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No Country for Old Men (2007)


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I see no light in "No Country For Old Men". Fate rules. Evil wins. God is dead.

No, the sheriff says God never came into his life. That in itself is an acknowledgement of God's existence.

I believe his exact words are,

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Bardem is clearly the coolest character in the film (ice cool)

Chigurh? The same Chigurh that chokes on a peanut in the middle of one of his arrogant speeches? I think he's absurd and even hilarious, like the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse in Raising Arizona. Sure, he kills a lot of people, but his swagger and self-absorption seem absurd to me. He clearly thinks he's cool, but are we supposed to think so?

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Continuing with potential :spoilers:

Moss was the most interesting character in the film to me. Ed Tom Bell was a non-factor, though he had some interesting monologues. Anton Chigurh is just the guy who's going to replace Keyzer Soze in many cultural references from here on out.

The scene in the hotel room, where for the first (and only, I think) time we see Chigurh's rampage from some perspective other than his own, was one of the best suspense scenes I've seen since The Host.

We talk about coincidence stopping Chigurh in his tracks, but we don't talk about how it was responsible for the death of Moss. We get the impression from the film that Moss is maybe the only guy who could actually stop Chigurh, but he ends up getting killed by a deus ex machina. What's that saying? That evil can only be stopped by coincidence?

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More spoilers ahoy!

I was recently thinking about something SDG wrote in his review of "The Seventh Seal". It was to the effect that Bergman unfairly stacks the deck in order to present faith and the church in the worst possible light. Well, that's kind of what I think the Coens are doing in "No Country For Old Men". They are shining their light on the power of chance and evil whilst hiding the power of God and good in shadow. They aren't beginning from a point of neutrality and throwing the balls into the air to see where they land, and they don't seem interested in warning us to wake up and fight back. Instead, they appear resigned to a godless world - Darwin's cold world where big fish eat little fish and the fittest always survive.

For me, the question is always: does it matter if a popular film celebrates a godless universe? And my answer is that it matters if such a film is the norm and not the exception. Sadly, "No Country For Old Men" looks a lot like the norm in modern American cinema.

Bardem is clearly the coolest character in the film (ice cool)

Chigurh? The same Chigurh that chokes on a peanut in the middle of one of his arrogant speeches? I think he's absurd and even hilarious, like the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse in Raising Arizona. Sure, he kills a lot of people, but his swagger and self-absorption seem absurd to me. He clearly thinks he's cool, but are we supposed to think so?

Yes, we are supposed to think so. He kills people with such elegance and aplomb. He has style ("Would you hold still please, sir?"). The telling scene, I think, is the one where he blows up the car and robs the chemist's shop. He doesn't bat an eyelid at the explosion and nonchalantly strolls down the aisle to steal the supplies he needs for his DIY surgery. My impulse at that moment is to clap and cheer Chigurh.

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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We obviously have very, very different interpretations of this movies.

If I wanted to make a villain "ice cold," I'd give him a different haircut... for starters.

And I don't see how this film "celebrates" a godless universe. I see a character (Bell) tempted to see it as such, and being rebuked by his older, wiser uncle. And then he catches a vision of a glimmer of hope at the end.

Moss seems to think it's a godless universe.

While his wife is away and he's promised to take care of her, he meets a sexy girl by a pool and the next time we see them, they're dead at a hotel. (I'm assuming it was the girl who was found just outside the hotel where Moss was found.) That seems more like a "wages of sin" conclusion. If he hadn't gone to that hotel with the girl, maybe he would have been more prepared...

And remember that this is a McCarthy story first and foremost, and McCarthy has not declared a belief in a godless universe. He's suggested that he has questions about God, that he's uncertain about God, and this kind of storytelling is a powerful expression of those questions, that grappling. I respect and applaud this kind of searching and wrestling with the question. It speaks of real experience. And I'm glad he arrives at a place where there are glimmers of hope in the wisdom of a veteran, the courage of a young woman in the face of death, and the imagery of a dream...

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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: chokes on a peanut

: He clearly thinks he's cool, but are we supposed to think so?

: haircut

OK, good points, and that does change things to some degree. But he does seem to be the character who is most in control, but then, I suppose he isn't entirely, and maybe that's the point.

I'd still say that he is definitely is ice cool, even if he's not the-other-cool.

On the godless thing, it still seems more like a deist god than a Theist God that is being grappled with.

Matt

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Moss seems to think it's a godless universe.

While his wife is away and he's promised to take care of her, he meets a sexy girl by a pool and the next time we see them, they're dead at a hotel. (I'm assuming it was the girl who was found just outside the hotel where Moss was found.) That seems more like a "wages of sin" conclusion. If he hadn't gone to that hotel with the girl, maybe he would have been more prepared...

