'No Country for Old Men' Forums

Post Reply
  • 4 years ago
  • I wrote this for an English Final in November 2010.

    In the 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men tells a tale of escalating violence in West Texas, as seen through the eyes of a weathered sheriff, an experienced country boy, and a mysterious hit man with principals and philosophies which transcend time and cultures. The chain of violence which erupts at the book's start remains pulse pounding throughout as the characters exemplify the very core themes the story represents, and therein lies the real plot of the book, and plight of the characters. With the 2007 filmed adaptation, very few significant points pertinent to the plot and characters are lost. And therein lies the power of this adaptation over others. For when breaking down the plot and characters, as well as their similarities and differences from the two mediums, one finds that the characters are walking testaments to the central theme of the story, and the drive of the plot as familiar as ever.

    After country boy Llewellyn Moss comes upon a satchel with over two million dollars in drug money within, he sees a chance to thrive outside of his trailer park life and takes it. But the consequences become all too real as tensions rise on both sides of the law. With the unfathomable hit man Anton Chigurh trailing him over county lines, leaving a trail of blood wherever he goes, and the seasoned Sheriff Ed Tom Bell struggling to contemplate the change in times given the extreme violence over greed, Moss is left only to dig his grave ever deeper as he refuses to admit the severity of his situation. And with a retired army colonel turned bounty hunter thrown into the mix, things don't shape up according to plan; though such brash actions of greed seldom leave room for efficient plans.

    Contrary to the filmed adaptation, the novel gives us a true window into Ed Tom's soul at the start of every chapter, offering up a greater understanding of who he is; The most powerful line of dialogue to explain his philosophy on how to deal with the rising violence being that "a man would have to put his soul at hazard. And I won't do that. I think now that maybe I never would" (4). With this in mind, the reader is aware that the 'now' Bell is referring to is the aftermath of the events of the story. In toe are his explanations on the change in law enforcement over the years, citing that when he "...first took office you'd have a fistfight somewhere and you'd go to break it up and they'd offer to fight you. And sometimes you had to accommodate em [sic]" (38). Or in other words, a simpler time when crimes weren't so excessively violent and were just small scraps, whereas during his journey to each site of carnage at the numerous hotels and motels along the way, he begins recalling how the escalating brutality mirrors that of crimes in other states: "...this couple would rent out rooms to old people and then kill em [sic] and bury em [sic] in the yard and cash their social security checks." (126). After elaborating on the bizarre events he would quote that "You can't make up such a thing as that. I dare you to even try" (126). Such shock on his behalf shows the humble personality of Bell, whom is becoming so shaken by the violence he witnesses that he recalls even more horrid cases of human depravity to compare it to. For his attitude leaves him at a loss to the escalating violence, such as the drive and motive for such crimes. Such that when he discovers the fate of Moss, he is at journey's end, having come no closer to apprehending the responsible, or more importantly, understanding the psyche of the deranged mind behind it. Hence all he could say of Moss' death to the sheriff consoling him through words of "there aint [sic] nothin [sic] you could of [sic] done about it" (240) was "No. But you always like to think there is" (240) in a very reluctant tone. Given the extrapolation on the character, one can tell that's his mood even without it being stated, and it was so clear that it was reiterated in the film, which merely combines some of Bell's best stories from the monologues for one monologue at the beginning, and then some others being converted to actual dialogue in the scenes featuring him as a way to convey the overall message about Bell's character. He is a witness to the harsh change to his reality. And he feels powerless to stop it for he cannot comprehend it. With the talent cast, the adaptation of all Bell's monologues and his WWII back story isn't necessary as the point is the same in both cases, and is clearly driven home.

    As for the deranged mind responsible for the carnage, one is left hard pressed to attempt to contemplate a reasonable answer to the living force of nature that is Anton Chigurh, whom if even slightly bothered by one's demeanor could be prone to asking his trademark question: "What's the most you saw lost on a coin toss" (55)? Such a question bearing life and death in its wake, as Anton believes in fate. For when Carla Jean question's Chigurh's cause to harm her despite that the entire situation had passed, he claimed that "my word is not dead. Nothing can change that" (255). Chigurh is chained to such logic, or lack thereof. Citing arrogantly that "you're husband had the opportunity to remove you from harm's way and he chose not to do so. He was given that option and his answer was no. Otherwise I wouldn't be here now" (256). His overconfidence however is not his downfall as is the case in such stories. For with his success over such c*cky adversaries like bounty hunter Carson Wells, to which he asked "If the rule you followed led you to this of what use was the rule?" (175), one understands that for Chigurh, the immediate events leading to an outcome aren't relevant to the true reason why they're on the worse end of his shotgun. Rather it's as he puts it: "I'm talking about your life. In which now everything can be seen at once" (175). Or simply put, the course of your life has righteously led you to this end. Be it a life of greed, violence, kindness, or free spirited nature, it still led to Chigurh's shotgun. Is it karma to Chigurh? Is it justice? For when he views inanimate objects the same way, claiming in regards to his flipped coin that "it's been travelling twenty-two years to get here. And now it's here. And I'm here. And I've got my hand over it. And it's either heads or tails. And you have to say. Call it" (56); then one further understands the psychological drive to Anton Chigurh. It's fate. All roads lead to a righteous end. In several characters' cases, it leads them to being confronted by Chigurh with dismal outcomes. Thus he feels no shame or guilt, remaining as cold and calculating as possible, as in his mind, he is simply the executioner carrying out the judge's orders as dictated by fate's toss of the coin. For when all's said and done, he simply explains that "I got here the same way the coin did" (258).

