that his character really had nothing to do with the main plot line. However, the movie’s title is all about him and his situation – his decision to quit and his lack of involvement and waning interest in his job, and his growing disgust and frustration with how he perceives the world changing (but as another character pointed out, man’s inhumanity towards man is nothing new). The fact that he doesn’t have any true involvement or effect on the events that unfold is clearly on purpose.

This is not a straight-ahead, plot-drive action flick that ties up neatly at the end. Mistaking it for one is what’s causing people frustration with the movie, I think. I’ve read quite a few reviews that said that the dream retelling at the end of the movie was just “tacked on to add some meaning.” No, the theme is constant throughout with Jones’ character and it is the whole point of the movie (and McCarty’s book) – otherwise they could have just titled it “Some Stuff that Went Down in West Texas.”

I like that Llewelyn was resourceful and clever – but not enough in the end to cheat his fate. I like the car crash, which proved that the one person seemingly in control of things throughout the film, wasn’t completely. Everything was masterfully crafted – this is a great piece of filmmaking in its own right and thought provoking, despite what some people are saying.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Nov 26, 2007 3:19pm

I’ve read quite a few reviews that said that the dream retelling at the end of the movie was just “tacked on to add some meaning.”

I think that says more about those critics than it says about the movie. Who on earth could take issue with “meaning” or with a film being “meaningful”?

Johnny
Johnny
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 8:26pm

I dunno what Jones was talking about in the end, I was waiting for a cowboy ending, maybe they’ll have a sequel with more guns. j/k
I was sitting in a theater full of old people. I meen I was the only young guy.They most of saw Tommy lee Jones was in it and figured it would be a typical western. I’m not saying I’m Mr.cool for being the youngest there.
However Given the bad guy was so creepy, I got the jumps everytime. You know a bad thing was going to happen , but when… that had me on the edge. I can’t help be a twitcher in the seats. It’s embarrassing, I did manage to stand from my seat before everyone else. They were all like “huh is it over?”. And i walked out knowing at least i’m not that bad(the bad guy). I’d didn’t really get TLJ’s character I found it nerve racking. He was just taking things slow. Mean while hes falling behind the whole case.Cowardly, no, if he was, he wouldn’t of been a cop. So I didn’t listen to that story I was to dazzled by the time, settings and violence.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Nov 27, 2007 11:43pm

They most of saw Tommy lee Jones was in it and figured it would be a typical western.

Well, that’s their problem, isn’t is? Since when is he known for being in “typical Westerns”?

Johnny
Johnny
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 12:08am

Well the joke is, Tommy lee Jones shows up to the set with his Cowboy hat and cop Attitude. No need for the studio to buy him the uniform, he already owns one. Thats where I was getting at. But I didn’t event care about the crowd and what they thought.But they did take notice to most of his performance.Like the scene where he describes those crimes in the paper, it was bitter and funny. Where I liked the whole cat and mouse thing more between the killer and Josh Brolin.

JT
JT
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 1:48am

I was sitting in a theater full of old people. I meen I was the only young guy

I had the same experience. I’ve never seen so many old women (Cormac McCarthy fangirls?) in a theater at one time. It was like bingo night at a church. But they were really quiet even when the accents and dialogue were difficult to grasp. The last movie I went to that was filled with old people was Matchstick Men and people kept asking others what the characters on the screen were saying. It was a nightmare.

MBI
MBI
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 10:08am

The youngest person in my viewing was my 17-year-old little brother, who I made go with me. I also made him watch Blue Velvet, Elephant and Barton Fink when he was younger. I do so much for that kid, I swear.

Best movie of the year? Hell fucking yeah.

Nathan
Nathan
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 5:26pm

yeah, there are a lot of old-lady, Cormac McCarthy fangirls… they really enjoy the violence, despair, and Gnostic angst.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 6:21pm

Tommy lee Jones shows up to the set with his Cowboy hat and cop Attitude.

Nope, sorry, that doesn’t cut it. Anyone who’s clued in enough to behind-the-scenes Hollywood to know that knows that TLJ hardly even does “typical Westerns.”

Kevin
Kevin
Wed, Nov 28, 2007 11:53pm

I have never posted a blog before, if that’s what I’m doing now. I appreciate all the insights, to help me understand what I believe is one of the most well-crafted films I have ever seen.

I, too, did not get the point of the ending at first and groaned with most of the audience. After thinking more about it, I got that the Chigurh character was not just an evil man, he was the embodiment, a vehicle of Evil itself. I believe that is what Harrelson’s character was trying to get across to Brolin in the hospital when he said, “You don’t understand.” It makes sense that Anton Chigurh goes on, as a metaphor for the persistence of Evil that Sheriff Bell so often laments.

