AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
No Country for Old Men
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
Release Date:   21 Nov 2007
Duration (in mins):  122
Print this page
Display Movie Detail


Cast: Tommy Lee Jones  (Ed Tom Bell)
  Javier Bardem  (Anton Chigurh)
  Josh Brolin  (Llewelyn Moss)
 

Summary: In 1980, in west Texas, Anton Chigurh strangles the young deputy who arrested him. Using the authority provided by the deputy’s police car that he steals, Chigurh stops a man in a Ford and shoots him in the forehead with a stun gun attached by hose to a compressed air tank. Later, Chigurh decides by the flip of a coin whether or not to kill a proprietor of a gas station who has unintentionally annoyed him. In the Texas wilderness, Vietnam veteran Llewelyn Moss is hunting antelope when he discovers an area strewn with many corpses, marking the site of a drug deal that culminated in a shootout. Leaving behind a large quantity of heroin stashed in the back of the trunk, Llewelyn steals a suitcase filled with two million dollars, but feels unable to help the only survivor, who is critically wounded. However, during the night, in the trailer home he shares with his wife Carla Jean, guilt prompts Llewelyn to return to the site with a jug of water for the suffering man. There, he must run for his life from armed thugs associated with one of the parties in the failed drug exchange who have come to retrieve the goods. He barely escapes, but realizes afterward that he still can be found by the license plates on his truck, which he was forced to abandon. To ensure their safety, Llewelyn sends Carla Jean to her mother’s house and then takes a room at the Regal Motel in a different town. Later, at the site of the shootout, Chigurh meets with two Mexican “businessmen” who represent another party in the drug deal, in order to recover the money and heroin. Upon seeing Llewelyn’s truck, which is now lacking license plates, Chigurh pries off the metal tag containing the vehicle’s identification number. He also finds a transponder that can be used to locate the suitcase of money. Then, without warning, Chigurh shoots each man in the head at close range. When the Ford is reported on fire at the side of the road, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, the descendant of several generations of lawmen, investigates the owner’s murder by searching the wild country on horseback, aided by his deputy Wendell. When they discover the site of the multiple shootings, Ed recognizes the truck as Llewelyn’s and guesses that the man has underestimated the danger he is in. Having used the truck’s VIN to trace Llewelyn’s residence, Chigurh shoots out the lock on the now-vacated trailer with his airgun and steals a telephone bill that was delivered that day through the mail slot. Shortly after, Ed and Wendell also arrive at the trailer, but Chigurh has left and is calling numbers on the bill from a payphone in an attempt to locate Llewelyn. Meanwhile, Llewelyn hides the suitcase in the heater ductwork of his motel room and leaves to buy supplies, but upon returning, senses danger and rents a second motel room that shares ductwork with the first. Chigurh has intuitively followed Llewelyn and when he drives past the Regal, the transponder beeps, alerting him that the suitcase of money is nearby. Llewelyn, using a makeshift pole to hook the suitcase, slides it to the vent in his room and retrieves the money. The tracking device leads Chigurh to a nearby room, where three Mexican drug dealers are staying. Without further thought, Chigurh shoots the three men dead. Then, while looking for the money, he opens the vent and sees scratches made by the suitcase when it slid, but by then, Llewelyn has hitched a ride out of town. As Chigurh’s indiscriminate killing has become a concern for a businessman behind the drug deals, Carson Wells, a cocky Vietnam veteran turned hit man, is hired to stop him. When the businessman suggests that Chigurh is a psychopath, Carson states that Chigurh lives by certain “principles.” After taking a hotel room in a different town, Llewelyn discovers the tracking device hidden in a stack of bills in the suitcase and so is prepared when, minutes later, Chigurh finds him and shoots down the door. A gunfight ensues in which Chigurh and Llewelyn are wounded and innocent people killed, but Llewelyn manages to escape toward Mexico. Near the border guard station located on a bridge over the Rio Grande, Llewelyn pitches the suitcase into foliage on the river bank below and then disguises himself as a drunk, using a coat he buys from young tourists to cover his bleeding wounds. In Mexico, Llewelyn passes out and is taken to a hospital by strolling musicians, and afterward awakens to find Carson at his bedside. Wanting the money returned to his employer, Carson warns that Chigurh will kill both Llewelyn and Carla Jean, but Llewelyn stubbornly insists that he can cut a deal with the killer. Unable to convince Llewelyn that Chigurh does not negotiate, Carson informs him that he will be at the hotel across the street. Elsewhere, Chigurh sets fire to a parked car to provide distraction while he robs a pharmacy for needed medical supplies. In a hotel room, he cleans his wounds, picks bullets out of his body and injects himself with drugs. Although he has followed the trail of death from a distance, Ed has been unable to intervene and worries about both Mosses. After locating Carla Jean, Ed warns her that Llewelyn is involved with dangerous people, but she remains reticent, as she is unaware of Llewelyn’s activities and feels she must protect him from the law. Carson, after discovering where the money is hidden, returns to the hotel to find Chigurh waiting. Carson tries to negotiate for his life by offering Chigurh the money, but Chigurh says that Llewelyn will deliver the money to him. When the phone rings, Chigurh kills Carson, then answers, knowing that the caller is Llewelyn. Chigurh tells Llewelyn that if he brings the money, he will still kill him, but will spare Carla Jean; however, Llewelyn refuses the offer and hangs up. Intent on returning to the United States immediately, Llewelyn wears his hospital gown to the border, where the guard, a fellow veteran who is suspicious at first, relents when Llewelyn recites his dates of military service and arranges for Llewelyn to be taken to a store to buy clothes. Afterward, Llewelyn calls Carla Jean and tells her to meet him at a motel in El Paso. Chigurh, meanwhile, bursts into a high-rise office to murder the businessman who hired Carson and, later, on the road, flags down and kills a chicken farmer for his truck. On her way to El Paso, Carla Jean proceeds to the bus station, where her mother, a whining woman who disapproves of Llewelyn, is charmed by a polite and well-dressed Mexican and reveals to him their plans, unaware that the man works for the drug dealers searching for Llewelyn. Before boarding the bus, Carla Jean decides to trust Ed and calls to tell him about the rendezvous in El Paso. However, by the time Ed gets to the motel, Llewelyn and several innocent people have been gunned down and consequently, when Carla Jean arrives, she is met only by Ed. Shocked by the increasing violence in their respective counties, Ed and the local sheriff commiserate at a diner that evening, agreeing that bad things follow when politeness and courtesies are abandoned, and pronouncing drugs and money as the source of most problems. A casual comment by the El Paso sheriff prompts Ed to return that night alone to the crime scene, where he correctly senses that Chigurh is hiding, but chooses not to investigate further and thus remains alive. Much later, dogged by a feeling of ineffectiveness, Ed plans to retire and visits Ellis, a paraplegic who was injured while serving as deputy to Ed’s grandfather. Ellis tells him a story about his uncle Max, another lawman who, in 1909, was shot in front of his house by a gang of outlaws who stayed to watch him die. Ellis advises Ed that the country is hard on its people and that no one can stop what is coming. Months later, Carla Jean returns from the funeral of her mother, who died from cancer, unsurprised to find Chigurh waiting for her. Although he knows she does not have the money, he feels obligated on principle to kill her, because Llewelyn refused his offer to save her by delivering the money. Giving Carla Jean one last chance, he flips a coin and asks her to “call” it, but she refuses to play his game, ensuring certain death. Shortly, after leaving her house, he carefully wipes his feet and then drives away, but at an intersection, he is in a car collision that kills the other driver. With a broken bone sticking out of his arm, Chigurh buys the shirt off the back of an adolescent who witnessed the accident, which he then fashions into a sling and walks away. In retirement, Ed feels restless and one morning at breakfast relates two dreams about his now-deceased father to his wife Loretta. In the second dream, Ed is on horseback in a snowy pass, when his father rides on ahead of him. Ed says he knew that his father would make a fire and be waiting. Then, Ed says, he woke up. 

