March 13, 2008

No Country For Old Men: A somewhat complete analysis

Disclaimer: If you haven't seen No Country For Old Men, first of all I'm sorry for you. Go to the movie store and rent it immediately. Second of all, you probably do not want to read this post. I will discuss many important parts of the film including the ending.

Last night I saw No Country For Old Men for a second time, and I have to say that I enjoyed it even more. But before last night, I still thought There Will Be Blood was the better movie. I think I was wrong. No Country is as close to perfection as I think a movie can get, although many people hate the ending for some reason.

The movie opens with Tommy Lee Jones' character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, talking about sheriffs-past in different areas of Texas. Many of them didn't carry guns because in those days and places, packing heat wasn't necessary. The camera shows us the gorgeous vistas of West Texas (the movie was mostly filmed in New Mexico). The movie immediately takes on a Western feel. One review I read described No Country as a new school Western, a fitting categorization. It has all the elements of a Western- "the ultimate badass" outlaw in Anton Chigurh; the bareness of the wild west; the gun fight in the empty city streets. The Coen brothers masterfully bring that sense of lawlessness to a time when supposedly there is law and order.

The standard film elements- shot composition, cinematography and editing are flawless. Every image is crisp and beautiful, every transition seamless. For example, early in the film, while Moss (Josh Brolin) is out hunting, he spots a hobbling dog. Cut to the far away shot of four or five pickup trucks with open doors and no people. Cut to Moss at the scene amongst the dead bodies (and a dead dog). Then begin my favorite sequence. Moss starts heading along the tire tracks which you can faintly see amongst the tall grass, cut to him spotting a tree where he believes the man with the money would've stopped, cut to him at the tree, standing over the dead man. From there he is instantly at his car, instantly home, and instantly inside talking to his wife. Not a second is wasted. It's glorious.

This is so crucial throughout the movie. The camera never at any point shows us anything we don't need to see. In the beginning every detail of Chigurh's killing is shown to us, but by the end we know what has happened, and the insignifcant shots of the killings themselves are left out. First Carson Wells (a name directly from the wild west, and also played by Woody Harrelson of all people) is shot on screen, but we aren't even sure he's been shot until the blood starts creeping across the floor towards Anton's feet- the immediate cut to him nonchalantly leaning back and putting his feet up to avoid getting any on his shoes is priceless. In one of the final scenes, Chigurh meets Moss's wife, asks her to call the coin toss, and is then standing outside checking the bottoms of his shoes, indicating that the deed has been done.

So why does this movie have the title it does? Well I think that if you imagine Sheriff Bell as the focal point it makes a lot more sense. The opening scene he tells us that it used to be a real easy life. His demeanor throughout the film emphasizes his old-school attitude. He shoots the breeze with everyone, even when he's trying to get information. When he and his young deputy enter Moss's trailer, the deputy with his gun drawn asks Sheriff Bell why he doesn't have his gun drawn. He says he doesn't need it because he's not going in first. Eventually, Bell does draw his gun, just before he enters the motel room where Moss has been murdered, because he fears Chigurh is lurking inside. I think it is at this moment that Bell realizes that the world of 1980 is too much for him to bear. (Whether Chigurh was inside or not, is debatable. It is possible that the cut of Chigurh hiding behind the door is simply a visualization of Sheriff Bell's thoughts, because when the door opens, it opens all the way to wall and Chigurh is nowhere to be found, but this entire scene is debatable).

The final 20 minutes of No Country appears to revolve around fate. A variation of the line, "a man cannot escape what's coming to him," is spoken several times by numerous characters. It leads up to the final scene in Sheriff Bell's house. He's talking about his dreams. He dreamed of his father, who died at 20 years younger than Bell's current age. I think the dream he describes is a metaphor for death, but more so, the death of the old way of life. The life that he knew.

75 comments:

David Deyette said...

plz review "The Deer Hunter" next

jasonguy8927 said...

A very decent analysis. I must say i was quite frustrated with the end of the movie. But it just goes to show how dumbed down cinema has become. Movies are so purposely straight forward that the audience does not have to work to understand the characters, plot, symbols, etc. Thank you for helping confirm some things and explaining others. The fact the it does not show Mrs. Moss' death, but makes it obvious the moment Anton steps out of the house is absolute genius. anyway. thanks.

JG

Jorge said...

I am currently on the fence to which is better "No Country...of Blood." I feel like the comment response in LA is that Blood is better, but I feel I have to go with No Country on this one! Its kinda f'in awesome!

John Smith said...

I enjoyed your review. Moral of the story: American society is not ready for this new way of life based on terror, money, drugs and lack of passion. The last accident shows us the capitalism mindset in the kids, when discussing about money in such tragedy.

Asher said...

No Country For Old Men was an outstanding achievement by the Coen Brothers. Many people, after watching, debate over the ending. To me, the ending was outstanding, and flowed perfectly with the feel of the entire movie. It lacked all emotion but stimulated so many as well, just as the whole movie seemed to be. If there is one thing true about the ending is that it was very mentally stimulating. Since I've seen it, I haven't stopped wondering about it, you can come to a thousand conclusions and analysis's but always find more.

Parker said...

This film was shot and edited beautifully with actors who played their roles masterfully. However, it suffered from one fatal flaw: a vague and totally unsatisfying script.

The fact that there was virtually no resolution or denouement does not make this a 'smart' film that shirks the conventions of modern 'dumbed down' cinema. Rather, it makes the film incomplete (at best) or pretentious (at worst).

Bender said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Calvin said...

