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August 13, 2008 9:12 PM   Subscribe

A Spoiler-iffic story-theory question about No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men largely figures around the cat-and-mouse game between Llewellyn and Chighur, with all of the tense scenes being played between them, but the seemingly climactic (and as Robert McKee would say, obligatory) scene between them, wherein Chighur presumably kills Llewellyn, is left out.

For whatever reason, I find this move to be brilliantly unsettling, but I constantly run up against people who are frustrated with the movie for this very reason. I haven't read the book, and am too busy with school for any outside reading, as good as it may be, so I ask of you:

Is there any more clarity in the book for leaving this scene out?

Does the book have any better explanation for what actually happened in the El Paso Motel?

Does anyone have good thoughts on what I ca say to detractors on why leaving this scene out makes the movie altogether better?
posted by My Bloody Pony to Media & Arts (36 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't read the book - but I liked the absense of the scene in the movie because the main character isn't Llewellyn, it's the Sheriff. So the murder isn't shown because it shifts you into the Sheriff's POV and you find the aftermath and have to make sense of it along with him.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:17 PM on August 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

It's a curious point to me as well, and I don't recall the book closely enough to say too much more, but I found it pretty confusing. I'm not sure it took anything away from the overall tone of the movie for me, though.
posted by docpops at 9:19 PM on August 13, 2008

My take on the movie was that it wasn't Chighur who finally caught up with Llewellyn, but "the Mexicans." I think we are told this, but I haven't seen the movie since it was out in theatres.

And as to why the scene is left out of the movie, for me the missing scene underlines the point that Llewellyn, as much as we root for him against Chighur, is no hero, and he doesn't get the hero's onscreen death. Denying us the emotional crisis point of his death kind of frustrates our attempts as an audience to make the story into a traditional melodrama of good vs. evil. Just my $.02.
posted by Beckminster at 9:22 PM on August 13, 2008

I like that idea, Beckminster, but the only reason Llewellyn ends up getting chased is because of an actually selfless act, taking water back to the dying man in case he might be able to help him. He might not be a traditional hero, but his "mistake" is nonetheless a heroic one, of sorts, so I have trouble with that theory. Others may disagree with me, however.
posted by My Bloody Pony at 9:26 PM on August 13, 2008

Yea Chighur doesn't kill him, it's the Mexicans. The sheriff arrives just as the Mexicans are speeding away, remember they asked his mother in law where she was going. Later that night the sheriff comes into the hotel and finds the doorkey punched through and Chighur escapes out the bathroom window. As for why they left it out, I liked that. Coming up to that point in the movie I was just waiting for that epic battle between Llewllen and Chighur, expecting good Llellen to win (he had to after his bad ass "I'm hunting you now bitch" conversation on the phone) but than BANG!! all of a sudden the hero is gone, totally unexpected.
posted by BrnP84 at 9:57 PM on August 13, 2008

Also I gotta agree w/ My bloody pony on this one, he isn't your traditional hero but he's definetly the guy you gotta root for. He's a war veteran and just your average dude who enjoys hunting and drinking beer. He fights to protect his wife and that's part of the reason he dies, he was waiting at the hotel for her so they could escape. And also that thing that MBP said, it all started b/c of a selfless act, he could've just ran away right when he found the money but his conscious got to him and he decided to take that guy water. He's no Luke Skywalker or anything but you gotta root for him.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:04 PM on August 13, 2008

I think Llewellyn's death fits in nicely with the movie's (I haven't read the book) theme of chance; just as the apparently invincible Chighur is blindsided by a car, so Llewellyn isn't killed by the Terminator-like hitman on his tail, but by much more conventional (and rather less threatening) criminals.
posted by Bromius at 10:07 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thanks you all, which isn't to say that I don't want to hear more opinions.

As I'm reading over these responses, it seems to me that the actual climax of the film, the way it is structured, is designed to be when Carla Jean refuses to play the chance game, and forces Chigurh to take responsibility for killing her (another scene we don't actually see) which fits if the actual main character is Chigurh's antagonist, and we've just got multiple protagonists trying to comprehend him.