I believe you misinterpreted this scene. I picked up on nothing suggesting the sin you seem to think occurred. Even still, I don't really see how your interpretation would imply that Moss thinks it's a godless universe.

I see Moss more as someone who is aware that his actions have consequences, yet is determined to avoid them at whatever cost. This is why the Coens describe Bell as the good character, Chigurh as the bad character, and Moss as the character that's somewhere in between. He's given a choice between the lives of his family and giving back the money, yet continues to fight against consequences. His primary flaws seem to be greed and stubbornness, not adultery.

Edited by theoddone33
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I've read a fair amount of McCarthy, and while the guy really seems to struggle with the Big Questions, his stuff really seems to come from an at least somewhat Christian worldview. (In the few interviews he's given, he has said that he definitely believes in God...I guess that doesn't mean much, though.)

For what it's worth, though, I think Jeffrey is spot-on. And man, the Coen brothers' films have always struck me as anything BUT nihilistic.

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I believe you misinterpreted this scene. I picked up on nothing suggesting the sin you seem to think occurred. Even still, I don't really see how your interpretation would imply that Moss thinks it's a godless universe.

Point taken -- Moss may or may not believe in God. But his conscience sure takes a long time to kick in. And while he talks big about how he wants to protect his wife, he didn't resist

the flirtation of the girl at the hotel pool. It's very clear in the book that she went with him somewhere. And... I have to see the movie again, but didn't they find a girl at the hotel too, either dead or traumatized? That would suggest she was with him.

I admit, I may be all wrong on that. My larger point was that the conclusion of the book leaves the door wide open for God's existence and involvement in the larger story.

Ah, here from the synopsis at IMDB:

Moss is by the pool at his motel where a sun-bathing girl flirts with him. She tells Moss that she has beer back in her room. He says that he's married and that he knows what beer leads to, and declines her offer.

After they've arrived at the bus station, Carla Jean steps away from her ailing mother, Agnes (Beth Grant), to call Sheriff Bell and report where Moss is to meet them.

A Mexican in a suit gets out of a car containing three other shady-looking Mexican guys, and offers to help Agnes with their luggage. He chats her up, and she trustingly tells him exactly where they are going; she is unenthused about the trip, as she is suffering from cancer and would prefer to remain at home. He and his associates drive off. A bit later, Sheriff Bell is driving up to Moss' motel as he sees, to his creeping dismay, a violent commotion at Moss's motel, with a truck speeding off. An injured Mexican man runs out of a room. Going into the motel, Sheriff Bell sees that both the girl by the pool and Llewelyn Moss have been shot and killed.

So, if he didn't

commit adultery... he *did* end up accepting her offer to beer and whatever beer "leads to." In the book, they actually run off together. (Is the hotel where Bell finds Moss the *same* hotel where the girl flirts with him? I don't remember.)

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I was thinking about the film's period setting. They went to great pains to make sure that everything fit into the early 80's feel of the movie. Yet I was thinking about Carla Jean's line about working at Walmart... I can't recall ever seeing or hearing of a Walmart until the late 80s or early 90s. I looked it up and they've definitely been around much longer than that... but I wonder if the store had the same stigma in 1980's Texas that it carries today.

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:spoilers: of course.

Point taken -- he may or may not believe in God. But his conscience sure takes a long time to kick in. And while he talks big about how he wants to protect his wife, he didn't resist the flirtation of the girl at the hotel pool. It's very clear in the book that she went with him somewhere. And... I have to see the movie again, but didn't they find a girl at the hotel too, either dead or traumatized? That would suggest she was with him.

Not having read the book... he certainly didn't resist flirtation, but did expressly indicate that he was married. My understanding is that they were already at the hotel when he and the girl were conversing, and the pool she's sitting by is the same one she's seen floating in, dead, a scene later.

My impression was that the movie blanked out for about 2 or 3 minutes total. Mexicans drive up, shoot at Moss, possibly catching the girl with a stray bullet as she stands by the pool. Moss runs to his room, perhaps to get a weapon, and is shot while running from it. Mexicans do a quick survey but see no money, then drive off just as Bell arrives on the scene. Of course I'm interpolating here since we saw none of this, but given the positions of the bodies of the woman (in the pool) and Moss (50 yards from his room, as if he'd been running from it), I didn't get the impression that they did anything but flirt.

But it's fair to point out that the movie leaves it up to interpretation. I don't think adultery is the most straightforward interpretation given the extent of the interaction between Moss and the girl that we see, but I suppose how you interpret the interaction depends on your impression of Moss up to that point in the movie.