The stop ending was powerful. Everyone has their own take on it, so here's mine. Indeed this movie is centered on the sheriff, and his realization this country and it's lawlessness is beyond his control. This is the darkness that his father was guiding him through in the dream. The fire in the horn served as his internal guiding compass that he subconsciously used through his career to keep him alive to his retirement, giving him the opportunity to push his chips in when he has understood life more and he was more ready for death.

Anonymous said...

After viewing this movie, I have come to the conclusion that it was all the Sheriff's dream.

Maura said...

The title of the movie , and book, was taken from the first line of the Yeats poem "Sailing to Byzantium". The poem is a mystical, fluttering piece that speaks to the fleeting of time and the vulnerable, inconsequential finality of human choice. Similarly , Bardem's character represents the apparent lack of control yet subconscious grip we have over our destiny; he stands for the triviality of cognizance and the necessity of instinct.

Although the film reveals a nostalgic yearning for a "simpler time" in Jones' character, it also shows the transcendent human inclination towards egocentrism, guttural desire, and the realization of disillusionment. Ultimately, the essence of existence is constant, regardless of era, circumstance, or as Yeats says, "what is past, passing, or to come".

Anonymous said...

80% of your "analysis" was plot summary and the rest was plainly obvious.

Anonymous said...

I agree with comments past. 80% of your analysis was plot summary, which no one really needs since the plot is completely straight forward. What made this movie was the camera. Personally, I enjoyed it (and I'm an avid movie critic) but even I have to acknowledge that the story was a piece of shit.

Hooray for technology, though. :)

Anonymous said...

...i am teaching this script in my literature class..., psychological criticism has focused upon the triangle motif, a la freud, and the many references to the number 3... i.e., in the television as Moss returns home are three seated in a car in a triangle shape...., 21 is the cash register amount, 69 cents for the gas, come back at 930, 324 is Moss's first room number, later at another hotel 213, all multiples of three, the three boys on the bridge, the at first shot of three mexican musicians... all of this goes to the circle movements of each character tracking the other, and the 'beloved' of course being the hero, Moss, the flaw of greed, and having a conscience returning of course to the scene of a crime, to bring water to an already dead man... The ambiguous 'killing' of carla jean, though suggested through the sound of birds chirping combined with the checking of his boots..., the feathers coming out of the chair Wells sits in as he is shot, the feathers from the stolen truck by shigur..., the emphasis on boots, and other props....

email me at dem6025@lausd.net, for a scene by scene critique of objects and explication...

epictetus13 said...

Thank goodness for Maura, I can't believe the review had no idea that this line, sans "That is" came from Yeats.

Anonymous said...

The ending might have frustrated some movie viewers, but it is not an example, as one reviewer suggested here, of how cinema has been "dumb downed."

It's true to novel, as is virtually the entire movie is. Refreshing, for once, not to have to decide whether the movie or the book is better -- both are masterpieces

Javier said...

Watched the Film for the first time last night... I can already hear the pomposity of the previous so called 'critiques'... Mark Kermode wannabes most of you ; which is worrying. Just thought I'd seek some honest opinion on the film... Blimey.. Freud , eat your heart out !! Build a bridge you lot and get over it. Hello everyone... what a great film !! Ooo thats ruffled some feathers amongst the academic reviewers.

Anonymous said...

"Carson Wells...is shot on screen, but we aren't even sure he's been shot until the blood starts creeping across the floor towards Anton's feet"
How are we unsure when the gun makes a blast, smoke, and sound and Carson makes a AHG sound? Not to mention the feathers.

Anonymous said...

The title is misleading, and the end product is dissapointing. Half of that I'd find on the back of the DVD.

Mike said...

i think the killer is symbolic of the unpredictable yet persistent hardship of life and the inability to escape your fate despite what you try. each other character is a metaphor for the way people try to outwhit their fate. the cowboy is the tough guy who fights head on, tommy lee jones shrugs his shoulders and gives up (retires in the movie), woody harrelson tries to outsmart it, etc., etc. you can look at every other character and see how they represent the way some people deal with the inevibility of their fate, as cruel as it may be (again, fate symbolised by the killer). the killer is like fate because he does not stop and follows very simple rules that "transcend money and drugs" as woody puts it. anyway, i think the movie is amazing.

carverace said...

good analysis. your a good writer. i love this movie and agree that it is close to perfect. perhaps the only flawed scene i can think of is the one you mentioned that was debateable. you spend so much time trying to decide whether anton was behind the door in that room with bell or not, or in the next room, or whatever, i think it pulls you out of the movie a bit.

carverace said...

good analysis. your a good writer. i love this movie and agree that it is close to perfect. perhaps the only flawed scene i can think of is the one you mentioned that was debateable. you spend so much time trying to decide whether anton was behind the door in that room with bell or not, or in the next room, or whatever, i think it pulls you out of the movie a bit.

Anonymous said...

you're fucking retarded

Anonymous said...

anton was on the floor between the two beds, not behind the door. that space was completely dark and after sitting on the bed, relieved, notice tommy lee jones turns around to scan that darkened area briefly, oblivious to what lies beneath.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of clear story telling I would like to point out to all that haven't noticed the lack of music. This is a genius idea. Oftentimes in movies a soundtrack distracts or covers dialogue. Leaving it out creates a more somber mood.

Anonymous said...

What I find also interesting is who Anton doesn't kill. He doesn't kill Tommy and he doesn't kill the lady at the trailer office. Who is the guy who sent Woody after Anton? I'm glad someone else noticed him checking his shoes. That's the give away Mrs. Moss was killed. Also how did her mother die? The Mexicans?