Anyway, y'all's responses are wonderful.
posted by My Bloody Pony at 10:14 PM on August 13, 2008

Well, in my opinion, it's there to reinforce the rather counter-intuitive point that the story really isn't about them. It's about the way the world has (or maybe has not) changed since Sherriff Bell was a child.

Really if you look at the movie arc as being about the struggle of Bell to understand what kind of world he's in, it makes a lot more sense, IMHO.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:17 PM on August 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

-- Later that night the sheriff comes into the hotel and finds the doorkey punched through and Chighur escapes out the bathroom window. --
posted by BrnP84

If I recall correctly, the bathroom window lock was locked from the inside?? Which meant Chighur could not have gotten out that way? Am I wrong on that bit? (Not read the book and movies don't always follow the story line of the book in any case.)

And yeah, it was definitely 'the Mexicans' who caught up with Llewellen in that tacky no-tell motel, and Chighur came in and got the bread after the cops cleaned the motel of bodies and put up crime scene tape et all.

Leaving that scene out is in some ways the same decision Tarentino made in Reservoir Dogs, not showing the jewelry store robbery -- a pivotal piece in the storyline but not on the screen.

I'm not a hollywood type of guy, I'm not into exploding Bruce Willis helicopters et all but this was a high voltage flick, great suspense, not at all predictable, good stuff...
posted by dancestoblue at 10:23 PM on August 13, 2008

Haven't seen the movie, but read the book

Cormac McCarthy doens't do "heros" in the traditional sense. Witness the Border Trilogy, Judge Holden in Blood Meridian and of course the mind numbingly depressing The Road. So all this talk about Llewellyn being one is moot in my opinion. Llewellyn's not a hero, he's just a guy who got caught up in events he couldn't control.

Let's look at the facts. He stole the money when he knew it was wrong. He left his girlfriend when on the run. He kills without compunction. And he could have saved her when he had the chance, but was too greedy for the money.

With regards to who killed him, it was definitely the Mexicans. Off stage death for the "anti-hero", and a rather depressing end when Chighur dispatches his girlfriend.

If you think this book was tough, try the The Road.
posted by Mephisto at 10:27 PM on August 13, 2008

I haven't really thought this theory out at all, so it very well could be B.S., but after I saw the movie I flirted with the possibility that Chigurh is more along the lines of a phantom being or spectre of death than a literal character. The thing that brought this to my attention was when Chigurh was waiting for Carla Jean after both Llewelyn and her mother have died. The entire scene could be interpreted as her committing suicide out of despair. Notice her death is not shown either. Llewelyn's death might have operated along the same lines.

Carla Jean
I knowed you was crazy when I saw
you settin there. I knowed exactly
what was in store for me.

Yes. Things fall into place.
posted by naju at 10:28 PM on August 13, 2008

Let's look at the facts. He stole the money when he knew it was wrong. He left his girlfriend when on the run. He kills without compunction. And he could have saved her when he had the chance, but was too greedy for the money.

I gotta disagree with you on this one. The him not being a hero thing, yea I kinda get it, he's not you're traditional hero that's for sure. But to make it seem like he was a "bad" guy is a little much. So he stole money when he knew it was wrong, well given the situation (dead drug dealers all around and a bag full of crap tons of money) who else wouldn't have taken the money, what was he supposed to do, post a found ad in the classifides? He did leave his wife but he did that because he was getting that dude water and than when he got back he put her on a bus to her mothers to protect her. When he found out Woody Harrelson knew her location he told her immediately to get out. Yea there might have been a little greed involved but the guy lives in a trailer, he's tryin to get his piece so him and his wife could live a better life. I don't know, just my opinion but didn't you feel a little sad when you found out he died?
posted by BrnP84 at 10:39 PM on August 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

but the only reason Llewellyn ends up getting chased is because of an actually selfless act, taking water back to the dying man in case he might be able to help him.

