Things I didn’t like about No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

I remember thinking the the trailer was ok—but that this wasn’t the type of movie I’d be able to watch with Stephanie. And then the reviews started pouring in, and then the Oscar nominations. I think it was this sentence that finally caught my attention:

No Country may be a masterpiece, but it’s a cold-blooded one, perhaps too much a splatter fest and a museum piece for Oscar voters.

Over the long weekend Stephanie wanted to do some shopping, so I took the opportunity to take myself out to a movie. I’ve been really curious about There Will Be Blood (a movie I might could get Stephanie to come along for), but the timing wasn’t right, so I decided on No Country.

I have to say, it’s not a bad movie. It’s crazy well-made. If you haven’t seen it and want to, you definitely should. I just didn’t like it. And I want to tell you why. This may well be the only negative review of “No Country for Old Men” that exists. Anywhere.

This is the point where you should stop reading if you want to see the movie.

I have to admit, Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh is totally captivating. His captive bolt pistol is badass. Tommy Lee Jones is ok, but didn’t he just play a sheriff? I also liked Kelly Macdonald.

But thinking back over the movie and plot, there was so much I found hard to suspend my disbelief for. It’s clear that the Coen brothers went to great lengths to make the movie feel real, which just makes the reality-gaps seem even more glaring to me.

Returns with water

Why did Llewelyn Moss go back to bring the critically wounded drug dealer water in the middle of the night!? Not only was it dumb, but I wasn’t convinced he really cared that much—he acted more like a boy whose mom just told him to go feed the dogs. It felt like this was one of those obvious plot moments intended to put him into a compromising situation in order to set horrible things in motion. Which is exactly what it did.

Evades car and dog

So now he’s running away from a car full of people shooting at him in the desert who are inexplicably unable to hit him with bullets or the car. And the sudden changing of the light from pitch black to dawn conveys this sense that they’ve been comically chasing him for a long time. Of course he manages to evade them by swimming across a river, but not until he’s able to shoot the dog they sent after him at exactly the last moment. Last moment as in he had to pull the dog’s teeth out of his shoulder. Yeah right.

Unbelievable hitman

So now the hunt is on, Chigurh is called in, hired to track down Moss, and unexpectedly he shoots the suits who’ve hired him. Why? Just ’cause I guess. Seems like a dumb move to me. Hard to believe a hitman with a reputation for killing his employers would get much repeat work.

Moss gets away

Meanwhile Moss is at a hotel with the money, to accomplish what? Who knows. What is he waiting for? What are his plans? He hides the money in a super sneaky way, and then when he gets wind that he might have been discovered, pulls a MacGyver and recovers the money from a room on the opposite side of the hotel through the air vent.

At the very same time, Chigurh discovers the Mexicans camped out waiting for Moss. And blows them all away. And given how silent the film is, with little soundtrack, a lot of emphasis is placed on the sounds—the machine guns, and squeak of the money satchel as Moss retrieves it. It’s clear that Moss hears the gunfire (OMG get out of there!), but it’s unclear whether Chigurh hears the satchel squeaking in the vent. Why not?

And suddenly we skip to Moss in a car he’s riding in after hitchhiking. But remember, Chigurh knows two things, the money was nearby just before he killed the Mexicans (because of the beeping proximity sensor) and then it wasn’t there. Dude, go outside and look for your guy! He’s running down the highway with a briefcase trying to hitch a ride. It seems a little unbelievable that Moss got away.

Town of the deaf

They play the cat and mouse game at yet another hotel (how does Chigurh find him?), which precipitates into a crazy middle of the night downtown car crash/shoot out. Which is where I found it really hard to suspend my disbelief. As much as people have fled depressed downtowns, how is it possible no one was around or heard the car crash or gun fire? I mean really. Same with the machine gun fire at the motel. How is it possible Chigurh got away from that?

Self-surgery

Psychopathic hitman killers have to be well-versed in emergency medicine, because they certainly can’t go to a hospital with all manner of bullet wounds, right? So we get to watch Chigurh patch himself up with medicine pilfered from a pharmacy after he blows up a car outside.

Woody? You’re kidding me

At some point Woody Harrelson gets called in, trying ever so hard to play it straight, acting badass, like his sanity makes him even more cold-blooded than Chigurh, but he comes off just seeming goofy. And it doesn’t get him anywhere because Chigurh kills him almost instantly. Did he even have a point?

Did I miss a scene?

Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is in El Paso in broad daylight, ostensibly there to help Moss, and he hears machine gun fire, sees a car swerve into the busy road in front of him as two guys jump into the car and speed off. Given their high profile, one assumes they’d be easily apprehended, $2 million and all. The sheriff pulls into the motel they emerged from to find the motel all shot up and a few people dead, one face down in the parking lot. But we don’t see who. In fact WE NEVER SEE WHO! One figures this is that whole movie setup switcheroo (for the final 10 minutes of the film) where we think Moss is dead but he really isn’t, but no, it seems that he’s really dead. We just never see him dead. I started to wonder whether some scene had been spliced out of the reel, it seemed that abrupt and disjoint.

Don’t show or tell

So now the movie stops being suspenseful, which means it’s almost over. Chigurh comes back for Moss’ wife. Does he kill her? WE DON’T KNOW. All he does is check the bottom of his boots upon emerging from the house. Hmm, checking for blood? Or just as bored as we are?

Car crash ex machina

And then as he’s driving away through a quiet residential neighborhood, nervously checking his mirrors (so that we know something must be coming up) a car smashes into him out of nowhere. Is this deus ex machina justice? Gimme a break. And once again, no one is around, no one hears the crash and comes running, except two boys on bikes, who give him a shirt to use as a sling as he slips away again. It was probably one of the least satisfying, emotionally void movie endings I’ve ever experienced.

22 Comments

Shelly

Best and funniest review yet. You must be young. Re name movie no movie for young (thinking) people

First off, Google ads amuse me sometimes. I am almost curious enough about what a “No Country for Old Men” ringtone would sound like to clicky clicky on one of the ads.

I found the movie unsatisfying. It was extremely well made and acted. But the ending was empty. I adore violent movies and don’t expect happy endings. But this one left me feeling brain raped in the bad way. (I guess there isn’t a good way. But I do enjoy an ambiguous or downer ending now and a gain) But evil always wins and life just goes on? Bleh, thanks for punching me in the belly.

miz

I agree.. And what was the purpose of that scene with the old guy in the wheelchair the sheriff visits toward the end of the movie? Just a break from every other scene where he blows somebody (anybody!) away so the blood can splatter? Can’t BELIEVE this won best picture. Snore.

Tummy14

Agreed – just finished watching it… can i have the past two hours of my life back please. VERY disappointing.

hermance

I find it odd that your critique of the movie pretty much resorted to, “That could never happen.” It’s a Coen Brothers film. I’m curious as to what made you expect realism and/or think that realism should be the measuring stick, since none of their movies have ever aspired to realism. You’re certainly a savvy enough viewer to know that, so what made you expect something else from this?

hermance, I guess I didn’t realize that one has to critique a movie in the context of the director’s (or directors’) entire canon for that critique to be valid. :)

I saw that the movie was nominated for a Best Picture, read that it had a good chance of winning, went to the movie, and wrote about my reactions to it. Given how universally praised the movie was compared to how unsatisfied I was upon leaving the theater, only motivated me further to write down why. It surprised even me that I took issue with so much.

There’s a difference between believability and suspension of disbelief. Many movies, when you step back, are hard to believe, but more important is whether the framework of reality created by the movie allows the viewer to temporarily suspend their disbelief during the course of the movie. Yes Coen Bros. movies tend to be over the top, and yes Chigurh was a total badass, but that’s no excuse for what seemed like holes in the plot.

That may not even be their fault, as I’ve read the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book by the same name.

no country for old men is unassumingly unconventional…

dumbfounding form a moral angle, but that can be a good thing.

Well

One thing that may help you in your questions is that the book and movie are far more esoteric than you might believe or care to research. The book does fill in some gaps, but there is actually quite a bit of philosophy involved.

Chigurh is basically evil incarnate, he doesn’t have any moral ties to anything other than fate. He killed his employer because his employer didn’t trust him. Also, it is never really said that he is a hitman, in fact it is more so implied that he is a tracker.

Also, I advise you to see the movie again, because you most certainly see a dead Moss laying at the front door of his hotel room.

Chigurh definitely killed Carla Jean, no question, I promise. Even without reading the book, you can tell through clues presented throughout the film.

The point of the crash at the end is to essentially show that evil cannot be stopped. Chigurh = Evil, and even in a crash the certainly should have killed him, he survived and got away. It was also a way to show that he did indeed get away with the money, that is if there was any question left after the whole dime by the vent scene.

To Miz – That part isn’t all that random, it is another look at Ed Tom Bell and the world he finds himself in. His cousin in the wheelchair is there to remind him that what is going on is nothing new, it is just taking on different forms, forms that Bell is unaccustomed to but that he has to come to grips with.

