No Country for Old Men revisits themes Ethan and Joel Coen have used in Blood Simple and Fargo. The novel's motifs of chance, free-will, and predestination are familiar territory for the Coens, who presented similar threads and tapestries of "fate [and] circumstance" in those earlier works. Numerous critics cited the importance of chance to both the novel and the film, focusing on Chigurh's fate-deciding coin flipping, but noted that the nature of the film medium made it difficult to include the "self-reflective qualities of McCarthy’s novel."
In The Village Voice, Scott Foundas writes that "Like McCarthy, the Coens are markedly less interested in who (if anyone) gets away with the loot than in the primal forces that urge the characters forward... In the end, everyone in No Country for Old Men is both hunter and hunted, members of some endangered species trying to forestall their extinction."
New York Times critic A.O. Scott points out that Chigurh, Moss, and Bell each "occupy the screen one at a time, almost never appearing in the frame together, even as their fates become ever more intimately entwined."
Variety critic Todd McCarthy describes Chigurh's modus operandi:
Death walks hand in hand with Chigurh wherever he goes, unless he decides otherwise ... if everything you've done in your life has led you to him, he may explain to his about-to-be victims, your time might just have come. 'You don't have to do this,' the innocent invariably insist to a man whose murderous code dictates otherwise. Occasionally, however, he will allow someone to decide his own fate by coin toss, notably in a tense early scene in an old filling station marbled with nervous humor...
ROLLING STONE...Not since Robert Altman merged with the short stories of Raymond Carver in Short Cuts have filmmakers and author fused with such devastating impact as the Coens and McCarthy. Good and evil are tackled with a rigorous fix on the complexity involved. Recent movies about Iraq have pushed hard to show the growing dehumanization infecting our world. No Country doesn't have to preach or wave a flag — it carries in its bones the virus of what we've become. The Coens squeeze us without mercy in a vise of tension and suspense, but only to force us to look into an abyss of our own making. (Peter Travers)
THE FLIP OF A COIN
a poem by thepoetryman
-We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind
in the history of the world - or to make it the last. __JFK
Hidden under our disguises,
Like the sunken path used to avoid our fate,
Are the hollow eyes of man staring at a heap of ruin.
When we cease to bow to arrogance,
When we feel the burnish of mortality
And at last grasp man’s relation
Only then can we see our true face
Standing agape in the midst of shame.
It is not nearly as valuable to discover “who” the thieves are
As it is to recognize “what” it is that smothers our sight.
© 2007 mrp/thepoetryman
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