'No Country for Old Men' Ending Explained: The Nature of Violence and Generational Change 

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'No Country for Old Men' Ending Explained: The Nature of Violence and Generational Change 

The vast and open space of a hot desert drives the moral and ethical emotions of the men who inhabit these spaces.

The vast and open space of a hot desert drives the moral and ethical emotions of the men who inhabit these spaces. Ethan and Joel Coen’s No Country for Old Men is about the perils of a lawless land, where violence and dread rule all. It is also about the passing of time, and the men left behind in the wake of all its violent changes, like Tommy Lee Jones’s Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. Bell comes from a long line of law enforcement officers in his family. The events that transpire throughout the film trigger Bell to question his place in this new world. A world that yields morally dubious characters like hitman Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem. Men like Chigurh have moral codes that extend farther than that of a Mexican drug cartel and Sheriff Bell.

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At the end of the film, Bell is a retired sheriff who speculates about the future of law enforcement and the world in general. After spending the better part of the film chasing after Josh Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss and Chigurh in the wake of their violent cat and mouse game, Bell is always just one step too far from ever catching up to them. After stumbling on a Mexican drug cartel deal gone wrong, Moss comes across a large sum of money. Instead of going to the authorities, Moss listens to his greed and takes it. Chigurh goes after Moss to retrieve the money, and so begins the chase. Bell, always arriving too late, ends up becoming what he most feared: dispensable. Chigurh escapes, Moss dies, and the fate of Moss’s wife is left ambiguous.

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