Anton Chigurh is a character in the novel No Country For Old Man by Cormac McCarthy, and played by Javier Bardem in the film adaptation by the Coen Brothers. A main character in the novel, detective Carson Wells, describes him a psychopathic killer who lacks conscience, remorse and compassion. The movie opens with Ed tom Bell, a sheriff, doing a monologue that takes us into the world of Chigurh. Chigurh is a tall man in his thirties with a slouch, dark black hair and a cold smile, who travels through the desolate southern landscape of America , killing people who come in his way with a cattle stun gun. Throughout the story he decides to take or spare a life by flipping a coin showing that he had his own personal code in life. The archetype of a force of evil is a recurring theme in the books of Cormac McCarthy and fortunately the concerns of the novelist and the brilliant filmmakers overlapped which resulted in this masterful piece of filmmaking. Scholars have argued about the unrealness of Chigurh, if he is a man or a ghost, a cipher or a force of nature. A reviewer for the Rolling Stone, blown away by the film and the villainy of the character, called Chigurh “ a monster for the ages”.
The film version of the novel, was nominated 109 times in multiple award competitions and bagged 109 awards in total. The sound suppressed Remington 11-87 that the killer in the movie uses was released a few years after the book was released, such was the impact of the story.
Chigurh may sound like an odd name but this is a shtick applied many times by McCarthy to depict characters who are as unknowable as their names. Once when McCarthy visited the sets of the film and was enquired about any symbolic significance of the name of the killer, McCarthy shrugged and replied, "I just thought it was a cool name." The words and towns and names of people in McCarthy’s world are never accidental, they are all part of well thought out architectural plan. The point is not what Chigurh means or sounds like, but the layers of meaning it adds to the scene. The story makes us realize that how pitiful ordinary people can be sometimes when caught in the face of injustice for no particular wrong actions by them.
The story is really how the various characters meet in the movie and the consequences when their interest’s conflict. Coen Brothers interest in this particular novel of Cormac McCarthy is not accidental. The brother duo has been for long been obsessed with the themes of fate, conscience, and circumstances that lead people to take drastic actions and they perfect their vision in this film after testing the waters in Fargo and Blood Simple. The story starts when Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin ), a poor man who lives in a trailer with his wife goes hunting, and accidentally comes across a drug deal gone wrong in the desert. All the people are dead and all the deserted vehicles circling the scene gives the chilling atmosphere. Even the dogs in the place were shot. Moss returns home taking the two million dollars which is understandable for a man given his poor living conditions. Moss returns at night to the scene with water only to be pursued by two men in a truck. Sensing a risk to his life and family, he sends his wife to her mother, and spends the night in a motel in Del Rio, hiding the case in the room’s air conditioning duct.
Fate intervenes against Moss as Chigurh is hired to recover the money. In the entirety of the movie Chigurh seems to follow his targets like a shadow, especially Moses, never hurrying , always outpacing Moses as if in his worst nightmare. Chigurh at first arrives Moss’s home and blows out his lock with his pistol. Investigating the break in, involves the county sheriff Ed Tom Bell into the plot. There was tracking device hidden in the stash of money, which unknown to Moss is used by Chigurh to tack him in his motel. Chigurh barges into the adjacent motel room where Mexican hitmen were already waiting to ambush Moss. He kills them and finds the briefcase hidden in the duct but Moss had already emptied the briefcase before that.
Our story now moves to the border town of Eagle Pass, where Moss escapes and discovers the tracking device, but Chigurh had already found him by then. A firefight eventually lead to the two men being injured and a civilian getting killed in the crossfire. Moss gradually understands that the obtaining the money was much easier than the job of keeping it with a maniac tailing him like his doom. Now caught in the chaos, Moss flees to Mexico, stashing the money in weeds along the Rio Grande. A group of musicians sees Chigurh stumbling through the streets wounded, and takes him to a hospital. Another hired to recover the money catches up to Moss and tries to persuade him to return the money for protection. Meanwhile Chigurh stitches his wounds stealing supplies from shops and find Wells in his hotel. Wells tries bargaining for his life but Chigurh remorselessly kills him. He then threatens to harm Moss’s family unless he returned the money.
Moss tries to fix things up and calls his wife Carla, arranging to meet her at a motel in El Paso. At the same time Detective Ed Bell consoles Carla and promises to help her and protect Moss. But Carla’s mother accidentally slips to a bunch of Mexican hitmen where they were meeting Moss. Bell reaches the motel in El Paso only to hear gunshots and a pickup truck speeding along the highway. Moss is found dead in the parking lot and Carla is devastated on her husband’s dead body. Chigurh finally recovers the money later from the motel.
Despaired by the piling number of dead bodies, and his inability as a member of law official to impose any order in the place, he goes to talk his uncle Ellis. He tells Ellis, who was an ex lawman, that he planned to retire because he feels helpless at the lawlessness of the place. Ellis consoles him that one individual could not have much control anyway as the region had always been rife with violence.
Few weeks later, Carla returns from her mother’s funeral to find Chigurh waiting in her room. He tells her that he planned to kill her as per his threat to Moss. He tells her his code of her choice to choose her life on the basis of a coin toss. But to his surprise, Carla refuses the offer telling her would be killer that he wouldn’t get to blame luck for taking a life. We watch the scene unfold as Chigurh leaves the room, checking his boots for blood. We follow him drive out of the neighborhood and get hurt in a car crash. He bribes the onlookers for their silence and escapes, once again disrupting the common wisdom of justice or that crime gets punished by the law or any divine intervention.
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