"The question is: Where would it get you if something that's a little bit ambiguous in the movie is made clear? It doesn't get you anywhere." -Director Joel Coen (in reference to Barton Fink)
Ed Tom. Anton. Say it quickly.
It is no coincidence that the words sound similar off the tongue. The complete opposite sides of the same coin.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell chases Anton Chigurh, a man who is evil personified. Maybe he is a ghost. More likely, he is the grim reaper.
He seems to be on his way to collect Llewellyn Moss. Moss is overall a good man, but one who sees his opportunity for the big score and is taking it.
While Anton is the flashiest character, the film is not about him really as much as it is about the reaction of the characters who encounter him. And the main characters never see him. But they still feel the effects of the encounters. Llewellyn claims that he has seen him, but he really only saw his boots.
Anton Chigurh does have a code. "I got here the same way the coin did." He feels he is simply floating along. That the fate he delivers was foreseen long ago, anyway.
Carla Jean: No. I'm not gonna call it
Anton: Call it.
Carla Jean: The coin don't have no say. It's just you.
His fate and chance concept has been jarred by Carla Jean not taking part. And in a sense she gains a small victory. Chigurh is off kilter from that moment.
Just maybe she is the hero of the film.
Sheriff Bell: "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job -- not to be glorious. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand.
You can say it's my job to fight it but I don't know what it is anymore. More than that, I don't want to know. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He would have to say, OK, I'll be part of this world.... "
Ok, I'll be part of this world. Does Sheriff Bell agree at the end to be part of this world? Or has he unequivocally said, 'no thanks'. Is the interpretation of the ending, decided by what the viewer thinks the answer should be to that question?
While this film was still in theaters, I swayed one of my closest friends, who had not yet seen the film, to go see it with me. I had seen it already but wanted to see it again.
I could tell he was enjoying the picture throughout. Then it ended. My friend looked at me and said, "really?" And not in a happy way.
Much has been made of the ending and to me it could not be better. So many films end in a way that betrays everything that came before. No Country For Old Men gets it just right.
This is a masterpiece.