1. The novel No Country for Old Men follows Llewelyn Moss as he finds, and attempts to abscond with 2 million dollars worth of drug money. He is followed by the hit man Anton Chirugh, who attempts to recover the money. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell follows the trail of destruction and gives monologues on what this new type of world (created by Chirugh) is doing to “old men” such as himself. The novel reflects on the conflict between self-governance and freedom.
2. The film creates an uneasy representation of times that could be construed as the present, but in an isolated desert town. The film does not shove period pieces into your face, making the viewer constantly question the year. While it is no secret that the story is set in the 80’s (as per the set pieces and dress), one could easily make the mistake of thinking the film is present day, albeit in the middle of the desert in Texas. Anton Chirugh’s hair is certainly something that could be brought to the contrary, but the pure evil he exudes could also lead one into thinking that the ease of maintenance for such a cut could have been at the forefront of his mind. Being a son of the greatest state in the Union (Texas, of course), the sights and (lack of) sounds in the film brought me visions of towns I have visited only recently.
3. The film is a fairly faithful adaptation, with a few minor caveats to fit into the Hollywood dynamic. The greatest difference is the “resolution” of Moss’ wife. In the book, she is given the chance to call the coin flip, which she does, and she is killed when she calls it wrong. In the film, she refuses to call the coin, and the viewer is never explicitly told what happens to her. Her fate is hinted at when Chirugh checks his shoes after leaving her house. The unapologetic brutality of this scene in the novel is not conveyed in the film, and Mrs. Moss’ determination and courage could have stopped the nihilistic Chirugh in his tracks, but we do not know for sure either way.
This review also touches on Mrs. Moss’ last stand against the unstoppable Chirugh. It talks of her as evolving past the “hands-wringing housewife” stereotype and turning into a source of courage. What the review does not talk about is how she is dealt with. Granted, the viewer is never told what exactly happens to her, but to leave summarize her role as that is to leave out a huge component of what the novel is about.
A comment from a reader talks of the movie as being a “pretentious Terminator,” which is a very interesting counter view to consider.
A list of best opening lines includes Sheriff Bell saying, “I was Sheriff of this county when I was 25 years old. Hard to believe.” which sets the tone for the movie fairly well.
5. At one point in the film Sheriff Bell relates the case of people who tortured and killed seniors for their Social Security checks. Wondering why they tortured people, Bell says “maybe the television was broken.” Is this comment meant to reflect a criticism of violence in entertainment media (TV and film)? Or are the film-makers saying that graphic violence in entertainment media will somehow make violence less prevalent in society?
The comment Sheriff Bell makes about the people who tortured seniors is not a reflection on violence in the media, but rather a comment regarding the new facilities of life boiling aspects of living down to such a degree that we, as a species, have become so bored that we constantly search for new outlets for our time. Sheriff Bell comes from a time where cowboy and Indian shows on the radio or television were not considered damaging to children, and no themes behind the shows existed, besides the fact that the struggles presented in the medium caused a lasting psychological impact on the society that participated in them, which led to the shows existing in the first place. So to comment on these modern beliefs would be unlike him. He also comes from a time where abattoir guns did not exist; where a man had to devise crude and time-consuming methods to slaughter cattle. But the ease of the abattoir gun (this item from the film represents my point perfectly) allows man to slaughter cattle at an efficient rate, which leaves him with time on his hands. The question now becomes, what will he do with this time? I believe Sheriff Bell’s comments are more in line with the inherent propensity of man towards violence, and the ease of modern times has allowed man more time to do things, which would tend to be violent. The television is the epoch of the extra-time crisis, as it serves no purpose but to fill in a period of time. And Sheriff Bell’s comments are questioning what happens when this time consuming device breaks in this new world of extra time.