That's not quite right: there was a transponder in the bag of cash. Llewellyn ends up getting chased sooner because of his act, but arguably it saves his life (you can imagine that if he hadn't had that encounter, he might have been killed in his sleep at home).
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 10:39 PM on August 13, 2008

there was a transponder in the bag of cash.

True dat, but it does show a little bit about his character.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:47 PM on August 13, 2008

I saw it as others said: It's at that point in the story that we realize the Sheriff is really the hero of the story. We had been following and sympathizing with Moss. He is a likable character, but we realize that he really wasn't a good guy at all!

I didn't read the book, but I recall hearing from people who had read it that Moss's death is played the same way in the book.

The movie is about the ongoing struggle of good and evil, not the victory of one over the other. In the case of the Sheriff, he realizes his best chance at "winning" is knowing when to quit, and let someone else take over his post.

As for Chigurgh hiding in the motel room: from what I have been able to find, the directors have been pretty vague about it. One theory, which I tend to agree with, is that the image of Chigurgh hiding is in the Sheriff's imagination; it's what he fears and is preparing for. It shows us that despite his fears, he (bravely, or stupidly) enters the room and is ready for a showdown. It also plays into the overall theme of the film that evil/death can be behind any corner or through any door.

I've watched this film 4 or 5 times, and it always enthralls me.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:52 PM on August 13, 2008

While I agree or disagree with various things in the post, this response and dissection of the film's structure answered that question pretty well for me.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:02 PM on August 13, 2008

The movie was almost a perfect translation of the book. Pretty much word for word, actually. A lot of the things that you might think are Coen bros. injections of humor ("You still got your damn shirt!") are taken verbatim from the text. But there are two massive deviations from the novel, and they come right around the part that you're wondering about.


Firstly, in the book, about 25 pages before Llewellyn gets killed at the motel, he picks up an unnamed hitchhiking teenage girl by the side of the road. They have a long conversation, and it looks like she's about to become his sidekick. Thinking back on the book, she felt like a pretty major character, so I was surprised to look it up see that she was around for only 25 pages. (Her movie counterpart, I guess, was the woman by the pool who invited Llewellyn to have a beer.)

The decision to get rid of her makes his death much less horrible and surprising. In the book, he refuses the girl's sexual advances, and it's clear that he's looking for a bit of redemption. It really felt like she would be a major part of the book. And then suddenly, *both* of them are gunned down. It's even more sudden than in the movie. Llewellyn spurns the girl's flirting, sends her to get a cup for the beer, and ascends the stairs to his motel room. Then there's a short cryptic paragraph about someone washing blood off a car, and in the next paragraph, the Sheriff is being told about their deaths. There isn't a chapter break or anything. The presence of the girl makes it more brutal and surprising than in the movie.

I can see why the Coen brothers took her out of the movie. She was a bit extraneous.

Secondly, the meeting between Chigurh and Carla Jean is largely truncated. This upset me, because it was my favorite scene in the novel and I was waiting throughout the whole movie to get to it. The tone of the conversation in the movie is really changed; it's much less metaphysical. In the novel, you can tell he feels sorry for Carla Jean. He doesn't really want to kill her, but he feels compelled by the crazy determinist philosophy that he subscribes to. He's not so much a force of nature as he is convinced that he's a force of nature. And he actually manages to convince Carla Jean! Unlike in the movie, he does kill Carla Jean "on camera". Here's the passage from the end of that scene:
She looked at him a final time. You dont have to, she said. You dont. You dont.
He shook his head. You're asking that I make myself vulnerable and that I can never do. I have only one way to live. It doesnt allow for special cases. A coin toss perhaps. In this case to small purpose. Most people dont believe there can be such a person. You see what a problem that must be for them. How to prevail over that which you refuse to acknowledge the existence of. Do you understand? When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end. You can say that things could have turned out differently. That they could have been some other way. They are this way. You're asking that I second say the world. Do you see?
Yes, she said, sobbing. I do. I truly do.
Good, he said. That's good. Then he shot her.
posted by painquale at 11:08 PM on August 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

Yea Chighur doesn't kill him, it's the Mexicans. The sheriff arrives just as the Mexicans are speeding away, remember they asked his mother in law where she was going. Later that night the sheriff comes into the hotel and finds the doorkey punched through and Chighur escapes out the bathroom window.

