One thing bugged me after watching the highly acclaimed movie "No Country for Old Men" - Why is it called so? I tried to analyze the plot and the sequences and the climax, but I could not understand the significance of the title. How is the title related to the movie?
First of all, the movie is based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy.
Numerous times in the course of the movie you can see Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) expressing his thoughts on a moral corruption in society nowadays and often compares it to the time of his predecessors ("oldtimers"). One example quote taken from IMDB:
Even though Sheriff Ed Tom Bell doesn't appear on screen very often (compared to Chigur and Moss), he is the narrator and the protagonist of the movie. So, the title refers to the moral decline that gave birth to evil (Chigur) and depraved (Moss) individuals and made modern society unsuitable for "oldtimers".
The title refers to the idea that the nature of evil has changed, and old value systems no longer apply. Both the movie and the book versions of No Country For Old Men repeatedly touch on how the aging-sheriff protagonist feels he's no longer a match for modern criminals.
Going a little deeper, I believe the title is a commentary on geopolitics in the post-9/11 era. IMHO, evidence suggests Cormac McCarthy wrote the book as a support of the US occupation of Iraq:
-book published in 2005, approximately two years into US's occupation of Iraq, at a time when many critics wanted to bring the troops home
-in book, sheriff tells a shameful story from World War II, when he "cut and ran" from a battle -- the exact terminology used by George W. Bush and others beginning in 2004 to disparage the idea of ending the occupation prematurely
-Sheriff Bell's character was competent in his prime, during the Cold War period leading in to the 1980s -- which could represent how the US policy of peaceful brinksmanship kept the country safe when the opponent was the USSR
-Chigur's character would represent America's opponents post-9/11, which supporters of the Iraq occupation often described as a more-aggressive type of evil, necessitating a more-aggressive defense
-Perhaps significantly, the "cut and run" quote was not included in the movie
The title implies that the sheriff is old and outdated. Unable to handle the crimes of today's crazy criminals.
Llewelyn Moss represents the modern day worker. Who gets caught up in the criminal world. Llewelyn should have been able to make his escape with the money, because he demonstrates a coolness under pressure and modern cleverness. He represents the opposite of the movie's title. His choice to take the money ultimately costs him and his wife their lives.
Anton Chigurh represents the extreme spectrum of criminals. Not even his clients or other hit man can survive his insanity. He kills for reasons that old men would find hard to understand, and the FBI is unable to catch this guy.
Ed Tom Bell the sheriff tracks the killer across country with a calm, collected smooth style where at times it seems nothing can rattle him. At the end of the movie despite the efforts of the FBI to catch the killer. He returns to the last crime scene, and enters the hotel room by himself. Both him and the killer are in the same room, and the killer had the upper hand. Still, Ed is the only character to walk away unscathed into retirement. Why didn't Anton kill the sheriff when he had the chance? because Ed was the only person he actually feared.
At the end Anton is in a car crash and breaks his arm. I'm not sure what the meaning of the event was, but I think it was to present the message that the sheriff was the only one who survived unharmed.
So the sheriff ends up being the best person for the case. Had Llewelyn Moss listen to him to start with he'd still be alive.
It's about the fear of aging/death, and the title is taken from a Yeats poem.
The story is really about the sheriff. He's unable to cope with modernity and continuously refers to how the old days or old timers were and talks as if the world is going downhill.
Moss represents the youthful search for materialism, while Chigurh represents death. Death can happen at any point and you're a victim to fate, which is why AC tosses the coin.
As the sheriff speaks to his brother near the end, his brother tells him a story which basically means the violence he sees is nothing new and he's just distancing himself from it because he's old and vain.
The whole point, IMO, is the world doesn't wait on you and any moment could be your last. The only reasonable way for living is to make your own fire somewhere in the darkness (like his dream about his father) and push your chips out there. Otherwise you're just an old man with nothing left to live for.
The story is absolutely about Sheriff Bell, and despite the fact that the majority of the action focuses on Llewelyn Moss, his story is really only a subplot. The main arc of the story actually concerns itself with Bell's decision to quit policing in the face of what he considers to be unstoppable violence. That is the subtext behind the movie's title, as well as its final lines: