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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?

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I wonder who downvoted this, seems a good question to me. Of course the actual title is an important part of a fictional work. Well ok, the title comes from a book, but this doesn't make it an inappropriate question for the movie. –  Napoleon Wilson Apr 12 '13 at 18:28

6 Answers 6

up vote 21 down vote accepted

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:

I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five years old. Hard to believe. My grandfather was a lawman; father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up in Plano and me out here. I think he's pretty proud of that. I know I was. Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lotta folks find that hard to believe. Jim Scarborough'd never carried one; that's the younger Jim. Gaston Boykins wouldn't wear one up in Comanche County. I always liked to hear about the oldtimers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can't help but compare yourself against the oldtimers. Can't help but wonder how they would have operated these times. There was this boy I sent to the 'lectric chair at Huntsville Hill here a while back. My arrest and my testimony. He killt a fourteen-year-old girl. Papers said it was a crime of passion but he told me there wasn't any passion to it. Told me that he'd been planning to kill somebody for about as long as he could remember. Said that if they turned him out he'd do it again. Said he knew he was going to hell. "Be there in about fifteen minutes". I don't know what to make of that. I sure don't. 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. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, "O.K., I'll be part of this world."

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".

Some links:

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I agree with almost all of this, although I think that Chigur can be seen to represent a few concepts, including fate, violence and chance, and that Moss isn't necessarily intended to be representational, just a character in a pulpy sidestory. –  fox Oct 15 '13 at 9:31

The title of the book refers to how Sheriff Bell comes to understand that he is no match for the current and irrepressible evil that the present world had to offer. Through Bell following Moss and Chigurh in hopes to save Moss and capture Chigurh, he must see every gory act of violence and evil that Chigurh leaves in his path. This is a hard and emotionally weakening experience for Bell, but it helps him come to the realization that evil cannot be controlled, and because of his age and experiences with the law, he is too old to understand the progressive nature of evil and all that it has to offer. He is indeed in "No Country For Old Men" because he cannot deal with or accept the evil the world offers.

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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:

Ed Tom Bell: Alright then. Two of 'em. Both had my father in 'em . It's peculiar. I'm older now then he ever was by twenty years. So in a sense he's the younger man. Anyway, first one I don't remember too well but it was about meeting him in town somewhere, he's gonna give me some money. I think I lost it. The second one, it was like we was both back in older times and I was on horseback goin' through the mountains of a night. Goin' through this pass in the mountains. It was cold and there was snow on the ground and he rode past me and kept on goin'. Never said nothin' goin' by. He just rode on past... and he had his blanket wrapped around him and his head down and when he rode past I seen he was carryin' fire in a horn the way people used to do and I could see the horn from the light inside of it. 'Bout the color of the moon. And in the dream I knew that he was goin' on ahead and he was fixin' to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold, and I knew that whenever I got there he would be there. And then I woke up.

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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.

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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.

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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

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