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Moss is by the pool at his motel where a sun-bathing girl flirts with him. She tells Moss that she has beer back in her room. He says that he's married and that he knows what beer leads to, and declines her offer.

After they've arrived at the bus station, Carla Jean steps away from her ailing mother, Agnes (Beth Grant), to call Sheriff Bell and report where Moss is to meet them.

A Mexican in a suit gets out of a car containing three other shady-looking Mexican guys, and offers to help Agnes with their luggage. He chats her up, and she trustingly tells him exactly where they are going; she is unenthused about the trip, as she is suffering from cancer and would prefer to remain at home. He and his associates drive off. A bit later, Sheriff Bell is driving up to Moss' motel as he sees, to his creeping dismay, a violent commotion at Moss's motel, with a truck speeding off. An injured Mexican man runs out of a room. Going into the motel, Sheriff Bell sees that both the girl by the pool and Llewelyn Moss have been shot and killed.

This is one of the few scenes where the novel differs greatly from the book.

In the novel, the girl is a 14-ish year old runaway. Moss picks her up to help her, chats with the girl and resists her playful flirting. They're later both found dead; I think it's implied that nothing happened romantically or would've (Moss, again, was just trying to be helpful...just like bringing water to the dying drug dealer in the beginning.) But Bell and the rest read something more sexual into it, or at least that the possibility was there.

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This just in, from the CTMovies mailbag:

I cannot believe that any Christian could review this movie as objectively as you did!!!!!!! This is exactly what is wrong with our society! Tell it like it is and don

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Today's Letter-writing Tip:

When ALL CAPS isn't enough to convey your anger, be sure to use multiple punctuation marks at the end of each sentence.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Wow, you found somebody that uses even more exclamation points and question marks than me!!!!????

Edited by stef

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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My heart goes out to CT... tho I can understand the frustration of these naysayers. It appears their worldview is continually being challenged, and they can't see the story behind the objective elements. They don't want a Christian review site--they want a watchdog group.

I have to wonder if letters like these can be curtailed by a much-clearer section set aside for letter-writers. I did notice you have some commentaries with non-descriptive titles (e.g.: "Have We Lost Our Minds?") You'd think she would've read that one after reading the review for "No Country."

Even in that aforementioned column, you mentioned CT's mission statement, but I wasn't able to locate that mission statement from the movies page. Do you think you can ward off the anger if there was a direct link to commentaries like the one above, at the end of every positively-reviewed ultra-violent film, and every negatively-reviewed sweetly saccharine Christian film? Perhaps it will give letter-writers something to talk about, before they write, and they respond--yet again--to the same old, same old, as if they feel it's being addressed for the first time...

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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I love the caps in "NOT what I think most normal AMERICAN people want to watch." Truly classic.

Yes. CT critics, please try to remember which country NORMATIVE film viewers live in. Thank you.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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SDG wrote:

: Yes. CT critics, please try to remember which country NORMATIVE film viewers live in. Thank you.

Gosh, and to think at least two of us -- Carolyn Arends and myself -- aren't Americans at all. (The number was at least three when Ron Reed was in our ranks. And all three of us are Vancouverites. For all I know, there could be CT critics from other parts of Canada. To say nothing of other parts of the world. Or the galaxy.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Perhaps this lady is simply very angry about finding a positive review of such an anti-Christian film in a Christian publication and can't express her anger very well? I am very uncomfortable with the condescending tone of some of the comments in this thread. How about some Christian charity? It's not like she even posted on this board in the first place. Is she aware that her letter has been posted here? Is she being given right of reply? Was the letter actually published by CT in the first place?

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Perhaps this lady is simply very angry about finding a positive review of such an anti-Christian film in a Christian publication and can't express her anger very well? I am very uncomfortable with the condescending tone of some of the comments in this thread. How about some Christian charity? It's not like she even posted on this board in the first place. Is she aware that her letter has been posted here? Is she being given right of reply? Was the letter actually published by CT in the first place?

Thanks, I.M. FWIW, as soon as I read this letter I immediately thought of a close relative who might have written something just like that; and while I would mock her out too, it would be with affection, and my comments here were meant in that spirit.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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For what it's worth, I used to spend all my freetime hanging out in chatrooms and punctuating sentences with !!! or ??? was the norm during arguments. I myself used to punctuate all my light-hearted comments on this board with "lol". It's easy to pick up bad habits from the internet.

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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IM: Sorry if my comment offended you. The writer was, of course, completely lacking in charity herself, making wild allegations, some of which make no sense whatsoever, but that doesn't mean I should've made fun of her. Speaking as someone who tries to write nuanced reviews of films that contain both good and bad elements, I find such one-sided smackdowns from readers amazingly tiresome.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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