Right, The Mexicans killed him, but Chighur ends up with the money.
posted by delmoi at 11:20 PM on August 13, 2008

So all this talk about Llewellyn being one is moot in my opinion. Llewellyn's not a hero, he's just a guy who got caught up in events he couldn't control.

Agreed. Bringing water to the dying man doesn't make him a hero. It simply gives him a conscience. He's a regular guy who gets caught up in the mess. He's not evil, but I'm surprised so many people consider him a hero. Maybe it's because I've read the book, but it was clear he wasn't (unless you want to water down the word 'hero').

The sheriff was a good man doing his job (kind of -- he's overwhelmed) and trying to make sense of the world. Again, not a hero. We so want a hero, and are so use to getting one in movies, I guess we have a hard time realizing there isn't one.
posted by justgary at 12:35 AM on August 14, 2008

I haven't read the book, but yeah, I don't see Llewellyn as a hero, or an anti-hero, or the bad guy. He's just a guy, swept up into a story much larger than he is. Chigurh and Bell know that they're part of a larger story, but I think they're the only ones.
posted by harriet vane at 2:59 AM on August 14, 2008

My take - and this is after only seeing the movie once months back in the theater - was that the sheriff and Chighur were related in a way, maybe even the same person, and had an almost constant struggle between what's right and what's not. Many times the movie paralleled the two: sitting on the sofa drinking milk in the tv reflection of Llewellyn's trailer, and I can't remember correctly right now but another scene where one entered and the other had just been, but then the room was empty. I think Llewellyn's murder scene was left out to refocus this struggle within the old man, the sheriff, and how times had changed, how he had changed.

I also think if might have been left out to allow us, the audience to feel cheated, like the sheriff does somewhat with the complexity of good and evil in life. He's been cheated trying to be good when maybe it now doesn't matter as an old man. If the sheriff and Chighur are one and the same, Chighur has been cheated too: out of murdering Llewellyn, and maybe by life as well (again like the Sheriff).

And I don't clearly remember but I thought the Sheriff ended up with the money - another reason why I thought he and Chighur were the same person / different entities - I think there was a conversation with the wife or the uncle and a comment that they wouldn't worry about money anymore.

I could be way off - but it's been fun thinking about the movie like this. I too was fascinated by Llewellyn's death being taken from my own witness. I loved that in some ways even though I'm pretty sure I gasped when it happened in the theater. It made me, the viewer, let go of my own formula story lines I wanted to guess the direction with. I had to let go completely to the story on screen, let it decide where it was taking me.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:09 AM on August 14, 2008

My take on it--the author of the book (which I haven't read but I've researched), and the Coen brothers, want to have their cake and eat it too. They WANT the main character to be the Sheriff, as in literature (per a writer friend of mine) the Protagonist is one who undergoes a change, the antagonist is one who doesn't. Therefore, as the sheriff is the one who changes, realizing he is no longer able to deal with the world, they want the focus to be on him. The climax of the movie is supposed to be at the very end when he decides to hang up his hat...THAT is the climax of the story arc they wanted to tell.

But a sheriff chasing after two people who you NEVER see? Well that would be interesting artistically...imagine the movie if you NEVER saw Churgh or Llewellyn... But they also want action. They want to appeal to the masses with a bit more. So the way it's told, Llewellyn is the protagonist. He's the one struggling to survive, and the movie paints him to be the main character, and the sheriff a supporting character.

But then they don't show us what happened. This single act robs the movie viewer of any real feeling of closure or climax in the movie. The person who was portrayed as the main character for almost 2 hours is killed off screen. It's like a giant "FOOLED YOU!" from the director to the viewer.

If you are the type of person who enjoys a movie that plays with your expectations, then this is great. If you are the type of person who prefers a cohesive narrative then this is virtually offensive because the joke isn't on Llewellyn or on the Sheriff, it's on the viewer.

