No Country for Old Men
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for No Country for Old Men can be found here.

Yes. No Country for Old Men (2005) is a novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. The novel was adapted for the movie by American film-making brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, who also produced and directed the movie. No Country for Old Men won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Picture.

That's Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) from Terrell County in Southwestern Texas.

The film suggests that Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) was caught trying to sneak into the country. In the book, Chigurh tells Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) that he had allowed himself to get arrested to see if he could escape. Chigurh had murdered a man in a bar fight the previous night; the man had insulted him. According to Chigurh's description, he had either snapped the man's neck or strangled him.

The story takes place in June 1980. When Chigurh tosses the coin for the gas station proprietor, he says that the date on the coin is 1958, and it took 22 years to get there. The phone bill Chigurh picks up is dated 1980, and 1980 is the date of death on one of the graves.

Chigurh uses a captive bolt pistol, which is also known as a cattle gun. The tank itself is pressurized air. Releasing the air valve powers the bolt when triggered and it retracts automatically. Chigurh probably uses it to avoid leaving any evidence with his victims like powder burns or a bullet. Sheriff Bell makes a reference to this device in his first conversation with Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald), but does not appear to consciously connect the dots.

The most likely explanation is that he loads his own ammunition and so he re-uses spent cartridges.

There are a variety of reasons for which Chigurh could have killed The Managerials. Initially it might have appeared as if Chigurh killed them in order to double-cross his employer. It is likely that this was what The Man Who Hired Wells (Stephen Root) thought was happening, causing him to declare that Chigurh had gone rogue and to hire Wells to clean up. Events later on in the movie all but discount this as a possibility, especially at such an early stage. Chigurh apparently takes his job very seriously and it may be that he felt they did not share that same level of professionalism. Later on we discover that Chigurh doesn't like to work with others at all when he says to The Accountant, "You pick the one right tool." This makes it seem that this was the main reason he killed the Managerials. He had been hired to do a job and did not expect anybody else to be given the same job. Another motive of Chigurh may have been his desire to swap out his car for their truck. The "Mind ridin' bitch?" comment and their general attitude also did not improve their chances of staying on Chigurh's good side but since Chigurh is a professional killer, it probably didn't faze him very much to begin with and he was planning to kill them regardless of what they said to him.

The three Mexicans at the Del Rio motel may have been hired by The Man Who Hires Wells (as well as Chigurh). Another possibility is that they are from the drug side of the deal-gone-bad. The Man Who Hires Wells mentions that the other side is "out their product", implying that the drugs were also reported as taken by a third party (whether they actually were or not is unknown, though the truck bed is empty when Bell arrives at the deal scene). Because of this it is possible that the three Mexicans are from the drug side of the deal and The Man Who Hired Wells gave them a transponder to assuage their employer, the drug side, who was apparently unhappy with the way the deal went down. They used this transponder to find Llewelyn Moss' (Josh Brolin) motel room and incorrectly assumed that the satchel was somewhere inside the room, when in fact it was a few yards away in the ventilation duct between rooms. It is not known for certain which party the Mexicans represent, only that they were given a transponder at some point by The Man Who Hired Wells. This is explained in the conversation between Chigurh and the Accountant. The Accountant does not explain the Mexicans' affiliation, only that The Man Who Hired Wells felt that the money would be found faster with more people looking for it. This makes it likely that he hired them to find the money, but that is not necessarily the case. The Mexicans incorrectly assumed the money was in the room. When Chigurh bursts into the room after punching out the lock (finding the room with his own transponder) the Mexicans, probably after searching the room and not finding the satchel, were waiting to ambush Moss when he entered the room. Unfortunately for them, it was not Moss who entered, it was Chigurh who murders all of them assuming they had already found the satchel. He searches the room and checks the one place they did not, the air duct. He finds the marks the the satchel made when Moss pushed it through, and eventually took it out the other end and escaped. Later on, after the final unseen shootout at the end of the film, this is how Chigurh knows the satchel would be in the airduct and takes it after the police finally leave the scene of the crime.