Dig deeper, a lot of this movie and book has to do with good vs. evil, but with other complexities thrown in to add some flavor. There is some realism in the way it is presented, but the overall theme definitely allows for some suspension of belief to drive home the point.

staylor

suspension of disbelief–need it to enjoy almost all forms of entertainment. but my problem has more to do with any deeper meaning-some monster tracks and kills some guy…not much to think about or appreciate. but, i figure i just missed something to really appreciate. let me know what it was, i would feel better about seeing something valuable in it rather than having wasted money. what does it speak to? not everything needs a message, a moral, but it must touch us on some level that speaks to the human condition to be truly valuable as a piece of art. let me know what is in that long movie!!

Trey

I agree with the part about bringing back the water for the wounded man, that’s just an moronic plot device much like the one in the start of Jeepers Creepers, and it’s sad to put this movie and that one in the same paragraph. I give this picture an overall 6/10.

bebo

totally agree and you pick up Exactly all the points that I did. One can only allow for so many coinicdences etc. I was bored in the end, and even Bardem didn’t have much to do.
Very disappointing especially I do like some of Coen Bros films.

Matt

I agree with you too dude, all the way. There were way too many unbelievable or terrible plot twists.

When Chigurh just casually walks into that corporate building and shoots the dealer on the spot…. First of all, it makes no sense that he did that… at all. And secondly, I can’t shake it that he could get in just like that. No security? No metal detectors? Absolutely nothing??? The man’s making no effort to conceal a fucking BOLT PISTOL!

Matt

Hermance, this movie is a decent example of an adaptation of literary Naturalism (which often focuses on the theme of Fate), a style derived from earlier forms of /Realism/. Ironically, it lacks, literally, in many aspects of that area.

emkay

I’m right there with ya brother! I was really disappointed by this picture – and that’s not what bothers me. I feel like there’s a lot of intellectually dishonest or delusional praise of this picture based on what I, as the viewer, don’t see — odd defenses that more details are in the book or that it’s really an allegory and the assassin is evil incarnate and can’t be stopped and other such claptrap. I expect some needs of a story to be satisfied by the end of a movie – but this one feels like the final reel is missing or something because NOTHING gets satisfied.

A story was set up at the beginning of this movie – a compelling scenario with potentially interesting characters. Problem is, none of it panned out — as portrayed in the movie these characters are ultimately cardboard cutouts with no meaningful motivation and their fates are totally disconnected from their places in the story. In essence, there IS NO STORY — no catharsis, no meaning unless you’re some dopey nihilist into really depressing shit. ‘Cause in the end, NONE of it mattered.

That being said it was executed brilliantly — but it was brilliant crap. When the credits just started after that meaningless conversation between the sherriff and his wife it felt like a gutshot. People need to stop complaining about the end of the Sopranos series — THIS was the biggest jerk off of 2007.

But hats off to the Coen brothers – it’s one hell of a feat to hold an audience in suspense for 2 hours only to deliver nothing and be praised for the effort. I don’t mean that to be as snide as it sounds — I am truly in awe of how good the picture felt and totally pissed that the rug got pulled out at the end.

I’m sure somebody out there feels that’s the point — whatever…

Daniel

I’m just happy i’m not alone. I just watched the film and i felt the same way. The movie lacked something for me but yet it is glorified… i like the dark feel and good acting but it does not give enough emotion for me to be satisfied

Sean

While I agree there were some gaping plot holes (The water scene was laughable), that’s not why I disliked the movie. As brilliant as the acting was, the point of the movie was clearly to express a theme about good vs evil.

There was nothing that made me think about good vs evil in a different way. The ending made me feel “evil will always win no matter how hard you try to stop it”. That to me is such nihilist bullshit; yes sometimes bad people get away with their actions, but not always. How can you walk away from the movie and feel moved by that? Do all these viewers and critics praising the movie actually believe that?

We are by the safest, and have the highest quality of life in human history, since civilization began. Its so shameful to succumb to nihilism when there is so much good in the world that trumps evil things. No, the world isn’t perfect, but leading viewers to believe that evil will always win is unbelievably ignorant and not worthy of being deemed masterful.

A good example of a movie showing evil in a compelling manner is the Dark Knight. Nearly all movie villains act on some desire such as power or wealth, but Albert said it best with the line “some men just want to watch the world burn”. It is a subtle difference but it is so much more powerful because it is believable, and it makes sense. When you hear about a brutal murder in the news, you can think “man that was a fucked up thing to do” or you can think “man the world is fucked up”. The Dark Knight supports the former, while No Country For Old Men supports the latter.

The nihilism this movie presents isn’t moving, it spits in the face of people who are actually trying to make a difference in this world and move humanity forward. Don’t give in to pessimism my friends, it doesn’t accomplish anything.

