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Foreign Policy Analysis
No Country For Old Men:  Ending Explained

No Country For Old Men: Ending Explained

[And in the dream I knew that he was going on ahead. And he was fixing to make a fire somewhere out there in all that dark and all that cold.] The Cohen brothers’ 2007 film No Country for Old Men is not your typical Western: the hero
doesn’t win, or even survive, the villain gets away, and the ending isn’t a shootout
but rather a slow, calm, monologue by a character who was the least involved of the three main
characters. Sheriff Bell tells his wife about his dreams, and then we abruptly cut to black. So, what gives? After focusing so much on Moss escaping Chigurh,
does it really make sense for the story to leave the audience with a seemingly peripheral
character’s enigmatic breakfast conversation? Yes, because the final scene gives us a window
into the movie’s deeper meaning and the Coens’ pessimistic worldview. We realize that Bell is one of the“Old Men”
of the title, and we get a glimpse into why there’s “no country” for them anymore. Waking up, he struggles to face the actual
world of chaos and randomness, and so he’s lost. The Coens use the dreams to show Bell mourning
the decent, lawful world he believes in — which probably never even existed but has been an
illusion, or a dream, all along. The Coens’ ending is both pessimistic and opaque. On the one hand, Moss’ end tells us that
our past sins catch up with us. Even if he repents, like with Marion Crane
in Psycho, the movie will execute his punishment. Yet, on the other hand, the story rejects
justice when Chigurh escapes — as if his outcome has been determined by one of his
own coin tosses. We’re left with a frightening interplay
of the arbitrary and the inevitable, in which we must fear both moral punishment and the
total lack of moral order, yet can’t trust in either. So let’s dig in to the meaning of the dreams. In the film, Sheriff Bell is hesitant at first
to share them with his own wife since he doesn’t think his wife would find them engaging, a
hint to the audience since the wife, in the cinematic adaptation, stands in for the reader
of Cormac McCarthy’s book — us. The choice to end with dreams can even be
read as a tongue-in-cheek joke since it’s well-known that most people find hearing about
others’ dreams boring. So this is hardly the dramatic ending that
an average movie audience might be chasing. But it’s also not uncharacteristic for
the Coens. Bell says: [Both had my father in ’em. It’s peculiar. I’m older now than he ever was by twenty years.] Something’s off, and time has been inverted,
because Bell is now older than his father he is the “old man.” Bell represents a character displaced from a Western. The older ideas of law enforcement or simple dualities and causalities no longer
seem to apply. This world has become too dangerous and too
wild, and Bell retires because of it, defeated by this new world and its ambiguity. His first dream is about how his father gives
him “some money.” The bulk of the film has been about the struggle
between Moss and Chigurh to get a case with two million dollars. All of the characters who are concerned with the money end up dead or injured or morally empty, while Bell survives and stays intact long
enough to retire. So this first dream leaves us with the sense
that greed eventually leads people to fall, and that those who don’t place importance
on money live a safer and fuller life. But money in dreams also tends to symbolize
success, thriving or good fortune. Bell’s losing the money evokes his loss
of this world, which baffles him and seems to have no use for him anymore. In these final moments, Bell has another chance
to understand recent events, but his losing the money also symbolizes his inability to
see the world clearly. He’s out of touch not just because the world’s
moved on, but also because it was never what he thought it was. The second dream is about riding on horseback
through the mountains — getting as far away from civilization as possible. Sheriff Bell’s monologue at the beginning
of the film reminisces about older times when some of the “old-time” sheriffs never
carried a gun. Bell is filled with nostalgia for a safer,
straightforward time, where he imagines every crime made sense and every criminal got put
away, much like the plot of a typical Western. There’s a reference to going back in time
when Bell says: [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 about the color of the moon.] This isn’t a torch meant to provide light,
but a primitive way of starting fires by carrying hot embers from one campsite to the next so
there’s no need for flint or a match. It’s carrying the promise of a fire up ahead. The life that Bell is living now is represented
by this cold, mountainous path, full of moral uncertainty and darkness. But by carrying forward this fire, he feels
he is continuing his father’s essence… and somehow this will enable a return to that
simpler good his father represents. Yet this dream appears to be not a prophecy,
but simply a desire. He tells his wife: [I knew that whenever I got there he’d be there.] He needs the certainty that, in the end, there
will be warmth and light. But he’s dreaming about something that can
never come true and deep down, he knows it. The sudden cut to black seems to confirm this
— the only answer is nothing. No Country can be called a Neo-Western. The Neo-Western which builds on recognizable
Western imagery to reach a very different conclusion and worldview. Classic visual and story cues tell the audience
that this should be a Western: the desert setting, the clearly defined heroes and villains,
guns, drugs, a chase after money, and Stetson hats. All superficial signs would point to an ending
where the hero prevails, takes a big bag of money, and rides off into the desert sun. Instead, No Country’s hero — Llewelyn
Moss, played by Josh Brolin — is killed by a third party. Moreover, he’s far from a clear-cut hero. He’s a thief. The first major action we witness from him
is stealing money. Sheriff Bell assumes that Moss is the good
guy because he is pitted against Chigurh, who is clearly the villain, but this doesn’t
automatically make him righteous. Moss’s sudden death is also indicative of a
film noir plot. If the Western’s traditional hero triumphs
over unbelievable odds, the noir’s hero — who’s also smart and well-intentioned,
if more flawed than a Western hero — can’t overcome those odds. The remorseless villain — Anton Chigurh,
played by Javier Bardem — is likewise less straightforward than the bad guys of old. With his coin toss game of death, he intentionally
models himself as a force of random destruction. Chigurh’s actions stem from a worldview
that has logical integrity, whether or not it represents the truth. As the carrier of this coin, he believes in
reminding people that their lives are ultimately subject to forces (whether they’re god,
or death, or chance) that are out of their control. A villain with purely selfish motives can be defeated and forgotten about in a classic Western shootout but how do you defeat an idea? In the end, far from being brought to justice,
Chigurh is injured by a car accident and then just barely gets away. He acts as the personification of the seeming haphazardness of the world the Coens give us, which doesn’t care about our notions of right and wrong,
of fair and unfair — this world has its own unknowable plans for us, or maybe no plan
at all. Sheriff Bell survives and outlasts by remaining
on the sidelines of the action. and he follows the footsteps of Chigurh and Moss, always a step behind. His mediocre triumph in the end is merely to stay out of evil’s path. And thus, he too is a disappointing shadow of the true western’s justice-seeking sheriff. In this scene, Bell sits in the same spot
as Chigurh and looks at his reflection in the TV screen, as if about to step into Chigurh’s
shoes and imagine his mindset, but instead, he merely says Chigurh’s actions have left
an “impression” on him, as if he’s not a sheriff at all but merely an observer. The final cut to black also recalls these reflections in the black TV screen, putting us in the same seat as Chigurh and Bell. We’re given the choice –to dream of an unattainable just world, or wake up and see the terrfying randomness of reality. The movie’s themes and structure result largely from how closely the film follows Cormac McCarthy’s novel. Ed Tom Bell’s monologue about his dreams
in the end — it’s taken from the novel, too. In an interview with Oprah, Cormac McCarthy
explained his view on the human subconscious, saying, [It understands language because
it understands the problems that you’re working on, and then when you’re sleeping
it will work on them for you.] So in ending with these dreams, the Coens
endorse McCarthy’s view that our subconscious can synthesize our problems on a deeper level. But Sheriff Bell’s dreams show us that not
all problems can be solved by our inner selves — sometimes the subconscious tells you what
you truly want, but it’s a wish that’s impossible to fulfill.

