No Country for Old Men


1) Book Analysis: No Country for Old Men, a novel written by Cormac McCarthy in 2005, follows the events surrounding three central characte1055-5rs: Sheriff Bell, Anton Chigurh, and Llewelyn Moss. The story focuses on Moss as he attempts to escape his mortality at the hands of Anton Chigurh, a hitman hired to retrieve the large sum of money that put Moss in his current predicament. In the meantime, Bell, a WWII veteran who is appalled by the violence he witnesses in modern day Texas, follows Chigurh’s trail in an attempt to thwart the fulfillment of his contract against Moss. A central theme present throughout the book is the presence of evil in the world (represented by Chigurh) and its constant clash with the forces of good (represented by Bell). An additional theme that can be recognized is that of the choices one makes in life and how they impact the surrounding world and people within.

2)Film Analysis: The film adaptation of No Country for Old Men was directed by Joel and Ethan Coen in 2007 and follows the same plot as the book. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh, and Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss and is shot in a manner reminiscent of classic Western films but employ the use of graphic violence in order to emphasize the evil such strife represents through characters like Chigurh. The film also utilizes the time of day as a means to give the film a very dark feel being that the majority of its scenes are shot at dusk or in the evening. Contributing to the sense of reality portrayed by the characters in the film, the soundtrack chosen by the Coen Brothers is quite understated and leaves some scenes completely devoid of musical accompaniment.

3) Adaptation Analysis: As a whole, the Coen Brothers effectively tno-country-for-old-men-posterranslated McCarthy’s work onto the silver screen with very few inconsistencies. The film manages to carry over most of the central themes of the book but, due to the time constraints involved in film-making, some of the deeper analyses of said themes are lost even though the audience is still given moments of introspection through Sheriff Bell through his own narration. Like the book, the film has a very heavy emphasis on violence which was done in a way that prevents it from seeming excessive (e.g. Tarantino films). The graphic nature of the film takes a page (no pun intended) from McCarthy in that the conflicts are still scene as being more meaningful than “violence for the sake of violence” and manages to maintain the feeling that the conflicts are more representative of something much larger (e.g. Good vs. evil, Submission vs. Death).

4) Online Sources:

“We’ve killed a lot of animals”

  • An interview conducted between John Patterson of “The Guardian” and Ethan & Joel Coen where they discuss the difficulties presented through the use of violence in film-making.

“Just call it”

  • The article discusses the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men, specifically focusing on the “competing narratives.”

Bayless, Ryan S., and Allen H. Redmon. “Just Call It”: Identifying Competing Narratives In The Coens’ “No Country For Old Men.” Literature Film Quarterly 41.1 (2013): 6-18. Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 June 2015.

“No Country for Old Mexicans”

  • This essay pairs documents dating from 1758 on the settlement of central Texas with the 2007 film No Country for Old Men to offer a comparative analysis of the competing racial geographies that emerged from Spanish and Anglo-American colonialism. The essay specifically examines how the film registers “the Indian as terroist.” This is very interesting because it provides a completely different lens through which to view the film by prompting the viewer to examine the film through a post-colonial and/or racial lens.

Saldana-Portillo, Maria Josefina. “‘No Country For Old Mexicans’.” Interventions: The International Journal Of Postcolonial Studies 13.1 (2011): 67-84. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 July 2015.

5) Critical Argument

The character of Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men has been cited as an example of nihilism, a philosophy that holds life has no meaning and that there is no such thing as objective truth. Does this label fit Chigurh (does he have a value system?), or is he just a psycho-killer?

Anton Chigurh’s interactions with Moss’ wife, the clerk at the gas-station, and Carson Wells,  collectively illustrate that he leads his life with a conviction that would be incompatible with nihilism. I believe Chigurh views himself as a tool of fate who, like his coin, is merely a messenger of destiny who does not take responsibility for his actions. For example, Chigurh flips his coin throughout the film as a means to make decisions of great significance. He does not blame his coin for the outcome, and he does not feel he can take responsibility for carrying out his contracts. The blame/responsibility lies with the hiring party and Anton considers himself as an extension of their will. Chigurh most likely views himself as fate incarnate. Were he to kill his victims indiscriminately, I might subscribe to the “nihilist” theory, but it’s quite obvious he adheres to his own code. Perhaps a better word to associate with him would be amoral.


2 thoughts on “No Country for Old Men

  1. The character of Anton Chigurh really intrigued me but I agree that nihilism may not be the right term to describe him as. He does believe that life has meaning with the scene between him and the clerk at the Texaco gas station serving as proof (Clerk: “I didn’t put nothin’ up.” | Chigurh: “Yes, you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life you just didn’t know it.”). I also agree with you that Chigurh views himself as a messenger of fate and is only challenged on this by Carla Jean Moss at the end of the film. But I also feel like he is a typical sociopath hit man since most, if not all, of the time when he does kill he feels no remorse or empathy for his actions.


  2. I agree that Chigurh doesn’t fit the description of a nihilist because he has a strong belief in fate. As you said, he sees himself as a tool of fate. He kills almost everyone in his path because he believes they are in his path because it is their time to die. The only evidence I might accept for the argument that Chigurh IS a nihilist is if someone could prove that his talk of fate is something he doesn’t believe himself, perhaps a fun trick to play on his prey to make them calm down.


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