This is further underscored by seeing the death of Lewellyn's wife, again returning to what is set up in the narrative as the main plot, even though it's intended to just be a subplot.

The ONLY explanation I found satisfying was this (and I'm not saying I AGREE with it, but it makes sense): The Sheriff is a fictionalized version of George W. Bush, up against a foreigner (Osama Bin Laden) who he cannot catch and he cannot stop. The one who looks like he CAN stop the foreigner is an American soldier. But in the end the soldier is killed, the sheriff realizes he is no longer effective at trying to enforce law, and the foreigner escapes pretty much unscathed. And we don't see the climax because the government doesn't allow such photos of troops to be shown (such as the moratorium on photos of caskets of soldiers being shipped home).

Take it for what you will... When framed that way I can see it, but I think it's a stretch... Still it's the closest thing to an "answer" I've found for why this movie is structured how it is.
posted by arniec at 6:33 AM on August 14, 2008

I read the book and a few hours later on the same day found out the Coens had made a movie. I flipped out.

The adaptation is utterly, utterly faithful to the book. All major scenes--I believe in the same order--play in the movie as in the book. Dialogue is lifted line by line, including Tommy Lee Jones' narration. Some minor scenes are cut or time-compressed, but in my mind it may be the most faithful adaptation out there. The Shawshank Redemption was pretty darn close, too.

painquale nailed it on the ending; there's a hitchhiker character Moss talks to but she is essentially cut out of the movie. But when reading the book, entire scenes and sequences in my mind's eye were exactly what the Coens created for the camera.
posted by zardoz at 7:40 AM on August 14, 2008

I simply figured the movie was making a meta-play. Instead of a showdown between "good" and "evil", fate intervened in even this most controllable of circumstance- The Hollywood movie.

The whole theme, for me, was that fate is a wild, uncontrollable force and that men who dare to dance with it are almost always knocked down.
posted by GilloD at 7:45 AM on August 14, 2008

Yeah, I also flipped out when I found out the Coen Brothers would be filming it. The whole time during my reading of the book beforehand, I kept thinking, this is exactly like a Coen Brothers movie. And when I found out they were directing it, I said to myself, they don't even need to write a screenplay! They don't need to change a thing! And they didn't.

Anyway, I don't understand why everyone in this thread is claiming that the Sheriff is the protagonist. Why does a movie need a protagonist? Why does a movie need a protagonist? From my perspective, it's like you all recognize this movie defies standard filmic conventions on the surface, but you're doing your best to shoehorn it into them anyway, as best it will fit. Sorry, but Llewellyn's character is just as important as the Sheriff's; I don't think I can abide an interpretation that belittles his role by claiming he's included just because audiences want action.
posted by painquale at 7:53 AM on August 14, 2008

This thread is making me see quite a few things I missed about that story and is making me really want to ditch work to go see it again. Thanks.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:08 AM on August 14, 2008

Oh, and here's my take on the general theme of Cormac McCarthy's work.

The problem of evil is posed by the question: if a benevolent god exists, then why is there evil in the world? A common response to the problem of evil is that there needs to be evil if man is to be free. One possible counter-response is to bring up what is sometimes called "natural evil": typhoons and tornados and famine and the like. Natural evil is evil that occurs without being caused by a free will.

McCarthy's work is all structured around the posit that mankind is a natural evil.

I think this is a good interpretation of at least the other McCarthy work I've read (The Road and Blood Meridian). It's nowhere as explicit as in that final speech of Chigurh's, and I think the upfront and kinda hamfisted delivery turned some readers off -- NCfOM is generally regarded to be McCarthy's weakest work. I actually liked the explicitness of Chigurh's speech, but maybe this is why the Coen brothers cut that scene short.
posted by painquale at 8:15 AM on August 14, 2008

I've read the book and seen the movie 5-6 times (and majored in lit.). I think painquale makes very good sense.