100 comments on “No Country For Old Men: Ending Explained

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  2. Seen this movie (didn't read the book yet) and it's hard to take a stand which way to take it….on the one hand the phrase "No country for old mon" used to mean wording some one being too old working in a dairy …on the other with those dreams a law enforcement officer has whereas a rogue shot or two can quickly end those dreams right there and then….reality at its best ….

  3. another visual inversion of expectation — when Carson Wells gets to the high ground of the stairs — Chigurh gets the drop on him from the low ground.

  4. The obvious point of the movie is that the drug trade and all the money has turned the cowboy west into the noir west. Chigurh represents the randomness of death in this world, underscored by the way he slaughters people like animals, seemingly at random.

  5. An element overlooked here is the importance of the wife's reaction to Bell's reluctance to tell her his dream. She isn't merely 'standing in' for the reader of the novel, and while perhaps generally true, it isn't a given that 'everybody' gets bored hearing others recount their dreams. If told well and with detail, a dream can be fascinating. So her impatience with her husband at the end, coupled with her sky-blue eyes, earnest work ethic, attachment to the land (and horses), etc, is a harbinger of what's to come for Bell in retirement. Yeah, he's putting this world of random violence, youth failing to say "sir" or "madame," the hard bark of Chigurh etc, behind him. But he's facing an equally lonely place as a retired lawman. And even in his truest partner he has nowhere to turn. In this respect, the wife is not merely "us" as suggested in this clip .. she is part of the barren landscape that is no country for old men.