Anonymous said...

I know I am dense but who ended up with the money? The Mexicans?

Bill Radcliffe said...

The intersection smash that injures Anton is brilliant! Not only is there the element of surprise - there is also the message that even psychopaths can be victims of capricious fortune, just like the rest of us. The film suggested that Anton, being a psychopath, is invincible. I would have preferred to see him die at the scene!

Anonymous said...

There is something to be said for something that is easily overlooked. As a person who has worked on movie sets and worked in film my whole life, there are two key elements that I noticed.

I only saw the film once, and its been a while, however I remember a bit of powerful symbolism that stuck with me.

First of all, the thing that motivates the two main characters is money, and actually both characters are plain human. One is evil and one is good, but neither are these things other than just human, and are acting upon survival instincts.

Anyways, when I say money is the motivation, I don't mean to say that money is evil, but it is kind of what nudges both of the characters to take action by way of their natural instincts.

Here's my favorite part. Notice the shirts. Josh Brolin pays a kid for a jacket when he is injured, but he is only trying to cover up his wounds - he is hiding/concealing his identity.

Javier pays a kid at the end for his shirt, but he needs it drastically to be used as a sling. This need of the same thing brings the two opposite characters together, but their reasons for needing the same thing are drastically different, and given the location of the story, I think it is a current social message personally.

One is hiding, while one is healing - but money is either the motivator, or at stake, depending on how you look at it/the characters.

Point in being, given the symbolic nature, the plot, and the drive - I believe that the title "No country for old men" could mean that the US's national policy is changing within our own structure.

The title refers to either doing something about it, or adapting. I adopt nothing personally, but now think that it was kind of an intelligent sign of how we handle things today, and within days to come.

My personal translation - the sling = health care bought by money with no solution. The shirt used as Brolin's concealer as an entree between the US and Mexico (which he does do twice) in the hopes of inheriting this money deficit for a better life.

I don't think the "country" part stands for a local area by far, as thought by many, but rather the whole geography and what we need to be aware of in our own flaws.

Anonymous said...

One thing obvious is that the sheriff is a no balls coward, not worthy of your admiration. Also obvious (to me at least) is that these characters represent different survival strategies... extreme aggression, extreme passivity, the coward, the passive exploiter, the brown noser. 10/10.

mgarelick said...

What I find also interesting is who Anton doesn't kill. He doesn't kill Tommy and he doesn't kill the lady at the trailer office. Who is the guy who sent Woody after Anton? I'm glad someone else noticed him checking his shoes. That's the give away Mrs. Moss was killed. Also how did her mother die? The Mexicans?

He doesn't kill the lady at the trailer office because there's someone else there (the toilet flushes).

The guy who hires Wells is the intended buyer of the heroin. My guess is that he hires Wells after Cigurh kills the two guys who give him the receiver.

Agnes dies of the cancer.

Other questions: What is Cigurh being arrested for in the first place? Why were the Mexicans in such a hurry to get out of the motel lot (the cops hadn't been called yet)? They shot Moss in the doorway of his room; why did they also shoot the woman in the pool? Who was the wounded guy in the lot?

Why did the guys who set the dog on Moss want him dead?

ccaassee said...

A subtle reference in the book, and one that is absent from the movie, is to an often-overlooked character in the bible named "Mammon." Look up "Mammon" and think about Chigurh's surprisingly swift and wrathful, God-like administering of lethal justice.
Sure the sheriff can't keep up with the times, but the movie would just be a cliche if forever the aging can't understand the changing world that pushes them along. The specific era the movie takes place is significant for marking a change in the direction of our country. And the emphasis on money is huge. Everyone who touches the money dies or is subject to hardship. From the Mexicans to Josh Brolin, and from his wife and to even the kids who argue over the hundo at the end, money brings no peace of mind, no prosperity.
Old men have no need for hoarding money. In a land where money is God, where it is worshipped, there is no place for old men.
Mammon.

Anonymous said...

What went wrong at the drug deal & why is the last man standing dead? My impression was that he was shot at the tree & did not walk all the way there, wounded, to die. I think it's possible Anton was there in secret & shot the dog with his shotgun, triggering the shootout. He then stalked and killed the man with the money. He does not take the money then because he knows where it will be - he'll be hired to track the money down... He asks only about the truck because it wasn't there when he was there last. When he sees that the money is out of range of the receiver, he shoots the businessmen... You see him with small change in a couple scenes, but after the car accident he has the money to bribe the kids with - this mirrors the earlier scene at the border but it also hints that he somehow got the money. Following from this is the idea that Anton is present at every murder in the movie, not just the ones that occur on screen.

Anonymous said...

Anton is the only one with a moral compass in the movie. He always gives the nnocent a 50/50 chance and the rest pay the price for taking what is his .

mgarelick said...

Anton is the only one with a moral compass in the movie.
Interesting theory, doesn't really hold up. Counterexamples: the old boy who lost his car, the desk clerk at the hotel.

dem6025 said...

The Road is a masterpiece, but a painful read because of lack of plot.... and the pathos...

The Film, already looks terrible as it adds more about the mother, for no reason other than that its a hollywood star playing the part.

No Country, the film, is indeed more literary than the book, though, some key lines in the book, dialogue from shigur, for example, catalyzed the shape motif the coen's use flawlessly and cleverly to say the least.

if you want my 30 page analysis scene by scene explication, interrelating everything, i teach this to high school students...

email me
nucouche@yahoo.com

douglas

Anonymous said...

yet another movie highlighting the pointlessness of the human condition. I prefer dumb movies where the good guys win...

exe said...

i dont like this analysis.