    Lastly among the main characters is Llewellyn Moss, a veteran of two tours in the U.S. Army in the Vietnam War, "Twelfth Infantry. August seventh nineteen and sixty-six to September second nineteen and sixty-eight" (188). He's also the most average person in the film. A hunter, lower working class husband, and selfless for others and his wife Carla Jean, his decision to return to a crime scene to provide a dying man with water sends him on a violent journey he never anticipated. To deepen himself in trouble is both out of commitment for providing his wife with a better life than that of the lower class Wal-Mart Trailer Park American to a life far more well off. As well as a desire to confront the ruthless, arrogant hit man who frequently gets on his nerves. Along the way, Llewellyn says little, and most of his mental state is fleshed out through narration; Hence the inclusion of a young hitchhiking girl whom was cut from the film. She provides the reader with a more in depth look at Llewellyn during the journey rather than solely through a brief telephone conversation with Carla Jean and Anton Chigurh. For Wells is too much of a nuisance to let the reader fully trust Llewellyn's attitude in his confrontation with Welles at the hospital. For Welles is doing just that, nagging him. Llewellyn's attitude in question being: "Three weeks ago I was a law abidin [sic] citizen. Workin [sic] a nine to five job. Eight to four, anyways. Things happen to you they happen. They don't ask first. They don't require your permission" (220). When questioned by the young hitchhiker on the legality of carrying illegal weapons he responds: "When the shootin [sic] starts would you rather be armed or be legal" (220)? To the unrealistic, this may seem like poor logic do to the simple fact that it's illegal, when in fact it's perfectly logical. Though some may be prone to think that because of his willingness to break the law that therefore his word is no good for it. We however know otherwise, since he gives the girl money to make it to California no strings attached and says "even a blind sow finds a [sic] acorn ever once in a while" (223); Plus the aforementioned merciful act which landed him in his mess. Given this down to earth attitude remains throughout the story, his character was very easily adapted to the screen, save for the exclusion of the hitchhiker which is made up for with the acting and the inclusion of the first merciful act which gets the point across. We can tell he's genuine towards Carla Jean when he sends her off to her mother's place, and that attitude, as well as his experience in Vietnam which reflects on the journey frequently makes for a proper adaptation. His friendship with the hitchhiker culminates in the book with her final piece of, advice so to speak, which is a line she liked from a film which goes: "There's a lot of good salesmen around and you might just buy somethin yet" (235). And Llewellyn's response to her was being late "cause I done bought" (235); exactly the metaphor to explain Llewellyn's situation. Life in a trailer park for him leaves few chances for escape with too many too good to be true sales' pitches, yet few good deals. Yet the satchel seemed the perfect opportunity for escape. In the book and film he ponders for a while whether or not he should take it, possibly contemplating the consequences. Yet the sale seemed good, and he bought it, and now as a direct result of getting in over his head he's dead. A true burden on Bell, whom to convince Carla Jean of his sincerity to find Llewellyn that "I get paid to be the first one hurt. Killed, for that matter. I better care" (133); thus a greater tragedy when Llewellyn dies, and the sheriff is left with nothing to say but "I'm just as sorry as I can be" (247).

    As for the plot, it has less to do with the actual events of one character pursuing another, as the segments like Chigurh eating at a restaurant for a week after his injury and the Mexicans in the Barracuda preparing for their assault, and then the means for their escape later, as well as excessively large shootouts non-pertinent to the story being told are all cut to zero in on the themes which remain prevalent in the characters. Llewellyn being an example of the consequences of temptation, as he had a stable life before taking the money, but risked it all with a bloodbath trailing him which eventually caught up with him and left him dead. Karma for the chain reaction he set off? Or fate perhaps? As Anton Chigurh would see it, these are the consequences for the actions one takes. Wherever the end of your road is, is justified. Chigurh himself being fate's messenger, be the result fatal or not. It's all up to the coin, something he believes fate controls. This leaves Sheriff Bell contemplating the escalating violence, how it could happen so nonchalantly and over petty cash, regardless of how much, especially with tempting someone he knew to be a good man. These themes all explain why the plot of the film chooses to focus on the themes from the book, and translates that through the character adaptations rather than the events.

    Hence the climax isn't a major shootout or showdown with the villain where good must triumph over evil, but rather Bell's short trip to visit Ellis. In which he learns that such violence is nothing new. "You sign on for the ride you probably think you got at least some notion of where the ride's goin [sic]" (265) says Ellis. Something which was clearly on Bell's mind given his inability to contemplate the change in times, despite being "sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five" (90) and still being sheriff in his twilight years. Yet such changes aren't unique. For violence is violence as Ellis points out from his tale of Uncle Mac's death. "There were seven or eight of em [sic] come to the house. Wantin [sic] this and wantin [sic] that. He went back in the house and come out with a shotgun but they was way ahead of him and they shot him down in his own doorway. She run [sic] out and tried to stop the bleedin [sic]. Tried to get him back in the house. Said he kept tryin [sic] to get hold of the shotgun again. They just set there on their horses. Finally left...He knew what the score was if she didn't. He was shot through the right lung. And that was that. As they say" (269-270). Thus, the hardcore violence and its pitiful motives have never left the culture. Ellis and his family have had a hard life, yet "they never seemed to hold it to account" (271). "This country was hard on people" (271). Not the region alone, but the country itself, "this country will kill you in a heartbeat and people still love it" (271), yet there's only true disappointment over Chigurh's rampage from people like Bell and Ellis who've been around long enough to know things don't change much in motives, or violent habits. But that Chigurh in particular was a whole other breed of killer; still in toe with the criminals of older times for his apparent lack of a soul, but still proper for the escalation in violence over the decades to the point where only the slightest shock from people like Bell can be detected as he's seen it before so many times. As with the tale of the nineteen year old who "killed a fourteen year old girl...The papers said it was a crime of passion and he told me there wasn't no [sic] passion to it. ...told me he'd been plannin [sic] to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they'd turn him out he'd do it again" (3). Such inexplicable violence, the consequences of accepting temptation, and the longest lasting themes of our culture inhabited the characters throughout the book and made for a near perfect transfer on film.

    Hence, the second ending, with Anton Chigurh, having killed Carla Jean, we learn he is hit by a car. "Bone sticking up under the skin. Not good. A woman in a housedress ran out screaming. Blood kept running into his eyes and he tried to think" (260-261). Why? He survives, bribes the witnesses to report not having seen him, and walks off. No anger, and barely any detectable frustration. Why? Because this isn't a way of the author giving the audience sweet revenge for Chigurh's villainy, if the audience is even tired of him. But rather, it once again puts Chigurh's belief in fate to the test. A senseless vehicle accident leaves him with a severely broken arm after already having a hobbled leg. Yet his belief in everything happening for a reason is so strong that he doesn't express hatred for the other driver who ran the red light, nor screaming in agony over his wound. He simply gets up and walks away. And the Coen Brothers whom adapted this story to the screen shot it the same way. No exaggerations. If anything, they lessened the violence throughout the film to zero in on the point in each characters' dilemma.. Hence barely anything is lost from the film which is pertinent to the characters and plot in the book.

    So in reflection at story's end, one finds that this apparent simple tale of the consequences of a drug deal gone wrong is actually a philosophical journey that leaves room for metaphors to run rampant through the characters rather than events. The adaptation leaving out basic details like what basic necessities did each character acquire between motels and the perspective of the Mexican drug runners in pursuit. All non-pertinent to the story which is more centralized on Bell, Chigurh, and Llewellyn. One is depressed and perplexed at the change in times. The other is obsessed with fate and carries no guilt or shame because of it. And the last is that metaphor for the consequences of greed. All of this amounts to a contemporary tale which has reasonably been reiterated in reality time and again; except in this book and film, one gets a much clearer perspective on the meaning behind it thanks to the depiction of the characters and central focus of the story.
    You think Pike and Sykes haven't been watchin' us. They know what this is all about - and what do I have? Nothin' but you egg-suckin', chicken stealing gutter trash with not even sixty rounds between you. We're after men - and I wish to God I was with 'em
  • 4 years ago
    • Dan
    • @dan1
    • Joined: January 2010
    • Comments: 22,092
    • MovieWeb God
    Whew, that is a reader. Will have to check this out when I have my thinking cap on :P
    Valar morghulis, Jon Snow. but valar dohaeris.
  • 2 years ago
  • One of the best reviews on the movie. So much of other useless ones. Interesting that I found this one only after getting the movie myself. Shame.. could've saved time:)
  • 2 years ago
  • one of the great review
    [URL="http://www.fashionvogues.com/7-rings"]wholesale rings [/URL]
  • 1 year ago
  • @AC-42830720 its not the movie. its the book
  • 1 year ago
  • Now i want to read the book once again. Thank you for great Review!
  • 1 year ago
  • great movie
  • 1 year ago
  • Thank you for great review. I like it post. www.easypoundloans.co.uk
  • 1 year ago
  • watch online movies with fast streaming visit: www.onlinemoviemax.com
  • 1 year ago
  • The most humorous moive "Lost in Thiland"
  • 1 year ago
  • @slysnide Your forum has attracted some rather strange posts, lol.
    I am the one who knocks.
  • 1 year ago
  • @thedude-abides: hahaha. I was just thinking that upon scrolling down and reading your comment.
    You think Pike and Sykes haven't been watchin' us. They know what this is all about - and what do I have? Nothin' but you egg-suckin', chicken stealing gutter trash with not even sixty rounds between you. We're after men - and I wish to God I was with 'em
  • 1 year ago
  • I should read this
    There exist four rulers in this world: Gods, Humans, Vampires and Werewolves. The Question is, who do you think is above the food chain?