Just rewatched this masterful film, No Country For Old Men. A few things came to light from having watched an interview with the Coens, Brolin and Bardem on YouTube.

A couple things, though, continue to puzzle me.

After Moss goes on the lam following his boneheaded decision to take the drug runner water (dude!!!!), he sends Carla Jean to her mother's and goes off to try and throw any pursuers off his scent. Chigurh, upon breaking into Moss' trailer, finds a phone bill that leads him to Odessa, TX, where his mother-in-law lives. That all is fine.

What is less clear is this: after Chigurh gets the transponder from the two "managerial types" (and kills them), the gadget isn't close enough to the money case to register a blip. From the movie, I can't even figure out where Moss goes to the (first) hotel room, or even how he decides where that is. However, there's a brief scene where Chigurh drives over a road bridge and past a sign that only shows Route numbers, (and tries to pick off a bird with his silenced rifle as he crosses the bridge). This would seem to indicate he knows where he's going. But, with the transponder not giving any clues (until he's just down the street), how does he know where to go, to get close enough to get that blip? And for that matter, how do the Mexicans "squatting" on the room know?

More on this I read the screenplay, and found a little more info, but not enough to categorically answer the question. When Moss puts Carla Jean on a bus to her mothers, he tells her he's going to borrow a car from Roberto. (Moments) later, Chigurh puts in a call to Roberto's Automotive (presumably from the phone bill). However, the phone bill would not include calls made within about a week of its appearing in Moss' mail slot, so how would that tell Chigurh a possible location for Moss to flee to? He found Carla Jean's mother from the frequency and time length of calls to Odessa, TX. Still not sure how this "leads" Chigurh and the Mexicans to wherever the first hotel is.

And also, when Moss gets to that first hotel, he takes a cab. Seemingly, he never takes possession of Roberto's car.

  • It may have been a "boneheaded decision to take the drug runner water", but because of the transponder it wouldn't have made a difference. Also it serves a purpose in the story: It establishes the Moss has a heart.
    – Inigo
    Jul 30, 2022 at 2:04

3 Answers 3


How does Chigurh know?

He makes an educated guess based on the phone bill records. We learn several pieces of information from the phone bill.

  1. Moss lives in Sanderson, TX
  2. The majority of the calls are to Odessa, TX and Del Rio, TX
  3. Odessa and Del Rio are also the closest geographically to Sanderson, TX
  4. Odessa is North, while Del Rio, Dallas, and Austin are all East of Sanderson

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Chigurh calls the one Odessa number that shows up many times on the bill and learns by the confused voice of his mother in law that Moss is NOT there. So he heads to Del Rio. Del Rio happens to be exactly where Moss has gone as we can see from the Regal Hotel rates sheet. His educated guessing pays off and he happens to drive past the hotel where the money is at.

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How do the Mexicans know where to squat and wait for Moss?

We simply don't know and as far as I can tell it is not explained in the movie or the book. I believe this is intentional as it adds to the tension and the paranoia element for the viewer as well. Somehow these different parties have been able to track Moss down and lay in wait for him. The only real explanation we get is when Moss is lying in bed at the new Motel and says "There just ain't no way." After which he finds the tracking beacon. I'm not an expert, but maybe they had their own transponder which allowed them to track the beacon as well.

  • Good catch on the Del Rio vs Odessa addresses. I rewatched the movie last night and noticed when Chigur goes up to kill the Man in his office, he comments out loud "you gave the Mexicans a tracker". Presumably Anton found this out somehow, but that explains how the Mexicans were also able to find Moss.
    – binarymax
    Jan 2, 2019 at 23:53
  • I've said it once and I'm going to say it again. MOSS IS AN IDIOT!!! And maybe that was part of his character, not to be so bright. If I had been in his shoes, the FIRST thing I would've done was search for a tracking chip or trap of some sort in the case, as soon as I got to a safe location. Maybe even taken the money and put it into a different bag. Then headed north. Mar 4, 2019 at 18:32
  • 2
    @MissouriSpartan, well, sure, Moss doesn't seem too bright and makes some pretty stupid moves, going back to the scene being the first. It would be rather easy, in a situation like that to come out with a less riskier plan and take some measures not to be tracked (although I confess that I would be seriously scared anyways), But that is not in fact a real life situation: Moss', Chigurh' and Bell's actions are functional for a story of confrontation between self-determination and destiny. It's like an ancient epic, where the characters are moved by higher forces and fate. Mar 5, 2019 at 17:38
  • @AndreaMori, good point. Mar 5, 2019 at 17:55