Anonymous said...

I feel this movie has absolutely no redeeming value. I want my money back.

Directing and acting was good, good use of props. Story leaves much to be desired.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to look for meaning in the title in light of Yeats' poem. Perhaps there are parallels between Byzantium and our ol' US of A, but I think this film is making deeper claims than mere policy analysis

Anonymous said...

I think Sheriff Bell is a mere idiotically nostalgic fellow who refuses to see that there has always been violence in the world (especially in that part of the world!). Settlers in America had slaughtered Indians and Mexicans and enslaved millions. But for Sheriff Bell violence is just an outcome of recent moral deterioration. He simply maintains that: "... I think once you stop hearin' sir and madam the rest is soon to follow."
However Ellis reminds him :"I sent Uncle Mac's badge and his old thumbbuster to the Rangers. For their museum there. Your daddy ever tell you how Uncle Mac came to his reward? Shot down on his own porch there in Hudspeth County. There was seven or eight of 'em come to the use..... Shot him down in his own doorway. Aunt Ella run out and tried to stop the bleedin. ..... They just set there on their horses watchin him die. Finally one of 'em says somethin in Indian and they all turned and left out Well Mac knew the score even if Aunt Ella didn't..., and that was that. As they say."
Sherif Bell asked: "When did he die?"
Ellis replied: "1909.... What you got ain't nothin new. This country is hard on people. Hard and crazy. Got the devil in it yet folks never seem to hold it to account."
The Title is in my view ironic.

T. Zenebe, Germany

Anonymous said...

The person who wrote about woman in trailer park not being killed is WRONG.The Local sheriff tells Tom Lee jones character about a women that was killed and then the man coming back next day to kill the man.This is clearing the trailer park women and her husband!

mgarelick said...

This is clearly the trailer park woman and her husband!

Ridiculous.
1. The local sheriff (assuming that you are talking about the conversation at the motel where Moss was killed) is in El Paso; why would he be telling Ed Tom about a murder in Ed Tom's own jurisdiction?
2. The local sheriff was talking about the killing of the hotel desk clerk (the one Moss asked to warn him about "any swinging dick") and, the next day, Carson Wells.
3. You think that trailer park lady had a husband??? Well, I guess there's someone for everyone.

luckyhole said...

Figured I'd add another comment.

Andrew said...

"No Country" is perfect. Best film ever made by the best filmmakers of all time. I'm not qualified to analyse it. I do know that I've watched it at least ten times and enjoy it more and more every time. Two comments: 1. Whats with anton shooting the bird on the bridge? 2. Mrs. Moss is the hero of the film. She is the only one that does the right thing throughout the entire movie. Even when confronted by Anton she doesn't call the coin. She believes life is something guided by more than chance or luck.

Anonymous said...

They were both watching each other on the reflection of the shiny door, but... when he went inside anton was hiding, but bell new he was there, so instead of shooting it out against anton, he admits that he is too old for this kind of work and so he surrenders by just leaving. this is also the meaning of his dream, the man is already ahead waiting with a camp fire, and he is still trying to catch up.

Linus Norgren said...

I've noticed a lot of you complain about the lack of plot and the ending, but applaud the cinematography and execution of the film. I think you guys are entirely missing the point. Actually No, I don't think you're missing the point, you ARE missing the point. Yeah of course the cinematography is going to be beautiful, it's the fucking Coen brothers. That's a given. What you're missing is the plot's simplicity and the power it possesses in it's bare-boned nature. The greed money spurs in us is not complicated nor subtle. The pain, sadness, and hopelessness it creates is not complicated nor subtle, but plain and painfully obvious. So why create a complicated, hard to understand, inconsistent, and intricate plot to express the nature of greed when greed itself is a simple feeling that plagues us all? I'm sure a lot of you also assume the movie is about "Good versus evil" let me straighten you out, because you're wrong. Well, I guess that's too far. You're half wrong. Everybody in the film except for the law is fighting over the money. Ciguhr, Moss, Wells, the Cartels, the business men, the teenagers, and even the little kids. Ciguhr kills many in his hunt for it and Moss sacrifices many in his futile attempt to keep it, and all the Sheriff can do is sit and watch. So it's not Good vs. Evil. It's Evil versus Evil while Good stands by and twiddles his thumbs. That's what I love most about this movie.

Nick said...

Crime rates have steadily declined in the past 30 years. We perceive our current crime rates as high because we have more efficent mass medias which keep us better informed of current events locally,nationally and internationally. This tends to jade our perceptions. One's chances of being a victim of violent crime was greater 100 years ago than it is today. The per capita homicide rate in the US.was higher in 1880 than in 1980.

dillythecat said...

The car accident scene at the end of the movie is significant in that it levels the playing field, finally, in one slap! The uber-bully Chigurh is rendered not only a loser of money, but grotesquely injured, left to stagger step-by-excruciating-step and ponder the cracks in his own wretched life as well as the ones in the sidewalk to where-ever-the-hell he's bound next. This loathesome hit-man who can't even lift his arm, let alone a tricked-out shotgun, will, one hopes, now be inert for a while, as the newly retired Sheriff Bell is. And in his state of inactivity, might he not be in store for few dreams--or nightmares-- of his own? Ghosts of his victims returning to kick that protruding bone in his arm, in his forfeit soul?

Carol said...

waych the movie again.....listen to the name the sherrif in the town where Mr. Moss dies calls Tommy Lee's character? They are the same guy.....you never see them together. That is why everyone who sees him has to die....

russ said...