  6. movie started and progressed brilliantly…..ending was the worse in cinematic history…total lack of creativity or originality. If i , someone with no talent in movies, can write the exact same ending then its crap. brutal truth.

  7. Almost rivals Charlie Chan's "Beyond the Curtin" circa 1929 In the sad but subtle reflection of the dirth that humankind can twither in a realm of a codifying world of zorn.

  8. There was a time when a Chigurh would survive simply to convey a message whatever it may be, but not today. No, the reason he survives, is so he can show up in a new film wreaking havoc somewhere else. The real story here is the cutthroat movie business where studios will do absolutely anything if they think they will make a big profit. Not to mention, originality is gone. There are no original films. Show me a movie and I'll show you the same premise in 100 others. Sure, they can change the setting, the dialog and the characters, but it's predictable. NCFOM wasn't predictable, but it wasn't all that original either. The studios are depending on new audiences. This is easily supplied by the next generation of people who have no idea it's all been done before and it's typically a good 25-30 years before they catch on. Hell, some people never see the redundancy. They see a Superhero movie and think it's all new and original.

    The only new thing I see happening in Hollywood is forcing black people into roles that they shouldn't be in and pushing women as something they aren't. Now, it seems the new 007 is a black woman after how many years of it being a white man? Capt America is now a black man after how many years being a white man? Look at the Ghostbusters remake with all women? I knew it would be terrible and bomb and guess what? Now, people are going to call me racist and anti-feminist. However, I wouldn't like it if a role played by a black actor for decades was suddenly white either. Imagine if suddenly Black Panther was a white guy? Would you like that? As for being anti-feminist….Well, I guess that would be an accurate guess. Can't lie about it. I don't like feminism. Actresses are not going to be paid like actors because they can't carry a film like a man and they don't pull in the revenue that leading men do. Also, there are actresses that pull down $20-$25 million per picture, but for the most part, if you want to make money on a movie, you'll need a man in the leading role. If women could carry movies like men do, they'd obviously be paid accordingly. Same goes for the private sector, many think it's simple black and while equality of pay, but there are a multitude of factors that have to be considered. Choice of career is one, risk of life is another and there are many more.

    This is a finite world, where nothing is new anymore. I used to wonder why my father was never interested in TV or movies. When I hit my 40s, I realized why…because he'd seen and heard it all before. Same goes with this situation and the fact that Chigurh will show up in a new movie. A movie that might even be named 'Chigurh' where he either is the same guy, or suddenly changes and becomes a do-gooder. Don't think so? Watch……

  9. Surely the explanation should clarify and not confuse. This explanation meanders all over the place and gets nowhere…..kinda like a person in a modern art gallery watching a splash of shit on the canvas and reading everything into it except what it is, pure shit.

  10. I watched this movie as a kid, maybe 7 or 8. I didn't know who to "vote for" so to speak. I knew Chigurh was a bad guy, but for some reason I liked him and wanted him to succeed, maybe because I thought he was the main character or something.

  11. I find that the(one of several) deep meanings of the picture; with the insignificance of the protagonists (Tommy Lee and us) juxtaposed with the vastness of the country in the open plains of Texas..the symbolism of how tiny we are in the vast scope of reality…additionally, the cultural differences of his time versus the past days; reflecting the extent of the deterioration of his father's days compared his time… Which I agree upon…
    In addition, the crippled old man he had coffee with….Tommy Lee asked if he sought to revenge his assailants…the old man, paraphrased,"no if you seek out what's happening at the front door, too much is coming from the backdoor "

    One of the best movies I've ever seen..

  12. I was originally extremely pissed at what happen at the end. Now that I’m older and I’ve seen it multiple times it’s all starting to make sense to me even though it still hurts

  13. You guys are clueless. The ending meant that Moss and His wife would meet up later in heaven. Moss went on ahead of her and left her behind until she catches up to him.

  14. They still should have showed Moss get killed. Killing off the main character of the movie is one thing, killing them off screen is beyond the pale dumb. And no, I'm not saying there should have been a shootout. They could have just made him do something ordinary like answering a knock at his door (his guard is down after meeting that women) and BAM…cut to black.

  15. Sorry but any movie that requires an 11:54 minute youtube video to explain it's ending has fundamentally failed in it's primary job to tell a story.

  16. Interesting interpretation but I'm betting that some might have an interpretation with a totally different perspective. Thats the thing about art; an exercise in subjectivity.

  17. Meh way too pretentious. What could have been a brilliant film ended with disappointment and pretentiousness.

  18. Is this how the world really is or does Hollywood shape & create the future through film? Think about it, Pulp Fiction preceded No Country by 13 years ….