Johnny
Johnny
Thu, Nov 29, 2007 12:48am

I can believe the elders didn’t come to see T-Jones. I was guessing. First thing that came to mind was Maybe it was Tlj , maybe. And when I thought about it, yes your right he didn’t do alot of westerns. If all the senors came there because of the writer , well I believe that, if I knew the writer. Which I didn’t, and now I do, hell maybe I’ll read the book, or something else by the writer. I’m game for more of the content the film featured.

cole
cole
Fri, Nov 30, 2007 1:40am

i think that the sheriff took his friends advice. When he asked the old timer if the man that shot you was released whould you go after him, and the old timer said no because while you are trying to get revenge our justice more of your life is flying out the window. I think to that the sheriff had seen enough evil for his life time.

b
b
Thu, Dec 06, 2007 10:30am

It only makes sense that a lot of people would be disappointed by the last third of this movie. In a way it speaks to how damn excellent the set-up was. You really want some kind of showdown, regardless of the exact outcome. That none of the three primary characters fully confront one another is an eschewal of convention that can’t help but frustrate on some level.

I loved the movie, of course. But the book pads out things a little better, thematically. It’s more easily understood that the Sheriff’s pontifications are the center of gravity in the story, and you get more of them, more insight into where his character is coming from. Not that the Coens omit anything vital.

It also gives you a little more insight into who Chigurh is and what happens to the money itself. I’m not sure why the Coens left that out of the movie, as it would’ve appeased the desire for more resolution; and, it IS in the book. And it’s an interesting resolution.

Overall, the book, while powerful and 100% worth reading, is not McCarthy’s most mind-blowing — it’s very spare, almost Hemingway-esque (but better), and the movie is an at times almost exhaustingly faithful adaptation. So in seeing the movie you really aren’t missing out on a ton. But the book does give you some insight into a few puzzling aspects and scenes in the movie, and spins others in a slightly different way. E.g. in the book, the final dialogue between Chigurh and Moss’ wife plays out differently, with different implications. There’s more discussion between them than what’s in the movie, and Moss’ wife finally calls the coin toss.

What impressed me in reading the book after seeing the movie was that on the rare occasions the Coens flat-out added something of their own, it was brilliant, but also aesthetically well-matched enough that I was surprised it wasn’t also a part of the book. E.g. that amazing sequence in which the pitbull chases Brolin into and through the river? Purely the Coens.

On the otherhand the melancholy of the book is deeper and better balanced. You get into the Sheriff’s head more, especially towards the end. There’s a little more personal context. It’s not exactly uplifting stuff, but definitely powerful, and it gives you a hell of a lot to think about.

Scott P.
Scott P.
Fri, Dec 07, 2007 12:49am

Excellent comment by reed– “What a disappointment in its deficiency to remain connected to the story of a strong-willed, tough-minded, resourceful and determined man to make his stand against evil. The film couldn’t even be bothered with showing how a man who decided to protect his wife and take on a malevolent grotesque monster went down fighting. His stand was the purpose and heart of the story and what made the film worth watching and redeeming.”

While I enjoyed the movie & didn’t mind the ending, I didn’t like how the Coens neglected to show us how Moss (the movie’s underdog-hero) died. He shared a clever give & take with the chick by the pool & then we don’t even see a clear shot of him lying dead in the motel room after the Mexicans showed up.

I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all. He avoided meeting with the DEA agents out of laziness or maybe he simply didn’t care about solving the case. Then when he figured out that Chigurh would waltz right into the crime scene at the El Paso motel in order to find the money, why wouldn’t he call the local police to meet him there in order to catch the psychopath on the loose???

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Dec 07, 2007 6:50pm

that amazing sequence in which the pitbull chases Brolin into and through the river?

Man, that dog was intensely scary…

I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe there are no heroes here at all.

What I love about the Coens is how they refuse — almost always but particularly here — to adhere to cinematic convention. Who says there *must* be a protagonist who’s “heroic”?

Corey
Corey
Sat, Dec 08, 2007 11:25pm

At the conclusion of this film, I wish I had been shot in the head with Chigurh’s air gun. Excuse me for enjoying films as entertainment, but when I go to the movies I don’t want my brain to hurt from all that thinking. Tommy Lee Jones was definitely great in this movie. However, this movie isn’t nearly as flawless a film as Volcano. My two suggestions are: #1 Volcano could have used more western shootouts. #2 No Country For Old Men could have used more lava.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Dec 09, 2007 4:34pm

I don’t want my brain to hurt from all that thinking

Your brain hurts from *thinking*?! You should see a doctor or something. That’s like saying your lungs hurt from breathing –it shouldn’t be.

