This isn’t your father’s western. Zach, Rodrigo and Stephen discuss the award winning No Country for Old Men, the final film in our Coen to the Movies month.

Zach on Film subreddit: www.reddit.com/r/zachonfilm

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the grisly aftermath of a drug deal. Though he knows better, he cannot resist the cash left behind and takes it with him. The hunter becomes the hunted when a merciless killer named Chigurh (Javier Bardem) picks up his trail. Also looking for Moss is Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), an aging lawman who reflects on a changing world and a dark secret of his own, as he tries to find and protect Moss


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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

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4 Comments

  1. July 29, 2016 at 9:59 pm — Reply

    I remember watching this film in the cinema and feeling almost traumatised afterwards. I really felt thwarted and fully manipulated to feel exactly the way I was supposed to when I left the cinema. I appreciate the film’s poignant beauty and feel that it achieved exactly what it set out to do, making it a very good film.

    But man, I do not want to watch this film again! Ever! It was slow! And I agree with Rodrigo’s sense of dissatisfaction with the plot.

    One thing I did think that wasn’t touched upon in the podcast at all was how Llewelyn’s death might have been prevented (or at least delayed from its abrupt happening), if he hadn’t chosen to stay in the bar and flirt/hook up with someone unfaithfully. It was thematically rather interesting and seemed to portray, to me anyway, a form of retribution that seems unrelated but then again perhaps all things are connected sort of thing. Llewlyn’s wife seemed to represent the ‘good’ in that sense, betrayed ultimately by Llewelyn’s moral/ethical decisions.

    Interesting film, made me think a ton afterwards. Still can’t think of this film without remembering how Chigurh checked his shoe soles for blood after he killed Llewelyn’s wife. Damn.

  2. July 31, 2016 at 5:06 pm — Reply

    Great Zach on Film. I highly recommend reading the book and then rewatch the movie. I was working at bookstore when talk of the movie first came up. Based on staff recommendations, I bought it and flew through the content. It was a quick read and I’ve returned to it often. It blew my mind for how the characters were depicted. The depiction of the quarter at the gas station will make your blood grow cold with fear. A lot more detail about the violence surrounding efforts by the cartel to recover their money, Anton’s malevolent cruelty, and the absolute terror the sheriff was feeling when he almost stumbled into Anton at the hotel. The movie did a pretty good job depicting the story and characters in the book. Thanks for the show. Cheers!

  3. Mauther
    August 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm — Reply

    This was a really good episode of Zach on Film. This can be a tough movie to parse and I think everyone did a good job of describing what they saw in a very clear manner.

    This is my favorite Coen brothers film, and my favorite Cormac Mcarthy novel (most critics put Blood Meridian higher but I prefer No Country. One of the main problems most people have with the movie is that its not a completely a character story, as in there is a definitive protagonist we are supposed to follow. Instead we follow the events surrounding the drug deal gone wrong. In the book, Sheriff Bell is clearly the protagonist, and most of the story follows him following the hunt for Wells and Chigurh. I like the change for the movie, it makes the violence more immediate. Another major change from the book is Sheriff Bell’s backstory is dropped. In the novel, Bell received a Bronze star for surviving a German artillery attack in WWII. The medal made him a local hero, but he survived by leaving his unit. His shame for what he perceives as cowardice haunts him, and helps undermine his own self image especially as he compares himself to his father, his grand father and his uncle.

    Ultimately what I like about this story is the way that it misdirects. Sheriff Bell ultimately fails to do any of the things he set out to do. He doesn’t save Llewellyn. He doesn’t catch Chigurh. He doesn’t save Llewellyn’s wife Carla Jean. He ultimately returns home defeated and dejected, yet unharmed, despite all of his best efforts. That’s not supposed to happen in a western. The sheriff is supposed to win heroically or go down in glorious martyrdom. The other misdirection is the setting. The movie is set on the Texas border with cartel violence, that seems like a current plot line, but the film is actually set in the 80’s. To me that’s ironic. especially considering Bell’s speech at the end with Ellis. In direct contradiction to Bell’s opening monologue about how previous sheriff’s never even drew their gun, Ellis recounts how bad things have always been. He recounts how Uncle Mac was killed on his own porch by criminals, the year was 1909. Basically the same thing has been happening for at least 100 years, the violence isn’t personal and it isn’t about Sheriff Bell. “What you got ain’t nothing new. This country’s hard on people. Can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity” (You can find this scene on youtube if you search for “I fell overmatched”, it’s one of the best dialogue’s written in years). Things don’t always fall neatly into place. We try and fit them into a clean narrative, but ultimately stuff happens. Always has and always will. That doesn’t make us unlucky or blessed. It’s just life, and its arrogant to believe that just because we’re talking about our own circumstances anything changes.

    To Steven’s point about continuing the Coen brother’s good vs evil dichotomy, in my opinion Bell is the good man who triumphs just by encountering the devil (Chigurh) and escaping unscathed. Chigurh is evil, committing violence for its own sake. Violence itself is his reason for being. Well’s evil is less personal, its occupational. He doesn’t commit violence for its own sake, but to earn a living. Moss’s evil is selfish, a way to get ahead in life but without a clear agenda or endpoint. Ultimately, their violence ends up getting all of them killed (yes Chigurh’s getting caught when we last see him, he’s mirroring Llewelyn’s desperate flight earlier in the film and the results will be the same with cops replacing cartel gunmen.).

    This is a wonderfully complex film, there’s whole articles that can be written on individual characters, and that’s without going into so many of the great dialogue scenes (Moss and Wells, the gas station, Bell and Ellis, Bell and his wife, Moss and Carla Jean, Chigurh and Carla Jean, Chigurh and Wells) or the wonderful cinematography. This is probably my favorite drama of the last 20 years.

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