No Country for Old Men ending explained: What does it mean?
There are no easy answers in the Coens' masterpiece, friendo.
Joel and Ethan Coen's neo-Western No Country for Old Men tracks the fate and lack of fortune for men in a lawless land of cartels and assassins, and the authorities largely powerless to stop the slaughter.
In this adaptation of one of Cormac McCarthy's many masterworks, the film follows three men after a drug deal ending in a Mexican stand-off leaves all participants dead.
There's Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam vet who comes across the scene and finds a fortune in cash. There's Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a Terminator of a hitman sent to recover the money. And there's Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), an old-school lawman overmatched by the rampant Texan violence.
The fates of the three men intertwine and revolve around the consequences of Moss's decision to take the money.
A cat and mouse chase entails with Chigurh always on the tail of Moss thanks to a tracking device in the money's briefcase with Sheriff Bell never quite close enough to protect him from the almost supernatural hitman.
Death, as it always does, finds Moss but it's not Chigurh who takes him down but rather a random gang of Mexican bandits who learned of his location by tracking his wife and mother. Chigurh gets the money and Bell finds himself contemplating his purpose in the world.
What happens at the end of No Country for Old Men?
After Moss is slain in a hotel room and Chigurh recovers the loot, the relentless assassin pays a visit to Llewleyn's wife Carla Jean, played by Kelly Macdonald. By this point, Carla Jean has lost everything – her husband, her mother, her security – after Llewelyn risked everything for the haul of cash in the desert. Chigurh offers her the same choice he's offered everybody else – heads or tails. She refuses to play his perverse game of chance and forces him to make a choice that is not down to luck.
What happens next is left ambiguous but as Chigurh leaves Carla Jean's home, he checks his boots as he has done previously after he's killed because he dislikes blood. He's seemingly added Carla Jean to his already fearsome body count.
Shortly after, in an event emphasising the film's themes of chance and consequences, Chigurh is severely injured in a car accident, suffering a compound fracture of his arm. It was a coincidence that Moss found the money in the first place and it was a coincidence Chigurh was rammed into at an intersection by a careless driver.
No Country for Old Men then moves to Sheriff Bell, who is a much more prominent character in the book. Nearing retirement, he has breakfast with his wife and recalls two dreams he had about his father, also a lawman.
In the first dream, Bell recalls meeting his father to be given some money but he lost it, a metaphor for the failure he feels as a cop outgunned by the criminals and his inability to save Moss from his bloody end. It's about coming to terms with what has been done and that nothing can change what has already happened.
Moss then tells the story of the second dream where he was out riding with his father in the cold and they were going to make a fire and he realises that wherever he ends up his father will be there too. It's the Sheriff's way of coming to terms with his end, that he is a man out of time but there is a future and there is hope and also a gratefulness to still be alive.
Tommy Lee Jones had his own say on the ending: "The last speech is a contemplation of hope, a dream about however dark and cold the world might be, however long the ride through it might be, that at the end you know that you will go to your father's house and it will be warm, or to a fire that your father has carried and built for you.
"The last sentence of the movie is, 'And then I woke up.' It's a contemplation of the idea of hope. Is it an illusion? Is it just a dream? And if it is, is the dream real?"
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