Ethan and Joel Coen truly broke ground with the release of No Country For Old Men in 2007. A film that revolves around violence and mayhem takes the audience back with a constant slow-drip of anxiety while enduring such a disturbing storyline and interesting characters.
The surface of No Country For Old Men may appear like a violent crime-filled film like Dirty Harry (1971) or The Departed (2006), but instead, the Coen brothers delivered a powerful and subtle film that deals with the notion of doing right from wrong, and the sociopaths in between.
What is No Country For Old Men About?
Based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men tells the tale of an illegal drug deal gone awry in the Texas backcountry. Hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a suitcase filled with money while discovering the remains of the leftover drug runners.
Amidst Llewelyn’s discovery of the money, sociopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) gets on Llewelyn’s trail and murders every rival and bystander in his pursuit of the money. Meanwhile, taciturn Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) oversees the investigation while struggling to face the crimes he’s destined to face.
Staying True to Source Material
The Coen brothers made a stunningly morally based film that stayed true to the source material. Although there are a few variations compared to McCarthy’s novel, the primary plot points are the same. Llewelyn discovered the money while hunting, Chigurh is the same sociopathic killer, and Sheriff Bell deals with the same troubling emotions throughout the case.
Staying faithful to the source material doesn’t always pan out for films, but the story of No Country For Old Men ends up benefitting the Coen brothers significantly. The extraordinary story might be the singular reason why they wrote the script so closely to the book, but Cormac McCarthy originally wrote the story as a script which could explain why it translated to film so well.
Eerie Setting and Scenery
Most of No Country For Old Men relies on natural ambient sounds instead of a proper score you’d generally attribute to films. The lack of music plays in favor with the film, giving audiences a sense of anxiety and stress while watching each of the main characters work.
For example, during the first encounter between Llewelyn and Chigurh, there is nothing heard but foley sounds that follow the scene along. It’s eerily quiet that forces the audience to imagine themselves in the similar circumstance that each character finds themselves in.
The Characterization of Anton Chigurh
On the surface, Anton Chigurh is a remorseless man who kills without any question or hesitation. He’s a deeply disturbing character that Javier Bardem perfected. Still, Chigurh isn’t a one-dimensional killer who kills for no apparent reason. He has an odd set of morals that he strictly follows throughout the film.
For example, when Chigurh offers Llewelyn a plea for sparing his wife (Kelly Macdonald), Chigurh has to go back and kill his wife just because Llewelyn didn’t agree to the terms. Even with the money returned and the case being over, Chigurh’s word means everything, and he’ll kill anything in his path that inconveniences him.
Upon someone’s first viewing of No Country For Old Men, they’ll discuss the natural sorrowfulness associated with the film. Many fail to realize that the film opens on Anton Chigurh killing an officer intentionally, showing that it’s not a traditional tale of the good guys winning. Sometimes evil wins, and that’s largely why Chigurh seemingly gets away in every near-fatal incident involving him.