No Country for Old Men

1: Analysis of the Book

The book, No Country for Old Men, written by Cormac McCarthy, is described by some as a “gothic western.” This term is no doubt meant to give the sanction of a genre to a very dark story of good versus evil in the modern American West. The novel could also be described as “surreal.” The landscape and action are described in purely realistic terms, while the characters seem to be exaggerated versions of their type. First, we have Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the lawman, who is the aging hero. He exemplifies the stoic virtues of his type; he believes in truth and in his duty to find it. Opposing him is the almost purely evil character of Anton Chigurh. He is almost a caricature “bad guy” who has no mercy and shows harmful intent towards all who cross his path. The game between these two and a third character, Llewelyn, dominate the book.

In essence, “No Country” is a crime story, a detective story and a moral fable rolled into one. This makes the book, as well as the film, enjoyable because it can be followed on several levels at once. The action-thriller part keeps one’s interest, while the theme of fate versus free-will makes this a book worth one’s time and attention

2: Analysis of the Film

The movie felt like it was very realistic. The cinematographer does some very good camera moves such that the audience doesn’t even know the camera has moved. There are large sections of the movie that have no music soundtrack, and some of the scenes are entirely wordless. The directors are masterful at having the actors communicate their moods and thoughts with body language and facial expression.In addition, the use of voice-over narration by the character of the sheriff helps define the meaning of the story.  The mood of the Southwest is communicated through the immense and forbidding landscape which almost becomes a character in the film. A couple of locations in the book that couldn’t be done in the movie for obvious reasons: the U.S.-Mexico border crossing bridge and the Border Checkpoint. The filmmakers had to improvise, so the U.S.-Mexico Border crossing was actually a freeway overpass in Las Vegas and the Border Checkpoint was set at the intersection of Interstate 25 and New Mexico State highway 65. Nevertheless, these alternate locations feel to the viewer like the “real” things. The Coen brothers are known for the excellence of their craft and this film is no exception.

3: Analysis of the Adaptation

Reviewers agree that this film adaptation is in almost perfect consonance with the book, given the differences between film and literature. The movie follows the book in plot, character and even dialogue. The film follows the book’s sparse stark view of the American southwest in its quiet soundtrack and its vast panoramas of desert scenes. On the other hand, the filmmakers are able to speed up the action and create even more dramatic tension with cross-cutting between characters, letting the audience agonize over a tense scene while learning more about a different character’s piece of the story. Also, by putting faces, voices and costume to each character, the filmmakers influence our perception of what is going on and what the meaning of the story is. By making Sheriff Bell and Llewelyn into recognizable and likable people, we are ready to sympathize with them as opposed to the absolutely weird looking, black-shirt wearing, and totally unsympathetic, “devil” character, Chigurh. The film uses every aspect of the medium from actors, to colors, to expert editing to create a distinct and memorable film version of an interesting book.

4: Online Research

This website is very interesting because it is the “No Country for Old Men” drinking game!

This website is part of the Internet Movie Firearms Database, and it shows every single gun that was used in the movie. What is very interesting about this site is that not only does it list the guns in the movie, it also gives examples of when each particular gun appears in the movie including scenes in the movie and promotional shots from it. This is a really good website in case you want to know what gun is in a particular scene and when it is used and by whom.

This website is a list of 10 best movies of the decade, with “No Country for Old Men” being specifically at Number 5.

This website show Tropes, which are conventions and devices that are found within creative works, though this particular one shows the ones for “No Country for Old Men.” One of the most obvious tropes that is useful for this movie is the “Police Are Useless” trope, which is quite accurate throughout the whole movie.

This blog is really interesting in that it caters to the people that have seen the movie who have some strange theories in which they believe Llewelyn Moss might actually be still alive, as his killing was never shown onscreen. 

5: Critical Argument Paragraph

No Country for Old Men is undeniably violent and yet it is somewhat reticent about two killings, that of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean. Why would the filmmakers decline to film their killings when so many other killings in the film are graphically shown?

“No Country for Old Men” is indeed an undeniably violent movie, considering how many people are viciously murdered by the character of Anton Chigurh. I think the filmmakers didn’t want to put the actual murders of Llewelyn Moss and Carla Jean into the movie because it would be too emotionally jarring for the audience. By the time Llewelyn and Carla Jean meet their untimely ends, the viewer has already been subjected to a series of brutally violent encounters between Chigurh and his victims. While most of these killings take place out in the middle of nowhere, the execution in close quarters of characters the audience has begun to root for might be too much for even jaded action-movie-goers to handle. One interesting thing about the killing of Llewelyn Moss and of his wife Carla Jean is that there is a small faction of fans who believe that he is still alive, but those fan theories are laid to rest in the blog above. As said before, this movie was disturbingly violent with the many cold-blooded killings that were shown.



4 thoughts on “No Country for Old Men

  1. I agree with what you said about how seeing Carla Jean and Llewelyn ‘s murders would have felt gratuitous. Since viewers have seen so much violence by those points in the movie already, it’s more effective to leave it up to the imagination. Leaving out the visual of their deaths also seems more unsettling to the audience, who after seeing countless others die expect to see the violence of important character’s ends.

  2. Although I think most of us can agree that Moss’s death was implied strongly enough for it to be assumed, I disagree with your assertion that the same is true of Carla Jean. We not only never saw the coin toss, but we never saw if she called it at all. Given his twisted personal ruleset and how angry he was getting when she didn’t call it, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he felt he couldn’t kill her until she called the toss.

  3. I disagree with your assertion that showing the killings would have been “too emotionally jarring”. Yes, we as viewers are invested in those characters, but if a person has watched the movie up to this point, they will probably be able to handle the violence. By not showing the violence and allowing us to be horrified while providing instant proof/closure therefore making the violence less consumable therefore more emotionally jarring, and Llewelyn and Carla Jean are respected more as characters.

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