Jean

Just watched this. Love the Coen brothers, hate this movie for all the reasons given. I get the good v. evil thing, but the tool used to convey the message was a sledge hammer when a delicate brush was needed. The ending didn’t fit at all. An ambiguous ending should make sense when you look back, but this just seemed like someone decided the movie was long enough, time to wrap it up, go home and have a sandwich. In any fictional world, things still have to make sense in the reality created, and too much didn’t.

Deepshikha

Just finished watching the movie and the disappointment was so high that I started looking up for people who felt the same. Why did this movie win an Oscar?
Obviously there are so many people who have praised this movie but according to me it leaves you only with an empty feeling that you wasted two whole hours and finally no take-away.
The most disappointing part is that they had maintained the pace of the movie until Josh was alive because anyways Jones is there only to bring down the tempo of the whole movie single-handedly. now I don’t have a problem with sad or depressing endings but at the end I need to get something to ponder upon. That is what lacked with this movie. This movie is not clear with any message. That the good triumphs over evil or the evil triumphs over the good or what? I don’t know what’s in the book, but the character of Jones is not supporting the story in any way. They could have only the young sheriff alone or no sheriff and it would make no difference. Obviously parts like going back to give water so late in the night (when it should be quite clear that a guy fatally wounded wouldn’t be alive until after so many hours) and Bardem walking in the high profile office of the businessman with such a big gun are absolutely hilarious or make me wonder whether the directors thought that the audience is so thoughtless.
To make a point as to how a good intensely violent movie should be, I would suggest ‘Oldboy’ (the Korean one) as a must watch. It’s high on violence and it has a depressing end but at least it feels like an end without leaving you dissatisfied and disappointed.

CoenBrosSuck

Finally, someone who agrees with me. I don’t understand how anyone can enjoy a book or a movie, where someone gets away with killing anyone he wants. The movie was unsatisfying, and is nothing more than disguised gore porn.

The Coen Brothers defense is they were following the book. Fine. They should have found another book to make a movie about and follow. At least in “Fargo” and even in “Burn before Reading” there was some sort of justice at the end.

Bob

Three things. You do see Moss dead. Maybe watch it again. He does kill Moss’ wife. That is unquestionable, knowing his habits and “moral code”. And three, a deus ex machina is a device (in old times, it was a god. hence deus ex machina (god from the machine)) that is brought in to save characters from a seemingly inescapable situation. The wreck at the end is certainly not a deus ex machina by definition.

kelkel

I watched the movie last night then I read your opinions of the movie and decided to respond because I almost felt we saw two different movies.

Returns with water:
This is probably the only point you made that I agree with but I realize the movie purposely left some holes for people to form their own conclusions and this is probably one of them. While it didn’t make perfect sense for Moss to go back that night with the water after coldy leaving the man to die earlier that day, if we think outside the box- well he was sleeping, we know his mother was dead and he thought about her a lot by what he said to his wife earlier that night. Perhaps he had a nightmare about the man in the truck dying and woke up feeling guilty, perhaps he dreamed of his mother being disappointed in his actions. Whatever the case, he did suddenly wake up and decide to run out there so these hypothesis all seem plausible to me and this is how I choose to look at the situation, I don’t for a minute believe he went back out there because he is a good man because he is not. He went to sleep, had a bad dream, woke up feeling guilty for whatever reasons and went out there with the water. You may think it was a stupid thing to do and I will grant you that, it was pretty stupid, but people’s feelings and consequent actions don’t always make logical sense.

Evades car and dog:
First of all the sun was already starting to come up, it was dawn. The truck came and he ran, they showed one part of the sky, the part that was still dark, that does not mean the sun isn’t about to come up on the other side. As he jumped down to crawl under a parked vehicle they shot his hat off his head. He then ran out from underneath and they chased him in the truck and depending on which part of the sky is in the scene it is either dark or you can see the sun starting to rise. As the camera turns the sky changes, I never once had a feeling that this chase was a long one, in fact, quite the contrary. It was a very fast short chase that led down to a river and as he ran toward the river he was shot in the shoulder and fell down. He jumped into the water and swam for his life the dog chasing him, he shot the dog as it lunged for him and after that he opened his shirt and picked off some skin from around his wound, I never saw any teeth.