A sound-suppressed Remington 11-87 Semi-Auto shotgun with a sawed-off barrel. The suppressor is probably custom-made, perhaps by Chigurh himself, who likely has military training & may have learned how to make one. The shotgun itself is anachronistic since it was released in 1987 & the film clearly takes place in 1980. More information on the guns used in the film can be found here: here.

Though shotgun silencers and silenced shotguns do exist, they are not nearly as effective at reducing the muzzle report as pistol or rifle silencers. The silencer Chigurh has attached to his shotgun is intended only for cinematic effect and would actually do very little to reduce the muzzle report of the shotgun he uses. Generally the noise of gunshots (silenced or otherwise) are added to a film's audio after filming, as microphones do not accurately record the sound very well.

Carson Wells was hired by the man who also apparently hired Chigurh to kill Moss and retrieve the money, as Chigurh had been hired to do originally. The Man Who Hired Wells declares that Chigurh has gone rogue, which means he either thought Chigurh had or was in the process of double crossing him or that he simply did not approve of Chigurh's methods. He hires Wells to clean up the situation. Wells' exact profession is unknown. He claims he is merely a "day trader," implying that he may moonlight as a hitman/bounty hunter/mercenary or just do it in his free time, whereas it seems to be Chigurh's full time profession. However, this may have just been self-deprecation in order to humble himself to Chigurh in the hopes that he might be spared. We cannot know his actual profession for sure, but it is safe to assume that he was contracted in a way similar to Chigurh and so both probably have the same occupation. Late in the film, he is referred to as a retired colonel. The movie does indicate that Wells is highly intelligent, observant and alert, however, this is not enough to save him from Chigurh. Wells also seems to be cocky and overconfident, and Chigurh is able to get the drop on him.

Two possibilities exist:

1) It was just Wells giving another "attempt at humor" because most buildings that have enough floors that go in to the double-digits will have the floor number 13 removed. Next time you go into a high-rise check the elevator and see if there's a "13" button. Many modern buildings have a 13th floor, but older buildings were built with superstition in mind. So when Wells said there was one missing, he was referring to the 13th floor. Which is why The Man Who Hires Wells looks at him rather irritated and just says "We'll look in to it." returning the sarcasm.

2) Wells is intelligent, aware, and intuitive. He displays this behavior through-out the film (finding Llewlyn (in 3 hours) and knowing his familial circumstance, etc.). It would be fair to assume that, since he was to be hired to track down Chigurh and the money, he would want to know his employer and their business. While doing so, he noticed a discrepancy between the building's exterior having MORE floors than what the the elevator button panel showed (less floors, one being 13 as in answer one and an additional separate missing floor). If this is true, then a floor is in fact missing. What occurs on that floor is open to interpretation (i.e drug trafficking). This could also explain how the business came to deal with losing money and it being the hands of drug traffickers.

Chigurh killed The Man Who Hired Wells because he had tasked people other than Chigurh with finding the money. Chigurh saw these people as an unnecessary inconvenience and so he eliminated them as they were encountered, starting with the managerials out in the desert at night. The last straw for Chigurh is when he finds that Wells has been hired to kill him. Interestingly, after killing The Man Who Hired Wells, Chigurh only mentions that a transponder was given to the Mexicans from Moss' first motel room and nothing about the fact that somebody had been hired to kill him. When the accountant explains why the Mexicans also received a transponder, Chigurh says, "That's foolish. You pick the one right tool," implying that The Man Who Hired Wells had brought this on himself by tasking others with finding the money, instead of relying on Chigurh alone. Despite his reasons given, it is likely that the main reason that Chigurh decided to kill The Man Who Hired Wells had to do with the fact that he hired Wells. Chigurh, while psychotic, has principles. Out of all the possible reasons as to why Chigurh killed the two managerials in the desert, if it was simply because he found them to be an inconvenience and not because he was double crossing his employer, The Man Who Hires Wells may not have been killed by Chigurh. That is to say that if the Man Who Hired Wells didn't take the killing of two of his men as a double cross and, in turn, did not give the Mexicans a receiver or hire Wells, and instead let Chigurh finish his job, it is possible Chigurh would have completed his task and given back the money to his respective employer. Unfortunately, The Man Who Hires Wells thought Chigurh had gone rogue and sealed his fate after hiring Wells and helping the Mexicans.

