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In No Country for Old Men (2007), Llewelyn has a satchel containing money, and a lot of people are looking for it. Helpfully, from their point of view, the satchel also contains an electronic device that emits a signal, facilitating electronic tracking. Llewelyn is unaware that the device is in the satchel.

In one scene in the film, we see Chigur driving around with an electronic tracker on the seat beside him. As he passes a motel, the device begins beeping, indicating that he's brought it close to the satchel. The tracking device seems to work like a Geiger counter, beeping faster as it comes closer to the signal-emitter but only when within a couple of hundred feet.

It’s hard to imagine how this allowed him to find the satchel. Was Chigur just randomly driving around the state of Texas, hoping to come within this short distance of the prize? It strikes me as a nonsensical plot element that the emitter should be packed into the satchel of cash at all, if it could only serve as a sort of hot-and-cold game for players already within a few hundred feet of the satchel.

How did this electronic tracking system help in the search for the satchel of cash?

PS As @magarnicle (sort of) pointed out in a comment, Chigur had other information that helped him find the satchel. But I meant to ask how the tracking system was supposed to work, why the idea makes sense. If Llewelyn had chosen to take the satchel to a town that was not listed on his phone bill, would the tracking system have been helpful?

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  • Related: movies.stackexchange.com/questions/92366/…
    – magarnicle
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 23:13
  • @magarnicle I agree that your link is related. But the fact that Chigur had other sources of information, other than the tracking signal, is really beside my point. That linked-to question suggests that the Mexicans got to the same hotel because they also had a tracker, although they did not have Llewelyn's phone bill. I meant to ask whether that tracking technology makes any sense.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 1:50
  • Sure, which is why I said related, not duplicate. Yours is a good question. In my mind it's kind of a movie hand-wave: the money has a tracker. It doesn't really matter if it is practical in the real world, just that Llewelyn can and will be hunted.
    – magarnicle
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 23:24
  • @magarnicle But my point is not just that my real-world experience contradicts. The film seems to go out of its way to point out that the tracking does not make sense, by showing Chigur using the tracking device and showing up its remarkable impracticality.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 18:55
  • I think that's subjective. My reaction to seeing that first blip on Chigurh's tracker wasn't "that's so impractical", it was "oh no, Llewelyn's in trouble". You're right that it'd be pretty much useless in the real world, but in the movie it's a handwave to say "Llewelyn can be found" and a great device for building tension in that scene.
    – magarnicle
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 4:15

2 Answers 2

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A tracker like that is kind of like a compass that instead of north always points at the thing it is tracking. I imagine it would probably only have a range of maybe a mile or two (unless it was magic).

I figure that is why the other scum found him when he was staying at that motel near the highway the Sicarios just drove up and down the highways and main roads until they found a signal. We know that they sent multiple teams out to find him, we saw at least 2 in the movie, but I am sure they sent more than that. They probably had teams traveling up and down every highway, freeway and major road around the area.

Even after the signal stopped working I am sure they were searching every hotel, motel, rest area, boarding house, etc. In the area for miles in every direction.

That is why Llewellyn only ran into the 'rank and file' scum at hotels near the highway but ran into the "big bad" all over because he was doing more than driving up and down the highway looking for a signal or Llewellyn.

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    It seems clear from the film that the range is much less than one mile, and perhaps less than one tenth of one mile; Chigur has to be directly in front of the correct property to activate the receiver. I like the suggestion of a huge number of teams searching, although I don't recall any indication of that in the film; Chigur is surprised to learn that there was even a second team. But it still seems that Llewelyn would have evaded them by just taking a Greyhound to Austin, and it would be a very unexpected stroke of luck that this tracking system ever allowed the recovery of missing money.
    – Chaim
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 17:23
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Those are actual real. I used to work in law enforcement, and old people with alzheimers and special needs kids would wear bracelets with a similar device.

If they went missing, the police had a tracking device and could tune it to the missing persons device. It worked exactly like you saw in the movie. We had to get trained in it, and I was expecting some high tech tablet with live GPS or something.

It’s actually quite simple, you aim it in direction where it beeps loudest, and drive that way. After driving mile straight, the beeping might stop. Then you aim it left or right and see which it beeps. Then you drive that way. Then once you follow that you know you are basically there

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