Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

What did I just watch‽

No Country for Old Men was a hit when it came out several years ago. Set in West Texas, the film is a double pursuit story: the police trying to trace a homicide, who is himself on the trail of Llewelyn Moss, a retired Vietnam veteran who stumbles across two million dollars from a drug deal gone bad.

It’s suspense action without the startling moments, which makes it feel less gimmicky than some suspense movies. (That is, things don’t “jump out at you” more than maybe twice in the movie.) The whole thing is fairly tense; you never know if the antagonist is going to show up just then. His relatively quiet methods of killing—a captive bolt pistol and a silenced shotgun—add to the tension…everything happens quietly, coldly.

I can’t say anything else without giving away the plot, because the whole movie is passive pursuit. That’s all it is. If the character of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is supposed to make it more wise, symbolic, or meaningful, it didn’t do it for me. (Maybe it was more important in the book.) If you like tense thrillers without a foregone conclusion, No Country for Old Men seems to be very well done. If you don’t, though, it doesn’t have much to offer you.

I actually really respect the way the film gives you very little context in the beginning, and very little to work with throughout the movie. It feels better to be off-balance than to have figured out the entire movie in the first half-hour. But there wasn’t ever a reveal that capitalized on that feeling, which made me feel…odd. It didn’t fit Western storytelling.

If there’s a message to the film, it’s that “‘everything happens for a reason’ is crap”.

(spoilers) The ending was also interesting, because it was a loss, and open-ended—not in the usual “there’s a possibility for a sequel” way, but that this story felt unfinished. The bad guy gets away and the sherriff lost. The final scene, about the now-retired sherriff’s dreams, was deliberately anti-climactic. I guess this issue was over, with the money recovered and everyone involved dead, but I didn’t even get the feeling Chigurh was done killing people…there had been many before this, and there will be many after.

Also, Chigurh’s relationship with the CEO guy and the company wasn’t entirely clear to me. It was clear that Wells knew him, but I didn’t really get past that. I think that may have been intentional though, more of the film’s denial of the idea that everything happens for a reason. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

All in all, I think I would have preferred the book.

P.S. The antagonist is Snape’s evil twin. (And you all thought Snape was the evil one…)