Near the end of the book, "he leaves the courthouse for the last time" Why was he there?

"SDome are comfortable hugging a crying woman" Who was crying why?
Thanks for your time

Anonymous said...

3 problems about this movie.
1. I'm slightly dissapointed the Granny didn't get what came to everyBODY!! else in the movie! After she decides to tell Mexican Drug Dealers about her life story.
2. Crazy psycho dude has absolutely no family while good dude has family (Which caused him his death)
3. Good guy makes extremely smart decisions until he saw a cute girl and becomes ignorant and wants to drink beer with some lady. Instant Fail!

I do think that the movie did a really good job not following what typical society wants...the bad guy to give the good guys a chance. It definitely dissapointed me but mostly because it was unexpected and not happy. Will I watch it again? I don't give a butt how beautiful the scenery is... to watch a man create bloodshed and enjoy it is useless to any good hearted person.

laelsiler said...

Well there was certainly more insight in a few of the readers comments than the actual blog but here is something that instantly struck me that I didn't hear anyone else pick up on so I thought I might share:

Did anyone else see the biblical imagery where Wells was shooting for game and then finds the money under the tree? I instantly recognized garden of Eden like imagery in the environment and following sequences where the money led to the downfall of a few main characters. Even the change of weather after he returns home with the money. Anyone else? I'd love to hear feed back. I loved the perspective someone posted about Anton embodying fate. Brilliant.

Any other comments regarding the last reflection of the Sheriff's dream? He seemed quite emotional while finishing explaining the dream to his wife. The chemistry between characters was simply remarkable.

-Lael

Tantor said...

Here's my take on the tale:

http://conprotantor.blogspot.com/2010/10/no-country-for-old-men.html

master said...

Overall I think the movie is great, but I also feel there were a few frustrating scenes like the one where he leaves the accountant alive after he busts into a DEA building ? YEAH RIGHT!! The scene where Mr. Moss was going to take some water to the dying guy SURE!!! The scene behind Woody Harellson on the steps couldve been better, Mrs. Moss would've easily been in the witness protection program or under close supervision even if she was just bait, the scene where they show the lock blown out and Anton in the reflection and Tommy Lee Jones goes into the hotel room and sits down whether the reflection was his imagination or real something wasn't right about that scene, i will attribute that to the style of the director, I am waiting on the sequel i hope they don't F it up...

speracles said...

This is my analysis, having just seen the movie a few minutes ago:

Anton has the money. He went back to the motel after the Mexican shootout and got it out of the vent using a dime. He used it to pay the kid for the shirt. BUT he left the money behind when the car was t-boned, perhaps, because misfortune followed that money. (That's a guess.)Still, he wasn't carrying anything when he staggered off. But he did hope to escape with it (or he wouldn't ask about airports).

Moss was, in the end, killed by his wife, who insisted on bringing his mother-in-law along... who spilled the beans to the cartel. (lol) What that says about the relationships in the movie... well, you can guess. Perhaps the movie should be called "No country for any women," given that approximately 5, maybe 6 of them appear in the film, and three of them die.

Why was Anton arrested in the first place at the beginning of the film? Well, he was probably driving a stolen car. Why didn't he kill the police officer immediately? No f'n clue.

Good news is, tons of scumbags and random collateral people die as well as good Samaritans. Goes to show that death doesn't discriminate.

This movie is very literal but could be construed as heavily metaphorical.

The literal story is simple.

The metaphorical story is, in my opinion: There is no reward. First, there is no reward for Moss, although he keeps anticipating the big payoff in the end: retirement, a hot wife, and 2 million dollars. There is no reward for Mrs. Moss, she of the unwavering faith and love for her husband, who is widowed and executed. There is no reward for the men in the executive offices, the drug cartel kingpins in the streets. There is no reward for Anton Chigure (did I spell that right?) who may make off with the money, but is still the victim of chaos, chance, and uncertainty in the end.

What do I mean by reward? Well, it could be money. But it could also mean the intangible, like happiness, contentment, peace. Or even, heaven after death.

The character that does make me think the largest metaphor in the film is the sense of reward, of fulfillment, is the sheriff. His end speech, about his father going ahead into the cold dark with a fire-cone to light a place for him to follow - there was not a single mention of heaven. Rather, it was a deep and abiding darkness where only a small light could be seen. Such has the sheriff's life been. In the cold, dark, chaotic world, he has been that small, flickering light, vastly overwhelmed, yet all the more vivid because of the contrast. And yet there is no reward for the sheriff.

He did not solve the case. He did not stop the killer. He did not end up with the money. He didn't find personal resolution. In the end, retirement did not make him content. For his long career, there was no reward or fulfillment. Every vision of the future he had was frustrated, and he was powerless against, well, everything. So much so that after a while, he didn't even try. Apathetic attitude, enter stage right.

To tie the metaphor of the lack of reward and fulfillment back into the title, the sheriff character made mention at some point about how he had expected to "find God." Only he didn't. When you're young, you're hopeful; like the Moss couple. Then as you go through life, you find every hope being stripped away. You search for God, but it seems like all the evidence points to his lack. At the end, there is no hope. There is only the inevitability of death.

So the "country" the title refers to could be heaven, hope, dreams, the goodness lurking in the human spirit, or fulfilling rewards. You know, the thing that makes everything worthwhile. And old men know, better than anybody except for perhaps old women, there is no reward for life except perhaps the daily routine of living it. (Hence the coffee-pouring shots.)

That's my analysis, and I'm sticking to it.