It is left ambiguous as to whether or not Chigurh killed The Accountant. When the accountant asks if Chigurh is going to shoot him, Chigurh replies by saying, "That depends. Do you see me?" This implies that if The Accountant plays blind, Chigurh will not kill him. The SCRIPT has the accountant answering Chigurh's question with a, "No," (the scene then changed) which would imply that he lives.

Llewelyn Moss goes to the motel and waits to be reunited with Carla Jean and Agnes (her mother). While waiting, the poolside woman flirts with him and offers him beers. What happens next can be seen as ambiguous, the first option is that the Mexicans knew where he was headed because Agnes had told them at the bus station. During the ensuing shootout, the poolside woman was killed and her body was found in the pool. Moss was able to shoot one of the Mexicans before he was shot in the chest and died inside his motel room. The remaining Mexicans ran off as Sheriff Bell pulled into the parking lot. The second option is that Bell actually comes across a shoot out between the Mexicans and Chigurh who has already killed Moss and the poolside woman. The evidence for this is circumstancial at best, The Mexicans are using machine guns which we hear, one of the Mexicans has been shot (by either Llewelyn or Chigurh) but we don't hear this. The machine gun casings are a considerable distance from the shot Mexican, why would the Mexicans be shooting towards their own man? There are no bullet holes observed in Llewelyns room or in the wall surrounding the door.

It is open to interpretation and speculation regarding the exact nature of the closest thing to an encounter between Chigurh and Bell in the movie. There are at least four possibilities. The first is that Chigurh is indeed behind the door when we (and Bell) see what looks like his reflection through the lock tube. Bell draws his weapon and some time passes as he prepares himself to enter under the assumption that Chigurh is still inside. This may have given Chigurh some time to hide somewhere in the motel room. When Bell does enter, Chigurh is no longer behind the door (Bell doesn't even check there, although he does push the door open enough that if Chigurh were there he would probably know it). Bell checks the bathroom and finds the rear window locked. He then returns to the main room and sits down on the bed. He soon sees that the vent has been removed, implying that the money is gone and that Chigurh has it. During the time that Bell was in the bathroom it is possible that Chigurh left the room and escaped. Since Chigurh has the money he has no reason to go out of his way to kill Bell, and it is possible that he simply did the practical thing and escaped to avoid any further complications. The second and third possibilities are similar but still distinct. They would be (2) that Chigurh is either in an adjacent room (the one to the left as we face the rooms as Bell walks towards them, for example) when we see him hiding behind the door (in what would have to be a mirrored shot due to the arrangement of the rooms) or (3) that we see him hiding behind the door earlier in time by several minutes, being cautious about exiting the room. The first would make sense considering Moss' earlier method of hiding the money and making it accessible from another room. Other evidence to suggest this is the fact that both the room Moss was killed in (room 114) and the adjacent room (room 112) are behind police tape, implying both were part of the crime scene. It is difficult to determine by the film whether the lock was punched out in the adjacent room, however. The second would fit with the usual situation of Bell arriving moments too late to find Chigurh, which is one of the reasons he says that he might call him a "ghost." The fourth possibility is that Chigurh is already long gone and the reflection in the lock tube and the image of Chigurh waiting behind the door are all in Bell's imagination as expressions of his fear, the fear that he confronts (or attempts to confront) by entering the room anyway. There is strong evidence against any theory that Chigurh was not there when Sheriff Bell arrived. That evidence is the crime scene tape, the shadow of which can be seen on the door just as Sheriff Bell enters the room, projected by the headlights of Bell's car. This crime scene tape shadow is also projected on the wall of the hotel room after Bell opens the door. After Bell leaves the bathroom, he sits on the bed and we can see that the shadow of the crime scene tape is no longer on the wall, implying that it has been broken by someone escaping the hotel room, or the adjacent hotel room. However, it should be noted that the two pieces of crime scene tape are actually still intact when Bell sits on the bed, in other camera angles. While the tape shadow no longer appears on the large wall nearest the bathroom, the tape shadow still appears intact on the wall with the TV, when the camera is on Bell's face as he notices the ventilation grate has been removed. Just before the camera cuts away from Bell's face and to the ventilation grate, the two pieces of crime scene tape can briefly be seen flapping in the wind, showing they are still intact. Therefore, it is difficult to make any strong conclusions regarding a theory of someone (Chigurh) leaving and breaking the tape. It may be nothing more than an oversight in the scene's continuity.

