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No Country For Old Men

This is a response to the Coen brothers newest movie. These are just some thoughts I had on the themes of the movie.

Anton is the marauding badass wantonly/arbitrarily/randomly destructive element in the world (or at least America, and at least as it is seen in the eyes of old men, or the older generation). A kind of unfathomably (at least for the old) cancerous element that the sheriff character describes as being foreign and beyond him (I don’t remember the exact line). In a couple scenes The Marauder flips a coin to determine whether or not he will kill someone, just totally random.

There is a lot of talk of “principles”, and I guess the ‘old ways’, or some chivalrous idea like that. The sheriff says, “Once you stop hearing ‘sir’ and ‘mam’, the rest is soon to follow”. We see this in the younger generations (younger than the sheriff) in Llewelyn and his wife and the like (who are portrayed as having a hearty trusting relationship, and a deep understanding of eachother), the man with the truck load of chickens who has a kind of “howdy stranger” helpful attitude, and the boy who gives Anton his shirt at the end (saying he doesn’t need the money: “Look mister, I don’t mind helping someone out”). But at the same time, Anton is described by Woody Harrelson’s character as also being “principled”.

The other theme I was thinking of, and this isn’t as explicit as the above, but when the sheriff is talking to his deputy, and they are piecing together what they find, Tommy Lee Jones’ character (the sheriff) always seems to be a step ahead of the deputy, and even though he is dealing with a very foreign element (this marauding badass), he almost seems to be teasing the details out of his deputy, like Socrates drawing the pythagorean theorem out of the slave boy in the Meno; it seems as if the sheriff is just acting dumb with the details about the head wound (with no exit wound and no bullet), and later describes the same air gun bolt contraption used to produce this wound in a story to Llewelyn’s wife, which is used to kill cattle (without the repercussions of using a gun).

Continuing with the story the sheriff told, about the man who wounded (or killed) himself shooting a cow with a gun (ricochet), this air gun bolt thing was a contraption that eliminated these possible repercussions. This is also the weapon the the marauding badass Anton is carrying around with him. But, as I said, Anton is also this random coin-flipping capricious and indiscriminate monster. So, that this character is also the one that is carrying this weapon that eliminates repercussions, this says what…? (I might come back to this question.)

Llewelyn had the chance to save his wife. He chose to hunt down and kill Anton. But he never had the opportunity for this challenge because he was killed by some other group (the Mexican gang involved, which didn’t really play a large part in the movie, so came off as another unforeseen element). In the same way, when Llewelyn’s wife is faced by Anton who has flipped a coin for her, she chooses not to participate saying, “the coin ain’t got no say, it’s just you”. After this Anton says, “I got here the same way the coin did”. Here Anton could be seen as identified with this randomness.

“I got here the same way the coin did”, but this could also be interpreted as referring to that same deterministic chain of events that brought everything to where it is now, likewise brought Anton and the coin to that same place, and in a way absolving him of any responsibility. Thus the kind of indecisiveness/passivity on Anton’s part from the fact that he flips a coin in these situations, as if it isn’t his decision at all.

This same indecisiveness is seen in the sheriff’s character after he retires at the end of the film, where he is thinking out loud as to what to do that day. He says, “I’ll go riding, waddaya think?” To which his wife responds, “I can’t plan your day”. In old age/retirement, one possibly loses the direction or function that their time has served. So how might Anton’s indecisiveness/submission to the random whim of the coin connect with this? (Considering that Anton is the unpredictable modern element that eludes the old man sheriff, and that the sheriff also seems to have an intuition about this marauder, as I talked about above; the two seem linked in some way.)

Well, the movie seems be explicitly about America in particular (there are a couple of lines that I can’t remember that made this obvious). Also, possibly about how the present state/culture/developments might appear to an older generation. But that isn’t it, because right after Anton’s coin flip with Llewelyn’s wife, as Anton is driving down the street, a car slams right into him (even though Anton had a green light). This seems to be the random element that Anton embodies coming back to bite him. And as Anton is sitting bleeding on the sidewalk, a boy comes up offering his shirt (not requiring the money offered, “I don’t mind helping someone out”).

And finally, the sheriff describes a dream he had of his father riding ahead to start a fire, “and I knew that whenever I got there, he’d be there.”