  19. Just finished watching this movie for the second time ever.

    This film is an absolute gem on realities many complex and horrifying unknowns.

    Certainly quite the bag of cats being let loose, but who's to say it's impossible to occur to begin with?

    Great video

  20. Great movie and book. The movie missed the part about the sheriff wondering how to tell mosses wife about the girl he didn't think he was cheating with

  21. Everyone wants the bad guy to get away cause deep down inside we know we are the bad guy. There is no good guy, everyone is out for them

  22. so this move is about evoking emotions without useful resolution, it's masturbation for the angst in you. it's funny how the purposeless has purpose but purposeless tries really hard to convince you it has no purpose. chaos pretending it's all it is and ever was and ever will be and order is the illusion. there is no real choice all there is, is nihilism and this absolves you of relationship with everything, you decide what to keep or throw out. nihilism is disguised selfishness desperate to be truth like a flopping fish out of water.

  23. خراي عليكن وعهالفلم وعصفحات الفيس اللي حاطينو بأفضل40 فلم بالعالم.

  24. I've only seen it twice so I may need to watch it a few more times but this is what I got…

    It was a wake up call for the 3 main characters. Moss got cocky forgetting he was facing more than one enemy and was killed because of it. Bell realized that he was not built for the game anymore and retired because of it. Chigurh had his first tinge of remorse and lost focus because of it, which accounts for his inability to react to the vehicle coming towards him.

    They all paid a price for their folly.
    Lewelyn's arrogance killed him.
    Bell's apprehension retired him.
    Anton's remorse broke him.

  25. I think Moss was completely moral by following the finder's keeper's law of America. I wish he got away without a single issue with what he did.

  26. why do people who first read the novel , feel the need to deprecate the movie made from it ? The Coen brothers brought an excellent book to life in an awesome film. Please quit trying to honor Mc Carthy for a masterpiece effort by the film makers. The book readers of Jaws did the same thing to Spielberg.

  27. In my opinion Anton Chigurh fully embodied the ideal person to thrive in this dark world where morals, ethics, laws and etiquette no longer apply.

    Chigurh is fatalistic and dissociative, he doesnt believe he is responsible for any of his actions because they would happen even if he was not the one committing the crimes. This twisted logic is why he "deserved" to survive the whole movie and why so many of the lawful and good people died. Like he said: ""If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?"… They all died because they expected Chigurh to behave like a moral and ethical person… But its a dog eat dog world.

  28. It still never answered the question of the girl at the end was killed. You assume that but you have no way of truly knowing.

  29. I always feel so dumb when I have to have movies explained to me. Do these types of filmmakers know they're not doing their job properly when the audience has to do extra work to understand hidden meanings? If I were the Coen brothers I'd have either spent more screentime on Bell's dreams or at least tie them in to his narration. As they stand they're too easy to miss the details of. (I think the Coens' mistake was sticking too word-for-word with the book – with any medium you work in you need to make the most of that medium. A visual cue for the dreams wouldn't have gone amiss.) The theme of his retirement also needed more emphasizing throughout; and the scene with his uncle needed more exposition. The only other Coen brothers film I've seen is Fargo, but that was better-made (less lazily-made?) yet made earlier in their careers.

  30. What's the name of the guitar music that plays as the end? It says 'World Collaboration by Gulliver's but I can't find it.

  31. Anton Chigur, the assassin, is clearly out of control, goes far beyond recovering the Drug Money (the installed tracking device in the money case made that simple).

    He follows his own warped moral code (coin toss, for life or death with some innocent people, and outright murder of other innocents.)

    When he kills other Cartel members, he goes too far, and will have to be hunted down himself.

    He leaves a obvious, "high profile" path of "random and purposeful," death and destruction – NOT the "low key" approach Cartel wanted!

  32. I never tire of this great piece of film. It's my favorite role of Tommy Lee Jones. Usually the book is better but, in this exception, both film and book are outstanding.

  33. Pls help me.. can someone explain to me how the characters desires lead them to suffering, its for a college assignement and I just understand this movie/book! HELP MEEE

  34. Thank you for this analysis. I didn't like the movie when it came out, for obvious reasons. Now I realize that I just forgot it is a Coen movie. I was fooled by the western imagery and expected a good guy vs. bad guys type of story. Looking back at Blood simple, Miller's crossing, Fargo or even The big Lebowski I realize how wrong I was to expect a happy end. I understand now that it is not the Coens that failed me, but my expectations made me misjudge the movie. I will definitely give it another shot.