Ubelievable Hitman:
Chigurh is tasked to retrieve stolen money from a drug deal gone wrong between parties we don’t know but one side is Mexican. He shows up at the job site with two managers that have been sent with him to oversee the job. He decides it is HIS job alone and they will only get in the way so he shoots the managers “suits” dead. Now he can do things his way, the right way, with no interference. It is reported back to the man who hired Chigurh, the boss, that he shot his two managers so the boss thinks Chigurh has gone rouge because he does not understand him. Chigurh takes his job very seriously but likes to work alone. The boss then hires another hitman Wells to go after Chigurh. Chigurh follows the signals of the transmitter and finds the motel that Moss is at, breaks into the room where he believes the money is and finds some Mexican drug guys. He shoots them all believing they have the money. They do not have it, as we know, because of what Moss has done.

Flash forward to when Chigurh finds and kills the man who hired the other hitman to go after him. He kills him and turns to the other man standing in the room, the accountant. He tells the accountant that the mexicans had another transponder and the accountant tries to explain why they were given one (perhaps it was given to the drug cartel boss to diffuse the tense situation) and Chigurh reponds how that was a foolish thing to do and said “you pick the one right tool” (meaning HIM) It’s almost as though he feels insulted that his job was given to others as well.

Moss Gets Away:
I don’t think Moss was a genius but how he hid the money then went to another room was a bit clever, I don’t know why he stayed at that motel instead of moving on but I do know he did not realize the money had a transmitter so he probably felt the money was in a safe place no one would ever look inside the ductwork. If he had known there was a transmitter he would have never stayed obviously. Yes the movie was quiet but if you watch you will see as Moss drags the satchel out of the vent and it squeaks Chigurh has already walked back outside and does not hear it, I know this because I commented on how lucky for Moss the timing was as I watched the movie. Perhaps Moss got away because he ran out the back onto a road and got a ride pretty quickly and Chigurh was in the front or vice versa, who’s to say? Crazier things have happened and I can see this happening.

Town of the deaf:
I’m not sure too many people would run out of doors into a shooting, normally people will take cover and hide if they hear gunfire and the police don’t always show up right away when called, this wasn’t a big lively city.

Self-surgery:
Not sure why you had a problem with this scene. The things he did to treat himself are just basic knowledge when you are a survivalist, which he was. His business is staying alive and he does it well.

Woody? You’re kidding me
I feel Wells (Woody) had a lot to offer the movie, personally. He the most important thing he gave us was more insight into Chigurh and also the “Rule you live by” scene which was also very insightful. He told Moss that even if he handed over the money he would still be killed and provided more clues into who Chigurh was, I found him to be an extremly important character, the movie would not have been the same without him. I found him “goofy” as well though, he came across as thinking he was smarter and better than he actually was.

Did I Miss A Scene?
Yes you must have missed a scene. I suspect Moss may have even been lured closer to the motel by the woman with the beer. In any case he was killed and they showed him lying there dead when the Sheriff got there. I’m not sure how you missed this but it was clearly him lying on the ground dead. Not much else to say about it.

Don’t Show or Tell
During the entire movie have you noticed that Chigurh has an obsession with keeping his boots and clothes clean? He goes out of his way to never get blood on his clothing or boots. They explicitly show him putting his feet up after shooting Wells and the blood running under where his feet were only moments ago resting. They show him shutting the shower curtain in the first motel room before he shoots the mexican inside, he did this to prevent the blood from splattering onto him. He is fanatical about it, this is why in the end after he leaves Moss’ wife we know he has killed her, he looks to see if he got any blood on his shoes.

Car Crash Ex Machina
The car crash at the end was a nice unexpected touch and it was very interesting. A man like Chigurh is always in control, always. Now suddenly he is no longer in control, he also gets hurt pretty badly. He drags himself to the curb and sits feeling something that is probably his worst fear- vulnerability. He then looks up as two boys come over on their bikes, they’re standing over him looking down, now he is even more vulnerable, he hates this feeling. He is thrown off for a minute by the unexpected but immediately snaps into survival mode again and asks the boy how much will he take for his shirt? The boy tells him he can have it free. Nope, Chigurh doesn’t like that answer, that would be him accepting help and interacting with other people normally. Instead he makes the boy take money for the shirt, stands up, regains his power and walks away. The boys begin to fight over the money showing that Chigurh in his own small way has corrupted something that was a minute ago pure. The boy who wanted to give freely now is greedily fighting over money. Chigurh is in control again and walks away, whether he turned the money over to the third party in the movie at the very end we will never know, I know he did this in the book. Also, why do you assume nobody else heard the crash? The boys told him help was called and was coming and you can hear the sirens approaching as he leaves. The ending was very symbolic but you have to look deeper into movies like this to find them.

Vik

For me, Best example of: Winning Oscar has nothing to do with it’s awesomeness. Feeling like just wasted few hours. 6/10

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