/spoilers ahead, read at own risk/
Coen Brothers’ 2007 No Country For Old Men is powered by the choices each of the characters chooses to do and those choices become the downfall for the characters themselves.
For a two hour film, it covers weeks long of a slow cooked manhunt between Llewllyn Moss and psychopath Anton Chigurh while, not far behind, Sheriff Bell follows the blood soaked bread crumbs that Chigurrh leaves behind. In the opening sequences of the film, Llewellyn Moss is hunting, he perfectly aims for the kill, but misses. In my interpretation, this might be a foreshadowing of the events that unfold when Moss picks the briefcase of money. His careful planning of running away and trying to cover the trail from doing so while lacking the control of such events, bites him back……harshly.
In the opening sequences of the film, Llewellyn Moss is hunting, he perfectly aims for the kill, but misses. In my interpretation, this might be a foreshadowing of the events that unfold when Moss picks the briefcase of money. His careful planning of running away and trying to cover the trail from doing so but lacks the control of such events, bites him in the back. The cinematography further suggests this: extended long shots of the desert and Moss often positioned in the center of the frame. The concept of isolation is developed by the lack of non-diegesic sound in the film.
While the so-called manhunt between Moss and Chigurh unfolds slowly, Sheriff Bell contemplates and questions the overwhelming situation put before him.
Protagonists facing a bigger force are commonplace with Coen Brothers’ films, similarly Fargo’s Marge Gunderson is faced with an investigation that seems to have a that seems to place itself with a tremendous complexity:
“And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well. I just don’t understand it.”
Much alike Sheriff Bell (he’s actually the protagonist, spoiler alert)
“I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure.”
I was intrigued with the events surrounding the manhunt and I was expecting some sugar coated, happy ending where Sheriff Bell would use the powers of the law to thwart Chigurh before he takes down Moss.
I didn’t expect to the film to be this nihilistic.
“Rather than being a cat-and-mouse thriller, No Country for Old Men is a coming-of-age tale in which the real protagonist, Sheriff Bell, comes to understand his place in the universe.”
Chigurh eventually catches up to Moss and obliterates any connections Moss had: his wife, Carla Jean. Carson Wells, a hitman that’s supposed to track down Chigurh, soon meets his end. While Bell retires, realising the unstoppable anarchy of evils that corrupt among the good-willed souls and his lack of control of to stop them.
His final monologue, where he recalls a dream with him and his father on horseback in the mountains insinuates a metaphor that he had set his goal too big for him to achieve:
“He just rode on past… and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin’ fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. ‘Bout the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin’ on ahead and he was fixin’ to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold.”
LIGHT = BELL’S ATTEMPT // DARK AND ALL THAT COLD = CHIGURH AND OTHER EVILS LIKE HIM.
I’m finding this film hard to grasp much like Sheriff Bell with the crimes that are far beyond his reach. Maybe this film isn’t about the plot or the mess of a chase between Chigurh, Moss and Wells but the idea of grasping a complex, far beyond comprehension of a situation while using old-fashioned methods that are powerless to the ever-evolving evils and the internal struggles within trying to understand it.