  35. There is no chaos or order. Good guys and bad guys both need to understand that God can choose who he feels sorry for and who he wants to punish regardless of what man thinks is fair and just. Go back to the old testament stories where the giants had to be killed by israelite spies. Was it really just about punishing the wicked giants for bad behavior or was it a test to see if man would obey a command from the King of Kings to go out and slay scary monsters as proof you are not cowardly? IE to test man's loyalty to send him on what would seem to be a suicide mission? God rewards bravery and punishes bad people but there are times where you got to show love back by enduring some suffering and hardship by sacrificing what you want for what God wants. It's not always about YOU. That's what the story is about. Jesus didn't give the unbelieving jews what they wanted by punishing people. He was there for God's plan. Sure Jesus could have spent his whole life devoted to casting out demons and fighting but that wasn't God's plan. David already did the giant slaying and 'cool' stuff. God isn't concerned with what man desires but what is good for him. The old man in the story got away with his life and didn't have to catch the bad guy. It wasn't his time to be a hero anymore than it was Jesus's time to hunt giant tribes to show off who is mightier. No chaos or order just God's will which man isn't always understanding of at the time. Justice exists. Crime exist but God can choose who he feels sorry for and give resources to and who He can take from. In the case of the new testament He gives the poor man a chance to live and tells the rich man who is apathetic to other people's suffering that they cannot get to heaven. Not because of right or wrong but just because apathy is not welcome in his kingdom. After all not all rich people are evil or bad. But being apathetic to poor people's needs when it was God who gave to you for free is amoral in His eyes so He will strip you of authority if it fits his mood. It's not injustice, but God telling jews "this isn't about you. Ihaven't broken my contract with you, but given new contract involving a need to be loving as wellas just" It's like a dad loving his sons regardless of who is bad or good. The ruthless killer also is used by God to do a mission regardless of whether he knows it or not. God is not bound by rules he didn't promise to keep to people who never contracted with him. So the assassin is not protected/blessed by God at the end of the movie and walks away injured after his purpose is fulfilled. God is no longer concerned with having to uphold the contract with man if man chooses not to accept the deal. The sherriff on the other hand is still blessed because God is obligated to protect his children and also it's out of love. Those who don't love can't get paradise. But those who kill ruthlessly don't get zapped with lightning bolt from the sky either. God is no longer angry by appearing to not fully punish the wicked. But He still protects righteous people but less because it's to do with obligations to fulfill a contract. No it's God choosing to love His sons. It's not about reward for being good at being macho but to show compassion. The killer has no sense of purpose once he fullfills his destiny. He is like the robot in the terminator movies. What's the point of living if you are serving money?? Can you bring that shit to the grave and use it? It's a sad ending for the killer who walks off a slave to fleshly desire. No love, no hate, no reason to exist other than forced to act on random thought. That is a curse. I would rather be the old man to be frank. He Gets his paradise and happy ending and peace. The killer is forced to serve under the god of money and enslaved to his desire for it like a dog is to animal instincts. But the god of money is not a living God. It's got no real supernatural power. It's just an illusion of security and peace. The old man despite not being in control is still alive and happy and living well. He can count his blessings that after death there is something beyond the material world; there is something else for him. He gets to be loved by God. The killer will just act on a whim like souless machine. A mere tool for when God needs a death angel. Or an attack dog for a rich man that needs something to guard his property. Maybe he gets a job as the nanny who serves a demon in hell to watch over baby demons to ensure they are cold blooded enough to be good torturers of souls that did even worse crimes than him.

  36. This video is utter shit!
    This narrators theory of dreams and what other crap he says could be applied to any film.
    Its based on the book you dummy

  37. I see the assassin losing his precious control as well. He starts out cutting his own swath, deciding lives with a flip of the coin. He ends up bribing a couple of kids for their silence. However, as the boy tells the other one …. I gave him my shirt …. they don't see it that way. They will quickly give him up … and he probably knows it … but can do nothing about it. Either way, it's probably his last job … and he probably knows that as well.

  38. 2:27 that guy looks like Chad Kroeger. also, still really confused, i just finished the movie not 30 seconds ago and im really confused

  39. Watching a “blah blah blah explained” video is like buying a “blah blah blah for dummies” book. Fuck off with your explaining

  40. All me an uncultured swine, but I certainly would hold this movie in higher regard if it'd had an actual satisfying ending rather then something that's trying to be artsy. For that reason I don't think I could ever watch this movie front to back again. Now it only exists for me as a collection of really good scenes like the coin toss and hotel scene…

  41. After losing my opinion 2x be4 this on my lousy computer, suffice to say while I had avoided watching it as many times as I would have any other Coen Bros. I mistakenly attributed it to the violence, but that's always there; though maybe not as random. So now not only am I ready, but I'm looking forward to watching it again. I really like your site.

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