Byron Huskey
Byron Huskey
Thu, Jan 03, 2008 5:45am

A bit late to the party, but I just saw this last night with a couple friends. Pretty much adored movie, and we thought it was brilliant, except for…

Yes, the ending (although Moss’ death was also very underwhelming, I was able to accept it as an artistic choice).

It left all four of us so… unsatisfied, perhaps for different reasons. For myself and two of my friends, it was not that there was no “showdown”. We liked the car crash. I actually predicted the crash itself as soon as I saw that light turn green, but that’s okay, it still was shocking to see it *actually* come to be.

We liked the monologue about the dream. But the ending was still so unsatisfying. I didn’t want a happy ending, or some other cliche. I’m okay with leaving things unanswered or vague. But it wasn’t an ending. The movie stopped. It didn’t end. Perhaps, as had been suggested, the movie should have ended with the monologue over a montage of shots leading up to the sheriff coming back to the hotel. Perhaps not.

I’m sure years from now the movie’s ending will be studied by film students in Coen Brother study classes (I’ve been in one before, it was a great class) and people will have a hundred ways of interpreting it; many of their movies are like that. Still, an ending shouldn’t have such a universal head-scratch. Doesn’t have to be dumbed down. My friends and I aren’t stupid, we like reading into things. But really, the movie plain old stopped. This was actually the second movie in a row I’ve seen with a weak “ending” (I Am Legend by the other. But that movie petered out as soon as the woman and her son entered, and that was more of a script failing than a misguided artistic choice). Still, the rest of the movie was exquisite. It’s the one real flaw of this otherwise gem of a film.

matt
matt
Tue, Jan 08, 2008 6:01pm

No conflict resolution between the protagonist and antagonist, questions marks everywhere and car crash that served no purpose. The scenes without the killer was like a suction void that drained the movie of all tension/conflict/interest and i couldn’t wait until the film went back to him.

You should rend finding nemo. I think you’d enjoy it.

But really, the movie plain old stopped.

Yes it did. That it wasn’t what you thought i would be doesn’t mean it didn’t have an ending. The story line was over. The movie started with the sheriff’s words and ended with the sheriff’s words. In the beginning he discussed the old timers, in the end he was the old timer.

Needless to say, I thought the movie was brilliant, flawless, and the best I’ve seen in a long time. I didn’t want to leave the theatre. Bravo.

E R
E R
Fri, Jan 18, 2008 8:24pm

Howdy,

In Reply to:

“I don’t buy the Tommy Lee Jones character as being a hero at all. He avoided meeting with the DEA agents out of laziness or maybe he simply didn’t care about solving the case. Then when he figured out that Chigurh would waltz right into the crime scene at the El Paso motel in order to find the money, why wouldn’t he call the local police to meet him there in order to catch the psychopath on the loose???

The Sheriff is and ol’ and wise and wise dog….

he isnt wastin’ time with the Feds, and patiently sits and watches…knowing one of em is a ProKiller, the other, a NamVet ProKiller….

He thinks ahead how these pieces are moving, really fast, making their moves…

Calling the cavalry, would just get more police killed against these two gunslingers…

It is in Texas, boys…

Another cool part of the movie is where all 3 characters connect:

They all drink from the same milk.

Is that part in the book ?

Signal30
Signal30
Fri, Jan 18, 2008 9:22pm

That’s sorta neat about the milk… I forgot that Moss was in the equation.

I think it’s important when approaching the film to remember that it’s not Moss’ story, but the Sheriff’s. In a meta-filmmaking way, the betrayal of narrative expectations mirrors the sheriff’s increasing bewilderment that no one’s playing by the rules anymore.

And then, the realization that they never really did and that he was a sucker for thinking so.

Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Moss’ offscreen death. It sort of implied that in the scheme of things, his death was as irrelevant to the proceedings as that of the hotel clerk, the floozie by the pool or any other bystander that happened to get into Chugarh’s way.

Dead is dead, doesn’t matter how you got there.

Although I’ll cop that when the reveal came, a line from Yeats’ “The Second Coming” flashed through my mind: “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold…”

But that was in response to the narrative turn, I momentarily thought that the film had gone off of the rails. But soon I was back in the groove and figured out what was going down.