Anonymous said...

This is my analysis, having just seen the movie a few minutes ago:

Anton has the money. He went back to the motel after the Mexican shootout and got it out of the vent using a dime. He used it to pay the kid for the shirt. BUT he left the money behind when the car was t-boned, perhaps, because misfortune followed that money. (That's a guess.)Still, he wasn't carrying anything when he staggered off. But he did hope to escape with it (or he wouldn't ask about airports).

Moss was, in the end, killed by his wife, who insisted on bringing his mother-in-law along... who spilled the beans to the cartel. (lol) What that says about the relationships in the movie... well, you can guess. Perhaps the movie should be called "No country for any women," given that approximately 5, maybe 6 of them appear in the film, and three of them die.

Why was Anton arrested in the first place at the beginning of the film? Well, he was probably driving a stolen car. Why didn't he kill the police officer immediately? No f'n clue.

Good news is, tons of scumbags and random collateral people die as well as good Samaritans. Goes to show that death doesn't discriminate.

This movie is very literal but could be construed as heavily metaphorical.

The literal story is simple.

The metaphorical story is, in my opinion: There is no reward. First, there is no reward for Moss, although he keeps anticipating the big payoff in the end: retirement, a hot wife, and 2 million dollars. There is no reward for Mrs. Moss, she of the unwavering faith and love for her husband, who is widowed and executed. There is no reward for the men in the executive offices, the drug cartel kingpins in the streets. There is no reward for Anton Chigure (did I spell that right?) who may make off with the money, but is still the victim of chaos, chance, and uncertainty in the end.

What do I mean by reward? Well, it could be money. But it could also mean the intangible, like happiness, contentment, peace. Or even, heaven after death.

The character that does make me think the largest metaphor in the film is the sense of reward, of fulfillment, is the sheriff. His end speech, about his father going ahead into the cold dark with a fire-cone to light a place for him to follow - there was not a single mention of heaven. Rather, it was a deep and abiding darkness where only a small light could be seen. Such has the sheriff's life been. In the cold, dark, chaotic world, he has been that small, flickering light, vastly overwhelmed, yet all the more vivid because of the contrast. And yet there is no reward for the sheriff.

He did not solve the case. He did not stop the killer. He did not end up with the money. He didn't find personal resolution. In the end, retirement did not make him content. For his long career, there was no reward or fulfillment. Every vision of the future he had was frustrated, and he was powerless against, well, everything. So much so that after a while, he didn't even try. Apathetic attitude, enter stage right.

To tie the metaphor of the lack of reward and fulfillment back into the title, the sheriff character made mention at some point about how he had expected to "find God." Only he didn't. When you're young, you're hopeful; like the Moss couple. Then as you go through life, you find every hope being stripped away. You search for God, but it seems like all the evidence points to his lack. At the end, there is no hope. There is only the inevitability of death.

So the "country" the title refers to could be heaven, hope, dreams, the goodness lurking in the human spirit, or fulfilling rewards. You know, the thing that makes everything worthwhile. And old men know, better than anybody except for perhaps old women, there is no reward for life except perhaps the daily routine of living it. (Hence the coffee-pouring shots.)

That's my analysis, and I'm sticking to it.

Anonymous said...

This is my analysis, having just seen the movie a few minutes ago:

Anton has the money. He went back to the motel after the Mexican shootout and got it out of the vent using a dime. He used it to pay the kid for the shirt. BUT he left the money behind when the car was t-boned, perhaps, because misfortune followed that money. (That's a guess.)Still, he wasn't carrying anything when he staggered off. But he did hope to escape with it (or he wouldn't ask about airports).

Moss was, in the end, killed by his wife, who insisted on bringing his mother-in-law along... who spilled the beans to the cartel. (lol) What that says about the relationships in the movie... well, you can guess. Perhaps the movie should be called "No country for any women," given that approximately 5, maybe 6 of them appear in the film, and three of them die.

Why was Anton arrested in the first place at the beginning of the film? Well, he was probably driving a stolen car. Why didn't he kill the police officer immediately? No f'n clue.

Good news is, tons of scumbags and random collateral people die as well as good Samaritans. Goes to show that death doesn't discriminate.

This movie is very literal but could be construed as heavily metaphorical.

The literal story is simple.

The metaphorical story is, in my opinion: There is no reward. First, there is no reward for Moss, although he keeps anticipating the big payoff in the end: retirement, a hot wife, and 2 million dollars. There is no reward for Mrs. Moss, she of the unwavering faith and love for her husband, who is widowed and executed. There is no reward for the men in the executive offices, the drug cartel kingpins in the streets. There is no reward for Anton Chigure (did I spell that right?) who may make off with the money, but is still the victim of chaos, chance, and uncertainty in the end.

What do I mean by reward? Well, it could be money. But it could also mean the intangible, like happiness, contentment, peace. Or even, heaven after death.

The character that does make me think the largest metaphor in the film is the sense of reward, of fulfillment, is the sheriff. His end speech, about his father going ahead into the cold dark with a fire-cone to light a place for him to follow - there was not a single mention of heaven. Rather, it was a deep and abiding darkness where only a small light could be seen. Such has the sheriff's life been. In the cold, dark, chaotic world, he has been that small, flickering light, vastly overwhelmed, yet all the more vivid because of the contrast. And yet there is no reward for the sheriff.

He did not solve the case. He did not stop the killer. He did not end up with the money. He didn't find personal resolution. In the end, retirement did not make him content. For his long career, there was no reward or fulfillment. Every vision of the future he had was frustrated, and he was powerless against, well, everything. So much so that after a while, he didn't even try. Apathetic attitude, enter stage right.