Because we know that Chigurh was indeed there at some point, we could consider a combination of either possibility 2 or 3 combined with 4 as being what actually happened or what we are being shown. This would mean that we aren't seeing something that is purely Bell's imagination (although what we see may have been influenced by it), but instead what actually happened "5 minutes ago" or "in the next room over" might be shown to illustrate what Bell is feeling: that Chigurh is somewhere around and that he will be in danger upon entering the room. In other words, there was some trick editing where we are being shown a different time or a different place interlaced with the current time and/or location in such a way that makes it appear to be happening concurrently to the scenes with Bell. Other movies use this technique to fool the audience into thinking two things are happening in the movie at the same time in the same place, when in reality one has already happened or happened in a different place, or both.

In the end, it matters little where Chigurh was (which is one of the reasons it was left ambiguous). What is important is that we are shown that Bell thinks he is still in there and enters the room anyway, confronting his fear and possibly putting his soul at hazard. Once again he is too late and Chigurh is gone with the money, but he didn't know that before he entered the room. This matches closely the description of the scene from the book. The scene has been changed but the end result is basically the same. In the book it is clearly stated to the reader that Chigurh is still at the motel when Bell arrives. Chigurh is in the parking lot, notices a car coming and hides in his car as he watches Bell park and go inside the motel room. After Bell has finished searching the motel room he prepares to exit the room, and we "hear" what he is thinking. Just as he is about to exit the room he indicates that he is aware that Chigurh could be in one of the many cars in the parking lot, and that he would be helpless if Chigurh were to open fire on him from that vantage point. He exits the room anyway, gets in his car and drives down the road where he stops and watches the parking lot. He has called for backup and he waits until backup arrives, and when they do, a search of the parking lot returns nothing. The reader doesn't know how Chigurh escapes.

Agnes died of her cancer. It is implied that Chigurh killed Carla Jean. After she refuses to call the coin toss, Chigurh is seen leaving her house and checking his boots, presumably to make sure he doesn't have any blood on them. In an earlier scene, Chigurh, after shooting Carson Wells, sees the blood coming down the floor and puts his feet on the bed, to avoid getting blood on his boots. (In the book, she does eventually call the coin toss and when it is incorrect, he shoots her.) When he kills all the Mexicans in the hotel room, he does so wearing white socks, which he the takes off and leaves behind. Also, when the Mexicans drive away following the death of Llewelyn, we hear a sound very similar to the sound we hear when Chigurh exits Carla Jean's house: the sound of the bikes the two boys are riding. The Coens could have used this sound as a director's trick to make us believe she met the same fate as Llewelyn.

One explanation is that he intended to retrieve it under the cover of darkness and after changing into clothes that would offer some level of camouflage compared to his garish western attire. Unfortunately he is not able to follow through with this due to his encounter with Anton on the way to his hotel room. Also, Carson may have believed that the case was difficult for anyone else to see if they weren't specifically looking for it like he was. Also, he may not have been certain that he saw the briefcase. He could have either been bluffing Chigurh perhaps hoping for an opportunity to get the upper hand on the way to get the money or hoping the briefcase was in fact there.

