I think I’ll stay behind with the Old Men


Every time I saw Javier Bardem in a commercial for the film No Country for Old Men, all I could think of were two things: really bad hair cut and creepy badass. After watching the Oscars this year and seeing it win four awards including Best Picture, I figured I should get around to watching it. And literally having just, I realized that my second impression, at least—about Bardem’s character Anton Chigurh—carried some weight: Well, that is, a weight under which Atlas himself might be inclined to shrug.

Oscar-winner Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh

Javier Bardem won for Best Supporting Actor for a reason, but even the title doesn’t do his performance and presence in the movie justice. While Josh Brolin, who portrays Llewelyn Moss, is technically the lead actor, it is Bardem who captures your attention. Every scene without Chigurh makes you feel like some sort of stalker ex-girl/boyfriend. Even in the back of your mind you’re anticipating seeing him again, and you’re on the edge of your seat, expecting to hear that door knob blow off at any moment or catch a glimpse of him lurking in the shadows (okay, maybe not a typical stalker/stalkee situation, but you get the idea). You want to hear that deep voice of his which is so empty yet contains, every now and then, that Spanish flair of an accent that hints at a remnant of ghostly emotion hidden deep within. And then it’s gone.

Josh Brolin as lead actor Llewelyn Moss

Tommy Lee Jones’s character, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, even compares him that way, saying that sometimes he thinks he’s more of a ghost than a man. Which is true. Chigurh is rarely seen and is always one step ahead—more accurately, you’ll only see him if he wants you to. Chigurh is haunting—both as a character and how the camera depicts his scenes. His movements are eerie and intimidating. This is definitely a guy you never, ever want coming after you; trying to avoid getting on his bad since actually provides for some humor (yes, there is, surprisingly, humor in this film) throughout the movie, since every character is scared to say anything that might set him off. And with a psychopath (which is an understatement), you never know what kind of mood he might be in—who knows, he might off you because he hates the color of your blouse. Hey, why not, right?

The movie itself is slow-paced, taking its time, but the pace of the film, which leaves you in an extreme state of nervous and worrisome anticipation, only heightens Chigurh’s frightening, overwhelming being. Bardem’s character also presents the image of a man who is so terrifyingly good at what he does and is so at the core of his dark nature that he can both appear to take his sweet time and yet always be omniscient and in control (“bah, I know all about the hospital on the other side of the river”). I’ve never heard silence be so deafening, nor have I experienced it bring so much fear to a film to the point where it seems Silence is Chigurh’s willing accomplice. Good thing actors aren’t supposed to look at the camera, because if that guy even so much as glanced my way I think I might not have been able to get to sleep.

When I heard the title of the film for the first time, I thought it implied that there was no room for old men in a country that was being taken over by a younger, stronger, and perhaps a more vicious generation. But early on in the film I realized the title is actually an example of my favorite kind of title: one with a misleading double-edge, which can usually be clearly misconstrued through the way it is said. It is clarified in the beginning that the meaning of “No Country for Old Men” instead refers to the difference between a more respectful, safer time where things were settled and could be relied on and a newer age complete with mass, psychopathic murderers and a lack of morals—an unforeseen time when teenagers walk the streets with “green hair” (as Sheriff Ed Tom puts it near the end) and people are willing to do anything for money. This new country is not waiting around to make sure the old men with their old ways have a comfortable transition. You Can’t Stop What’s Coming. Thus, perhaps Chigurh himself is a symbol of that changing, uninviting world. An “unstoppable evil.”

Trust me, you don’t want to be the other guy.

Furthermore, there are some rather interesting contrasts drawn between Moss and Chigurh that are rewarding to the careful eye, such as both the characters’ shared line of “don’t move” at the beginning before shooting and the car crash element followed by the reaction of a few teenagers present in each of the correlating scenes. Your interpretations are your own, but I especially liked the latter. I found it intensely ironic that when Moss, the “good guy” (loosely defined, because he isn’t really a saint, and this is a film where the line between good and evil is purposely not meant to be as clear as it used to be), confirms to a group of teenagers (representing the new age previously discussed) their misunderstanding that he was in a car crash, they treat him without compassion. They accept his money when he requests $500 for the one’s coat without hesitation, and another even tries to get him to pay for their beer when he says to give it to him until the third says to “just give it to him.”

What is ironic, however, is that at the end of the film when Chigurh—the hitman following Moss throughout the movie in order to reclaim the drug money that Moss found and took—is involved in an actual car crash and is sitting on the side of the road injured (Jesus, he’s badass), two boys come up to him. Similarly, Chigurh asks how much for the shirt the one is wearing, and interestingly, even though these boys more accurately represent the coming age of demoralization and show it through the use of language (greed, swearing, the loss of “sir” and “ma’am” the sheriff had just mentioned right before that scene), they treat Chigurh (essentially “evil”) better than the group of teenagers treated Moss (assumed “good”): The one boy offers to give Chigurh his shirt for free, but Chigurh presses money on him, telling him to “take it” in what might be our only proof of any existence of his soul.

Chigurh’s action may or may not have been an attempt to soothe a flicker of conscience in the presence of two generally “good” boys, who are too young to know or have experienced any true evil. His insistence that the boy take the money, which he reluctantly does, may be a personal endeavor to justify his act of fleeing the scene, which is a reminder of all his sins and crimes; in other words, trading an evil (continuing to kill) for an evil (greed). Still, I’m not sure if I believe that Chigurh has anything resembling a soul left, or that he felt anything in that moment—at least not consciously. Maybe deep down. Way down.

“‘Soul?’ What is this ‘soul’ you speak of?”

I’ve never read the book the film was based on (apparently of the same name), but I heard it’s just as gripping. I’m definitely adding it to my (ruthlessly long) book list, although I’m a little afraid some of its effect might be lost considering seeing movie versions of books first has a nasty habit of ruining the actual books for me.

At any rate, keep an eye out for the film No Country for Old Men, or do what I did, and find it hosted online somewhere. I know, I know, it’s wrong … It’s people like me who help contribute to the slow-burning murder of the film industry, et cetera, et cetera … although technically I’m not the one who put it up on the internet, and since I didn’t illegally download it or anything … Well, in addition to your opinion of No Country for Old Men, what do you think? Is any form of watching movies online wrong, even if the movies are hosted like any other kind of video is hosted online, in YouTube fashion?

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