Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Country for Old Men--What Was the Point?

Seriously. I am asking you. What was the point of this movie?

I really like the Coen Brothers' movies, especially Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski, so when I first saw the trailer for this film, I was excited. (Not excited enough to go see it in the theater, mind you, but excited nonetheless.) I finally saw it this past weekend, and I have to admit, I am a bit perplexed about the point of the movie. I liked it and all, I just don't know what I am supposed to walk away with.

In a nutshell, the movie is about Llewelyn Moss's discovery of a drug-deal gone bad in the desert of West Texas, and walking away from the scene with over 2 million dollars. Unfortunately for him, Anton Chigurh, a crazy hitman, finds out he has the money and sets out to retrieve it for himself. All along, Ed Tom Bell, a local sheriff is investigating the trail of crimes left behind by Chigurh.

I get that the movie circles around the themes of death, chance, predestination, free-will, and evil. But did it have a message about any of these themes? I want to say that the movie is about the inevitability of death and how we respond to it. (Perhaps of the meaning of the byline, "There are no clean getaways.")

First, there is Llewelyn, whose attitude is to "rage against the dying of the night" in the spirit of Dylan Thomas. When Chigurh offers him a deal--turn over the money and save his wife (but not himself)--Llewelyn's response is "You won't have to look for me." All along you hope for the Hollywood ending, but suspect that in real life Llewelyn would be dead meat. The story opts for the real ending rather than the Hollywood one.

Second, there is Chigurh, who sees death as unavoidable. He is a terrible villain and seems to have the utmost control over who lives and who dies. However, he often sets aside this power, leaving the fate of his victim's fate into the hands of a coin toss. (The best scene in the movie is an exchange between Chigurh and a West-Texan gas station attendant, in which Chigurh asks, "What's the most you've ever lost on a coin toss?) I can't tell if Chigurh really buys into the whole coin toss thing as a superstition, or if he is just mocking fate when he flips the coin.

Finally, there is Bell, who doesn't think that death is such a bad thing. He is more concerned about growing old and all that it implies. At the end of the movie he talks about dying and how he thinks he will meet his dad again.

The biggest question for me is, "What is the point of the car wreck at the end of the movie?" I think it deliberately makes a parallel between Llewelyn and Chigurh, as Chigurh offers the young boys $100 for their shirts to save his life in the same way that Llewelyn offered the guys in Mexico $500 for a shirt to conceal his gunshot wounds. To me, this is saying that Chigurh, underneath the facade of leaving death to "chance," is really just "raging against the dying of the night" in the same way that Llewelyn was. Implied in this is that Chigurh is not above death in the way he thinks and that some day he will befall tragedy in the same way that Llewelyn did.

As opposed to these two's approach to death is the one taken by Llewelyn's wife who, when confronted with Chigurh, refuses to pick heads or tails. The movie implies that she dies, but that she does so peacefully (as peacefully as you can die from a shotgun blast). The same approach to death is taken by Bell, who doesn't fear death, but perhaps sees it as an escape from being "an old man."

So, the message is, "You can't escape death. Don't fight it, make your peace with it."

Am I missing the boat on this story? What's it about?

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