Actually, I think that Yeats’ poem was a direct influence on the book/film. Especially taking into account that the title is from another one of his works, and on to such things as Chugarh slowing his truck down on a bridge to take a potshot at a falcon (and missing).

antonio
antonio
Sun, Jan 20, 2008 3:54pm

Upfront we are educated beyond instinct; apologizing for deconstructing in advance. I took this film as a metaphor for endless war e.g. war on drugs terror and civil liberties and so on and so on.
No one is innocent everyone participates in being both hunter and hunted. They draw sustenance from the same source. the milk scene the ending is perfect as, it does not give resolution. This is war without clear battle lines or combatants. It is unlike any other Brolins Vietnam experiences have not prepared him, nor has Harrison’s own c “modern” experiences given him an edged.
The future belongs to the young, the kids who take “blood money. This noir down to its bones and it is brilliant

blah
blah
Fri, Jan 25, 2008 2:29am

Great movie … and great comments by everyone

blah
blah
Fri, Jan 25, 2008 2:45am

What do people think about the Carson guy? What a waste of a character … I mean, he is introduced so well, talks big and shows up by Moss’ bedside and I thought he was going to be the next big character to take on Chigurh (or at least try to!) and then bam … a couple of scenes later is just another victim of Chigurh!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jan 25, 2008 12:54pm

Maybe Carson is a commentary on the randomness of life and death: even “good” characters can die unexpectedly…

Hardy Campbell
Hardy Campbell
Thu, Jan 31, 2008 2:53pm

So many viewers, so little consensus. Like all allegorical poetry (and that’s really what this movie is) this film is ambiguous to the point of each viewer seeing it from their own worldview of life, death and justice. No Country is also a Greek tragedy set in the wastelands of West Texas, with the sage Bell playing the part of the helpless but sage muse, Moss playing the mortal defying the Gods, and Chigurh being the God’s emissary on earth, dispensing a divine justice unknowable to humans. Chigurh uses his victim’s own flaws to condemn them. “If your rule brought you to this,” Anton asks the doomed Wells, “what good is your rule?”

Cathryn
Thu, Feb 07, 2008 11:59pm

There’s some great discussion here. I finally saw this movie over the weekend and left the theatre suspecting it would require a second viewing; after reading the comments here, I *know* it will. I think the ending will feel more solid – my initial feeling was that it should have happened ten minutes sooner than it did, after Chigurh came out from his meeting with Mrs Moss’s, but now I think I just missed some things.

In terms of Lewellyn Moss’s exit, I simultaneously was quite disappointed and wouldn’t have it any other way. I would have liked to see the final confrontation, even with the same outcome, but . . . if this were the sort of movie that would go out of its way to show that, then it would be the sort of movie I don’t generally care for too much. Ah, well. Not too hard to guess how it happened, anyway.

Yep, definitely need to see this one again. I went in knowing little to nothing about it other than the fact that it had been enthusiastically recommended a while back by a friend whose taste in movies I trust, and that certainly allowed the story to unfold in my head however it wanted, but now I need to see it knowing as much as I can about it.

E R
E R
Fri, Feb 08, 2008 3:08am

Howdy, Hardy,

That is a great analysis, of a Greek tragedy backdrop, as the Cohens are known to pay homage in the retelling of a story of morales, and systems of beliefs, using various historical periods in Americana. (O Bro.Where)

The deal here is that this is set in Texas, so the story takes on the full flavor, like driving for miles, hours on the desolate highways.

There is also a couple of questions that still linger after viewing the movie….

like, what happened to shipment from the back of the truck? it figures that Chigurh has it, so why go after the money? Greed or professionalism?

so the characters are whipping in and out of new and old prototypes of society.

Still wonderin’ if the milk part is in the book, or in, now that I think of it, in any Greek tragedy…

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Feb 08, 2008 8:03am

it figures that Chigurh has it, so why go after the money?

How do you figure that?

E R
E R
Fri, Feb 08, 2008 10:47am

First, Moss sees the shipment in the back of the truck, at the scene.

Next, Chigurh is there, and executes the 2 guys sent by Houston.

Next scene, the sheriff is there the next day, looks at the – empty – back of the truck, and comments on the brown dope…

Nathan
Nathan
Fri, Feb 08, 2008 12:01pm

interesting aside which doesn’t get talked about: the character of Chirgurh was most likely inspired by a ruthless El Paso drug-lawyer named Jimmy Chagra. Chagra was involved in hiring the father of Woody Harrelson to kill a judge in San Antonio. then the Coens just happen to hire Woody Harrelson to be in their film.

coincidence?

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Feb 08, 2008 12:52pm

Heh. Gotta be a coincidence, right?

First, Moss sees the shipment in the back of the truck, at the scene.

Does he? I’d forgotten that. But anyway, I don’t think Chirgurh is after the money as much as he’s after the guy what took the money: loose ends, don’tcha know…

David
David
Sun, Feb 24, 2008 1:03am

Perhaps some of us need two bleak hours with a soulless terminator and an assortment of pathetic souls. I didn’t. There is nothing redeeming, or even slightly interesting, about this film. I suppose that was the point. That is, after all, what it appears to be saying about the human condition.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Feb 24, 2008 3:21am

Must all art be cheery?