My thoughts:

Lewellyn is capable and at peace with his situation (in a sword of Damocles way). But even with his inventiveness, he's killed in a cheap way by bad luck and chaos. I think the message there is that there is no safety or control to be had over one's life. I don't think it's making a judgement on his character (it's established that he's capable, moral, flawed at times -- his death doesn't change those). It's meant to unsettle the viewer/reader for the confrontation between Ed Tom and Chigurh. Here's where I think the movie diverges from the film in an important way. In the film, Ed Tom sees Chigurh reflected in the brass hollow (at least I think that's what's illustrated, and Chigurh sees the same) but he still decides to confront him by opening the door. In the book, Ed Tom is overwhelmed by the fear that he's vulnerable and that Chigurh has the tactical upper hand so Ed Tom retreats to the interstate and calls in backup. Once backup arrives, Chigurh is gone. With everyone else dead, I think that's an important difference in Ed Tom's status as a survivor (bravery or cowardice).
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:27 AM on August 14, 2008

justgary: He's a regular guy who gets caught up in the mess. He's not evil, but I'm surprised so many people consider him a hero. Maybe it's because I've read the book, but it was clear he wasn't (unless you want to water down the word 'hero').

In a certain sense, it is ridiculous, I guess, to say that Llewellyn is a hero. But it's just as ridiculous to say that he's just "a regular guy who gets caught up in the mess." It's true that McCarthy has always had a concern for the realism of his characters since his very first novel, The Orchard Keeper, but it would be silly to say that that concern is the core of his writing; especially given the fact that he's been investigating the same cluster of questions in his novels since he wrote Blood Meridian.

In fact, Blood Meridian is a great example of this. You might admonish us that The Kid isn't a hero; hell, he's a bloody fury, he kills, he maims, he's a butcher just like the rest of them. But Judge Holden is the dark force, Judge Holden is the momentum behind evil that is revealed. And when, at the end of that unrelenting novel, The Kid stands next to Judge Holden in a bar and doesn't flinch, that is a victory in some sense.

Sure, you can say that The Kid, who takes the same place roughly in Blood Meridian that Llewellyn takes in No Country for Old Men, isn't a hero there, and that this defiance in the face of the dark force isn't really heroic. I'm not one to argue from authority, but you'd be disagreeing in that with Harold Bloom, who says about as much (if I recall correctly) in his introduction to Blood Meridian, claiming that The Kid's defiance is extraordinary and the touch of human goodness that saves us all, or some such. More to the point, you'd be arguing with me.

Cormac McCarthy isn't a writer who concerns himself with 'ordinary people caught up in circumstances larger than themselves.' Those writers are generally boring. The ordinariness and commonness of people is no fetish to him; Llewellyn's character is important, and while I can't claim to understand it, it's pretty clear that McCarthy was interested in exploring that character's confrontation of the dark natures of human ascendancy. He's not concerned with moralizing about his characters, and is meticulous in letting them being flawed, immoral, amoral, or however they might be. At least as early as Suttree, however, it becomes clear that the realism, the ordinariness of his characters isn't the core thing he's concerned with; to view Suttree as a book about an ordinary guy at the very least makes the story supremely boring. And to deny that Llewellyn is a hero - that is, the protagonist whom the author takes in hand to show confronting the dark force - seems a bit silly to me. Hell, heroes have been flawed for at least 3000 years, maybe longer; we're not exactly sure about the date of provenance of the Odyssey. Doesn't mean they're not heros.
posted by koeselitz at 8:36 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

painquale: McCarthy's work is all structured around the posit that mankind is a natural evil... I think this is a good interpretation of at least the other McCarthy work I've read (The Road and Blood Meridian).

I like your interpretation, and I think it makes sense. However, I heartily encourage you to read pre-Blood Meridian McCarthy. Specifically, I think you should try Suttree, which McCarthy wrote just before that epic western novel of his. It is utterly different - first, it's set, like all of his earlier novels, in Tennessee, in Knoxville; second, there is no confrontation, at least not one that is personified in any way, or is obvious or even clear to me after I've read it three times; it's sprawling, not driven by plot or story or direction so much as gliding along like the river; and, so far as I recall, nobody dies. The protagonist - Suttree - is a character who sometimes sighs and says to himself, "my life is a mistake." It's as raucous as ever, and I think he's drunk about ten out of every twenty pages; and it's fantastic as far as the prose is concerned. I think it's the book where Cormac McCarthy discovered that he could really write. Hell, just read the first three pages, that little preface describing Knoxville in the fifties, when it's set, and you'll see how awesome it really it.