What happened to Chigurh?

After meeting with Carla Jean, Chigurh got in a serious car accident, with a compound fracture of his forearm. A couple of teenagers on bikes approach him, asking if he's ok (he clearly isn't, having several cuts on him and an injured eye.) He pays one of the kids for his shirt so he can make a sling for his arm, gets to his feet and flees the scene of the accident. Whether he died or not is up for the viewer's interpretation. With an injury like that, he would likely have died without medical attention. That being said, he is seen to tend to his own gunshot wound earlier in the film, but the idea of him setting his own broken bone is unlikely (you need someone else to apply lateral force to get the bones to re-align). The book also leaves this to interpretation. It may be possible he has access to a "back alley" doctor or at least knows where to find one. Chigurh believes in the random nature of fate, and that is what happens to him at the end. The killing of Carla Jean is unnecessary if he has the money. It only keeps the promise he made to the now-dead Moss. So, the car running into him is "instant karma' for his lack of "principle".

Although it is left open for interpretation, it is implied that Anton Chigurh wound up with the money. After the police activity died down, Chigurh sneaked into Moss' room and unscrewed the vent to retrieve the satchel of money. He knew this is where the money would be because he saw the track marks inside the vent of the Del Rio motel room, and knew that Moss kept it in the vent. When Sheriff Bell arrives at the El Paso motel, he sees that the vent was unscrewed by a coin, which Chigurh used in the previous motel. However, a shot of the vent in the El Paso motel shows that the vent may be too small to have accommodated the case containing the money. But, after Chigurh is involved in the car accident at the end, he offers the bicycle boys a hundred dollar bill, which implies that he did wind up with the money. In the book, Chigurh found the money and returned it to a third party. Like Wells said, he did have his principles!

The two dreams can be seen as expressions of what Bell is struggling with throughout the course of the story and the change of perspective that allows him to come to terms with his struggle. In the first dream he says his father entrusted him with some money, but he (Bell) lost it. This can be seen as Bell feeling as if he was entrusted with a responsibility and has failed to uphold it. His failure to keep and protect something valuable like the money is analogous to his failure as a law enforcement officer to protect people like Moss and Carla Jean, other civilians, and to make a significant impact on crime in general. This dream explains what is troubling him and that he feels or is afraid that he may be a failure. Because his father is mentioned explicitly it is likely that he may feel he has failed his father, who was also a law-man, on a personal level.

The second dream is a reconciliation of the problem from the first. In the second dream, he says he and his father were riding through the mountains in the old times. His father rode up ahead of him and went on into the cold and dark with some fire. Bell said that he knew when he got to where his father was going, his father would be there waiting for him. This indicates that Bell realizes that his father is waiting for him nonetheless, whether he is a failure or not. The dark and cold would represent the unknowable near future and eventual certain death, and the fire represents comfort, protection and hope. His father carries it onward, and Bell knows he will be waiting with it for him when he joins him in the future. The dream seems to be an encouragement to continue in his dangerous profession, rather than retire. The second dream also indicates that Bell has come to a realization, at least on some level, of the concept that Ellis spoke of in their earlier conversation. Ellis says, "Whatcha got ain't nothin new. This country's hard on people, you can't stop what's coming, it ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity.", meaning that Bell can not expect himself to succeed at the standard he has held himself to, and so it is unreasonable to do so. Bell felt compelled to continue on past a reasonable age and into unmanageable situations in order to uphold the responsibility he felt had been passed down to him. When he realizes he can't do this he feels overmatched and quits by retiring. He had tasked himself with the impossible (in an attempt to live up to his father, or previous law-men, etc.) and blamed himself for failing to succeed. Bell may not realize it consciously yet, but the dreams show that on some level after his talk with Ellis he realized that the world had always been this way and always would be (dark and cold) but that there are sources of refuge and comfort waiting for him.

And then he wakes up.

"Young Men Dead" by The Black Angels.

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