No Country For Old Men is about promises. Not just keeping one’s promises, but the promises one is forced to make in life that cannot be kept and the codes of life that conflict with society and with the codes of other men. McCarthy’s delivery of dialogue takes some getting used to, but is well worth the investment. I found myself intrigued by all the characters. Ed Tom Bell is the wise sheriff trying to save Llewelyn Moss, an ex-sniper turned welder who has stumbled upon two million dollars and who believes he’s smart enough to find a way to keep it. Anton Chigurh is a man whose cold inventiveness would be admirable if he wasn’t a psychopath with an odd code that requires him to not only destroy those who are in his path, but also people who are only tangentially related to his purpose. (And that purpose is not merely, it seems, to recover the money.)
Violence seems to be part and parcel in McCarthy’s world, but not egregiously so, and while the film is bloody in spots, one should notice that the Coen Brothers’ direction is, as usual, spot on, not always showing the gore of violence, but never diminishing its impact. Readers will find that the movie does not deviate from the book too much (though doing so is rarely a problem for me). Tommy Lee Jones (Bell), Javier Bardem (Chigurh), and Josh Brolin (Moss) provide excellent performances. Bardem is particularly chilling as a killer on a mission.
As noted above, the endings of both the novel and the film are a bit confusing, but I am still recommending both. Read McCarthy’s book first, then see the movie. Knowing what happens certainly won’t keep you from watching intently.