Distribution Company: Miramax Film Corp.
Paramount Vantage
Production Company: Scott Rudin Productions
Mike Zoss Productions
Director: Joel Coen (Dir)
  Ethan Coen (Dir)
  Jery Hewitt (2d unit dir)
  Betsy Magruder (1st asst dir)
  Donald Murphy (1st asst dir, 2d unit)
  Bac DeLorme (2d asst dir)
  Pete Dress (2d asst dir, 2d unit)
  Jai James (2d 2d asst dir)
  Taylor Phillips (2d 2d asst dir, 2d unit)
Producer: Scott Rudin (Prod)
  Ethan Coen (Prod)
  Joel Coen (Prod)
  Robert Graf (Exec prod)
  Mark Roybal (Exec prod)
  David Diliberto (Assoc prod)
Writer: Joel Coen (Wrt for the scr by)
  Ethan Coen (Wrt for the scr by)

Subject Major: Chases
  Drug dealers
  Hired killers
  Mexican-American border region
  Multiple murderers
  Psychopaths
  Robbery
  Sheriffs
  Smuggling
  Wives
 
Subject Minor: Automobile accidents
  Death and dying
  Deputies
  Dogs
  Dreams
  Drugstores
  Gas station attendants
  Heroin
  Hospitals
  Impersonation and imposture
  Investigations
  Mexicans
  Motels
  Mothers and daughters
  Mothers-in-law
  Paraplegics
  Retirement
  Storekeepers
  Texas
  Trailers
  United States--History--20th century
  Vietnam War veterans
  Wounds and injuries

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
Advanced Search
AFI Membership

© 2014 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.