To tie the metaphor of the lack of reward and fulfillment back into the title, the sheriff character made mention at some point about how he had expected to "find God." Only he didn't. When you're young, you're hopeful; like the Moss couple. Then as you go through life, you find every hope being stripped away. You search for God, but it seems like all the evidence points to his lack. At the end, there is no hope. There is only the inevitability of death.

So the "country" the title refers to could be heaven, hope, dreams, the goodness lurking in the human spirit, or fulfilling rewards. You know, the thing that makes everything worthwhile. And old men know, better than anybody except for perhaps old women, there is no reward for life except perhaps the daily routine of living it. (Hence the coffee-pouring shots.)

That's my analysis, and I'm sticking to it.

Paul Norman said...

alright....guy who said the movie can be taken 1000 ways at the end....list 10...shut up......this shit is one of the worst pieces of shit ive seen to date....i understand the point of the world not being for old men....but really.....fuuuuccccckkkkkkkkkkkkk

Corbin said...

The sin that ended up killing Moss in the end is the one sin barely mentioned in the movie. Sex is brought up only 3 times (besides the Kelly Macdonald scene, a mention of hookers by Moss, and this girl at the pool who POPs into the movie so crazily). Had this not come into play, Moss might have won the battle. Another good twist in subtleness. Between the new and the old, money and gambling remained constant evils.

Anonymous said...

It took a while after watching this movie to understand why i liked it. The movie started out as any other. Good guy gets a lucky break from his trailor park lifestyle. Bad guys want him dead. Good prevails. They put unusual effort into Moss's Veteran background insinuating that he might be a highly trained killer. so it brought everything up like any old movie would, being that Moss would eventually beat the killer at his own game. but when mossed died it blew all my assumptions out of play, and the movie ended with everything going just as I didn't expect, being that everyone good dies. This coralates with what the sheriff says (Rough Quote from memory)- nothing is a sure thing. No one is in as much control over the situation as they think... then he goes into the story about the cow ricochet story. This suggests that he knows he is to old and out dated to take on this new age killer its not the same country as he grew up on. The sheriff unsure if he should take this guy on or not goes to his buddy and asks him, (rough quote) " What if the guy who shot and paralyzed you would have NOT gotten the death sentence and was released. what would you have done. the sheriff's buddy replies.. "nothing, If I would have gone after the guy it would not make what ive gone through any easier, and it would only make my life harder." That is the advice The sheriff takes and he ends up retiring from his duties and lets fate take care of itself, and fate holds true to itself showing that even the badass killer isn't in control. He Gets t-bone by a random car.(which I thought to be a good guy prevailing at the end) but the bad guy gets some broken bones and limps off, and judging by how he doctored himself up from his shotgun wound Moss delivered, he will probably survive that accident too.

This is a great movie because it holds true to the whole point to the movie, which to me is, No one is in complete control of an outcome. it's either heads or tails..

Anonymous said...

This was an excellent movie that, at its most purest, reminds us that our fate is decided by others. Free will is only a facade that gives us the hope we need to make it through our day-to-day lives.

Anonymous said...

I read some great anlaysis. I just want to offer my piece of mind.

First of all I think it's very interesting to look at the movie and its characters from a sociological perspective. In regards to money, human nature etc.

Anton - Anton is the ultimate/epitome of a capitalist country. He is an efficient/skilled individual who is able to achieve his goals in the most efficient way. But as Weber/Marx would say he is isolated(from world/humanity), dehumanized(insensitive to emotions/relationships etc).

Unlike Anton, Moss has weakness for women/relationships. Moss has to risk his safety and wait for his wife because of his emotions. He fails to safely defend against the Mexicans because he is seduced by the woman at the pool (someone asks earlier why the woman in the pool was dead...the film's saying that the Mexicans came right after he started talking to the woman)
Moss cannot survive like Anton because Moss cannot be as most efficient as he can be.
During the gun battle, Moss holds his own against Anton. Moss would've been more likely to survive if he had abandoned his emotions.


Btw...Anton obviously isn't the 'good' guy as defined by American morals. He takes the money and runs...lol...think past your own morals...good vs evil doesn't really exist.

And I think the title no country for old men is fitting because
In a country where a set of morals and laws established by tradition, is being changed by coming generations, old men who believe in the ideals of the past cannot survive.

And also I really enjoyed the comment above, "evil vs evil while the good just spectates"

Jan said...

Fantastic movie some brilliant reviews. I like the shirt analogy with health care and just noticed last night how Bardem also used a shirt to light the car and create a diversion while he stole health care products. So the shirts healed, covered and diverted attention so the healing could begin. He also applied sutures like a doctor so there seems to be an analogy with the health care system.

Anonymous said...

Just an observation. In the chase scene just after Moss had brought back the water for the dying man in the pickup, the other pickup (with bright lights and the men shooting at him, and the dog that chases him down and into the river) The scene starts in total darkness and by the time he has been chased down the river and gets out,loads the pistol just in time to shoot the attacking dog, dawn has already broken and the sun is up. I dont know if this has any significance at all. Like I said, just an observation.

Pamela Woodson said...