I highly recommend reading the novel. Mccarthy is my favorite author. The movie actually follows the novel very closely although it's much more condensed. There are many more details in the book. Having said that, some of your questions still aren't explicitly answered in the novel either. Yes, the Mexicans in the Del Rio motel also had a receiver. The wealthy "businessmen" financing the entire botched operation hired several different people to retrieve the money. Chigurh considers this insulting and that's why he killed the guy in the office building. He also killed him because the guy had hired Carson Wells to kill Chigurh. As far as how all these hitmen were able to find Moss, we aren't really told, but they are hired assassins who hunt people down for a living. They all probably figured that Moss sent his wife to her mother's and traveled in the opposite direction. In the novel (spoiler alert) Wells is able to track Moss' bloody boot prints across the bridge, and he correctly deduces that Moss is in the hospital. Chigurh probably did the same. Chigurh is a relentless, remorseless killer who is extremely good at what he does.

Bottom line: "The prospect of outsized profits leads people to exaggerate their own capabilities. In their minds. They pretend to themselves that they are in control of events where perhaps they are not. And it is always one's stance upon uncertain ground that invites the attentions of one's enemies. Or discourages it."

"It's not about knowin where you are. It's about thinkin you got there without takin anything with you. Your notions about startin over. Or anybody's. You don't start over. That's what it's about. Ever step you take is forever. You can't make it go away. None of it."

  • 1
    An impression I had when I saw the movie for the first time (and I hadn't read the book yet) was that Chigurh was a metaphor of Death itself. Death finds you inevitably, there's no point asking yourself how and why. Mar 5, 2019 at 17:43
  • Yes, Chigurh could symbolize death or evil or he could be the "true and living prophet of destruction" Sheriff Bell mentions at the beginning. The existence and prevalence of evil is a common theme in McCarthy's novels. As well as the true - albeit confounding - nature of God. Many of his books have a be-careful-what-you wish-for moral to the story, but he doesn't hit you over the head with it and he acknowledges the complex, confusing and unpredictable nature of life. Life is often brutal. Evil is very real. Death is inevitable. The pursuit of greed or vengeance usually doesn't end well. Mar 6, 2019 at 18:21

Never read the book Or script so my answers are based on the movie....

How does Anton know where to look first?

Answer ......He goes by the telephone call records, figures out the most frequent and latest calls were made to Odessa And Del Rio. The number from Odessa was that of Lewellyn's mother in laws. Knowing Moss won't go there (why would I expect him?).... He makes a decision to go for Roberto's location which was in Del Rio, this was also the call that was made for the last time from Lewellyn's house.

So he begins his search from Roberto Sagramores location, judging that Lewellyn will head for motels to stay at, once he was in Del Rio at Sagramores location, the receiver could easily pick the signal from the transponder.

So no plot holes there.

How do the mexicans know where Moss is?

Well, when Anton kills the fat man who recruited Carson Wells, he explains to the witness, the accountant.... That the man "gave the mexicans a receiver." It was explained out loud in the film by Anton that the Mexicans also had a receiver.

How does he know that? Because he killed the mexicans in the regal motor hotel, the first motel Moss stayed at. So obviously Mexicans already were given a receiver same as Anton and that happened because the fat man realizes that Anton will bounce with the money once he has it, him killing those managerial types was the proof of it.

So the fat dude wanted the two parties to fight over it and that was the chance for the money to be found again is greater, rather than it being devoured by any one party.

So no plot holes so far as I can see.

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