A Spoon Full of Chigurh Helps The Medicine Go Down: A No Country For Old Men Film Analysis


Kaden Jones, Staff Writer

No Country for Old Men, is a film created by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (The Coen Brothers) in 2007. The film is adapted from the novel No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.Throughout film and television history, we have encountered many great villains; however, Anton Chigurh is particularly infamous. Not only does Anton Chigurh possess a killer instinct, elite intellect, domineering presence, and fashion sense that make him such a great character, but he also serves as a symbol within the film. I want to peel back the layers and put them under a microscope, to understand the complexities of our villain, Anton Chigurh, and the vital role he plays in the significance of this film.

I want to first know and understand who Anton Chigurh is. That is a rather broad statement, though it is precisely what I am getting at. The characterization of Anton Chigurh is embedded in ambiguity. When we first see Chigurh, he gets arrested by a deputy. From this first interaction, we are led to think Chigurh is a regular criminal. Following that scene, we see him at the police station strangling the deputy. We have now unlocked a new character trait, Chigurh is also a killer. We continue on this journey of who he is, just peeling back layer after layer. 

For instance, in his interaction with the Gas Station Proprietor, we will refer to him as ‘Friendo,’ I thought he was a bit of an outcast, but he seems to be in control in all his interactions with other characters. When Anton Chigurh was talking with ‘Friendo,’ he later played a coin toss game with him. This moment told us a lot about Chigurh’s way of thinking, and how he sees the world and himself. In talking about the shop closing Anton Chigurh says pitifully and aggravated, “You don’t know what you’re talking about do you?” The tone used suggests he is fed up with talking to Friendo. Chigurh pities him and sees himself as more distinguished. Further, into their conversation, Friendo says if Chigurh wants to put it that way, he can, regarding his marrying into the gas business. Chigurh replies, “I don’t have some way to put it. That’s the way it is.” This speaks to what happens next. This statement Chigurh is making lets us know he believes in the randomness of life. This randomness promotes the ideology of ambiguity and choice. This results in Chigurh pulling out his coin to randomly choose whether he will allow this man to live, exemplifying the randomness of life. Luckily, “Friendo” chooses heads and lives. Chigurh has a new kind of respect for the man, as though since the coin chose him to live, he must be worthy. This scene gives us a masterclass of who Chigurh is. 

Despite Anton Chigurh’s overt ambiguity, he is an extremely methodical man. We see this specifically in the scene where he interrogates the women in the trailer park for the location of Llewellyn. When questioning the desk lady, he first speaks to her in a casual tone. When that initial tone does not work, he reverts to a more threatening tone. When Chigurh is once more denied by the desk lady, he turns to a more friendly tone. The woman stands her ground and does not deviate from her rules. Chigurh still holds a moral code despite being a cold-hearted killer. Anton Chigurh believes his purpose is to rid the Earth of the lesser. Chigurh will only kill if the victim is in his way or if they show themselves to be lesser, he leaves it in the hands of fate.   

We do not know what to think about Chigurh, and we never do. However,  what can I gather from what I can physically see to further understand Anton Chigurh? Well, Chigurh has a killer fashion sense. The Canadian tuxedo paired with the alligator cowboy boots was a perfect representation of his character. Upon watching Euphoria by Sam Levinson I began to pick up on the choices the makeup artist, wardrobe stylist, and hair stylist decided to make. These elements spoke to me and gave me a window into who the characters are. 

The Canadian tuxedo alone perpetuates the idea of his ‘otherworldly-ness’ That he is not of America, just like his name. He is of the period regarding fashion choices, to say the least. The extremely pointed collar and buckle belt tell us Chigurh has been keeping up with the times. He is still human; he is still some version of sane. Chigurh’s boots are shaped very dangerously, their slanted disfigured heel and extreme point push forth his savagery. The boots’ material stood out to me as well. The boot was made from alligator skin, a ferocious and ambiguous beast. Think about how an alligator kills; they wade under the water, lift themselves just enough to see their target, get close, and attack.   

No outfit is finished without its accessories. In Anton Chigurh’s case, his accessories are his air-powered captive bolt stunner (used for killing cattle), a sound-suppressed Remington 11-87 semi-automatic shotgun, a pistol, and a TEC-9. These accessories are not for show…but for showing his victims to the gates of hell. It is imperative to realize these weapons’ capabilities and the reasoning behind their uses. All of Chigurh’s weapons are silenced, leaving almost no trace. His bolt stunner gets it done quickly and cleanly. At far ranges, he has his Remington shotgun and pistol. The lethal accessories further instill his ambiguity as well as his genius. The bolt stunner is untraceable, like the origin of his name, the silencer on his firearms that allows him to kill in silence. These all play into Anton Chigurh’s ambiguity. 

Chigurh has a thing about him; that is, again, a very ambiguous statement. I mean to say he is a persistent man, he is relentless, and he will always do what needs to be done. “I create a distraction by blowing up a car. So, I can steal medical supplies. Or, I could sit here and bleed out?”, Chigurh would probably have a more chilling way of saying that. When Chigurh attempts to kill Llewelyn Moss, Chigurh does not stop until he has a shootout in the middle of the street. He will always follow through, almost like a robot, a machine with no “STOP” button, like a killing machine. This is reinforced in the strangling scene at the beginning of the film. As Chigurh strangles the deputy you can hear machinery, which I believe is a train passing by. The camera cuts to a full shot and zooms in on Chigurh’s hands and face. His eyes are locked on the ceiling, his face is revved up as his handcuffs strangle the deputy, and he kills with no interruption whatsoever. This lets us, the viewers, know what kind of killer Chigurh is. Even the black scuff marks his boots make on the floor perpetuate the idea of a malfunctioning robot, a killer robot. 

These elements that make up the greatness that is Anton Chigurh are not the only things that make him a phenomenal antagonist. Chigurh represents the entire message of the film, No Country for Old Men. In an interview, Joel Coen makes the remark that No Country for Old Men is about a character (Sheriff Bell) confronting a very arbitrary and violent world. Sheriff Bell, in the opening monologue, makes mention of the new form of violence. “The crime you see now, it’s even hard to take its measure,” he says. In the opening monologue, he also says how he does not understand this “new violence” or why it is happening. This immediately tells us Bell’s outlook on the violence and crime in the world he lives in. He misses simpler times and feels overwhelmed and outmatched by the crime of today. This is what Chigurh represents! The threat that Bell is after is unknown, untraceable, and ambiguous…just like Chigurh. I note that Chigurh’s fashion is of the time, Chigurh is with the times, Chigurh is of today, unlike Sheriff Bell. Chigurh is the foil character to Sherriff Bell, Chigurh is philosophically and literally what Bell is fighting against. This ideology is not some deeply layered symbolism that is difficult to uncover, but it is simple and right in front of us to be aware of what is being said. The message, meaning, and point of this film are not ambiguous. Bell is the old man in this “new age” country, and this country is no place for old men. Case and point.