I've seen this movie at least 10 times and I am about to watch it again. I found this analysis while trying to answer some questions that I still have. Some of the comments have been insightful and others totally useless! Some of you need to watch (it several more times) and PAY (better) ATTENTION to the dialog AND the images! Silly questions like "how did the mother die" or "who ended up with the money" just show that you aren't even to the point of understanding the symbolism or imagery. I LOVE this movie! It's PERFECT! I agree that there isn't one wasted second . EVERYTHING says something about the characters and advances the storyline. I can't remember all of the ,super silly, comments but a couple stand out. Anton DIDN'T leave the money, in the car,because "he realized that evil followed it" (or something like that). He left it because he had just been in a BAD CAR ACCIDENT and could barely walk, let along carry a bag full of money! Which answers the one question of who ended up with the money. Well, I assume...... the ambulance drivers! lol (which could probably be a whole other story). How did Carla Jean's mother die? She mentioned, several times that "I've got(s) the cancer"! One person questioned why he let the accountant live! WHAT???? Now, what ever gave you that idea? The man asked him if he was going to kill him and then Anton said "that depends, can you see me?". I think that we (almost) ALL know what happened to that guy! Those of you who don't need EVERYTHING spelled out for you, RAISE YOUR HANDS! Let's go to the movies together!

Anonymous said...

I think the point Tommy Lee makes is he's been lost since will smith did the flashy thing on him in men in black :)

Personally I would have enjoyed more if Batman rolled in and started fightin crime side by side with the original two face.

Jokes aside the movie flows like real life a bunch of random directions and were still a bunch of broke asses at the end sellin the clothes off our back.

Two lessons...One even serial killers need to keep their eyes on the road while driving. Two, once your free with the goods don't fuckin return to the scene of the crime!!! let fuckin chap lips find his own water they are near a fuckin lake!

I love that shitty beeper thing shit its not gps i'm sure if you left the state forest gump with the compressed air wouldn't find you.

Happy Halloween

P.S sorry for the late review i know it came out a few years ago lmfao

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Anonymous said...

One of my favorite scenes in this film is Llewellyn attempting to track the antelope he had just shot. He comes across a blood trail, which might be the blood trail from the antelope. But it ends up being the blood from a severely wounded (potentially dying) dog. As Moss views the dog trhough his binoculars, the dog looks back in an almost foreboding nature. This scenes is so impacting because with in seconds the entire story of the film is set up in a minimalist gesture.

The hobbling pit-bull is hobbling away from danger, Moss goes the opposite way and follows tracks the blood (following the cookie crumb trail),he follows it unknowingly into danger were he finds a drug deal gone bad.

The hobbling dog is torn up, limping, losing blood, and essentially slowly dying. Moss doesn’t think twice about this. The dog looks back once and then goes on its way. What neither Llewellyn or the audience sees/understands yet is that this will be Moss's ultimate fate.

The dog is the foreshadowing messenger figure. The more I think about this scene the more hauntingly beautiful is becomes.

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This comment has been removed by the author.
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Unknown said...

First person to point this out. People are so caught up in the plot they don't realize how much deeper this movie is. The film is a mockery of how each character thinks there is reason behind the universe in each of their own principles. Fact I'd there isn't and shit happens. The title is a mockery of this thinking too.

Darian Afshar said...

Chighur was arrested for driving a stolen car. Mexicans were running from Chighur. The woman was a lure set up by the Mexicans to get moss in the hotel.

Unknown said...

If you listen closely as he's talking to the woman in the trailer the toilet flushes signaling there is another person in the trailer office. May be why he desided to leave her be. (You see him look in the direction of the flush with an annoyed look)

Anonymous said...

I thought the sheriff figured out where the money was after looking around and seeing the vent cover off. knowing he had never been seen by the killer he takes the money feeling he wont be followed/ thus is safe. cut to discussion about sudden retirement with uncle/the robbery is allowing him /one old man to make it out of the job alive and a means to live it. no explanations.

Erick Kuhni said...

I liked the movie a lot.

I think the killer represents the inevitability of consequences that cannot be controlled. Not quite "fate", but consequences that follow from certain events. He keeps talking about the journey his coins made to reach a point where they would be used in determining whether someone lives or dies.

Moss represents the opportunist who believes he can beat the system. From the moment he got involved with the money his life was destined to pursue an unobtainable goal in the false belief that he could be free and wealthy. In truth, he could only cheat death by sacrificing his freedom in the struggle t keep his life.

The cartels are the faceless characters who have the strongest position in society. They sacrifice their agents and never themselves.

Other characters are the innocents who are hurt by these systems and institutions.

The Sherif has a dual role. First he represents our official governments. They are always the last on scene, the last to know whats going on, and always one step behind everyone else. They promise protections and security they can't offer, and are the most prone to be blowing in the wind and distracted with their own ineffective and self-contained bureaucratic nonsense as a way of coping with reality (the killer) while pretending to control the institutions (the Cartels).

The second meaning the Sherif offers, is that of a person, an agent of his respective system, trying to understand the fiction of his role against the contrast of the reality of his experience. He expresses his anxiety in the context of change, as though his world has changed. What he learns when talking to his brother at the ebd though, is that nothing has changed except his understanding of the world. We are all sold lies in order to be willing to participate as agents in the systems of the world, the sherif is coming realize the lies regarding his role in his system. He can't stop the killer, he can only pursue him to the point of no return. There is no ideal justice, just ideologies and reality. Where those lines cross, what we believe will always defer to what's real and the consequences will be imposed in reality. Still, there are choices. One choice is to humble ourselves to reality and accept that we can't nobly confront forces greater than ourselves, but we can opt out of the system and break the loop, create our own lives with our own systems. That's the symbol of retirement. He leaves the system, forsakes the futile idealistic chase as the lawman who nabs the crook, because he knows that that ideal while noble and inspiring, will ultimately bring him to his demise.