Cormac McCarthy impresses me in part because he's capable of being such a focussed writer while he's proven that he's able to write so much in so many different ways. His abilities could have led to so many different things, could have done so many different things, and any lesser writer would have tried to do everything and failed. I guess we should just be glad that he decided to move to El Paso in 1976.
posted by koeselitz at 8:55 AM on August 14, 2008

Yeah, I've been meaning to read Suttree ever since it was so highly touted in the last thread about Cormac McCarthy (which, to keep this comment up to AskMe standards of relevance, I will link to and enjoin the OP to read for more discussion about No Country For Old Men!).
posted by painquale at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2008

All this hero talk has just become an argument of symantics, it all started as us discussing him being a Non-traditional hero, whatever that is called. Going back over the movie in my head I feel the author definetly wants the reader (or viewer, I've never read the book) to sympathize for him. Whatever this makes him I don't know, but he's not some Joe Shmo that the author just throws in there to fill up pages. I'm not calling him the hero because apparently this forum doesn't like that word but he's definetly a morally decent character, someone the viewer can relate to and root for. That's all I got to say about that, this forum has gone on enough tangents.
posted by BrnP84 at 11:04 AM on August 14, 2008

No Country reminds me a lot of Psycho, actually. It has the same structure: protagonist ("hero" or not you are clearly supposed to be on his side) comes upon some money in a less-than-ethical way, they're on the run, then they're suddenly killed -- in a hotel room -- and the whole movie turns into something else. To me, having him already be dead when we get to the scene kind of just makes that disjunction even stronger -- they're denying you the big showdown between the incomprehensible bad guy and the ordinary man, because it's too easy.
posted by SoftRain at 11:34 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

To me No Country was similar to the final episode of The Sopranos. Of course, The Sopranos takes it a step further in defying Film/TV narrative convention. Not only do you not see the climactic showdown, you don't even know if there is one (Though, I have to say after watching the last ten episodes again, it's clear to me that Tony does get whacked. Bobby Bacala says, not once but twice, that you never hear it coming - I'm paraphrasing)

Sorry for the Sopranos derail.

When I first saw No Country, I was annoyed that we didn't see the ending specifically because it did defy classic narrative. I have never read the book but Llewellyn was the protagonist in the film and one expects to see the climactic moments of his journey.

But with more time to digest it, I came to really respect the choices Coen Brothers made in defying expectations.

Does anyone have good thoughts on what I can say to detractors on why leaving this scene out makes the movie altogether better?

Simple. Filmmaking and story telling can only evolve when artists take risks like this in defying standard narrative form and creating a new style of narrative. It won't always work but you have to respect the attempt. Because without it, we'd all be stuck with the latest Adam Sandler movie or The Mummy 4 or other odious crap like that.
posted by cjets at 12:12 PM on August 14, 2008

And to deny that Llewellyn is a hero - that is, the protagonist whom the author takes in hand to show confronting the dark force - seems a bit silly to me.

Let's just say we have a difference opinion on what the word hero means. I have no problem with that. I find it strange that you find the difference of opinion silly, however.

But it's just as ridiculous to say that he's just "a regular guy who gets caught up in the mess."

“Moss is sort of a regular person who's caught up in extraordinary circumstances and has one unreflective moment where he decides to appropriate a bunch of money that isn't his,” explains Ethan Coen. “He then spends the rest of the movie trying to avoid the consequences. So he's very much the action center of the movie.”

I won't say you're wrong, because we obviously watched two different movies, and that's fine. But I'm comfortable with my previous comments. It would be nice if you could give your opinions without calling others ridiculous.
posted by justgary at 3:03 PM on August 14, 2008

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