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No Country for Old Men

The whole story is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell's first dream.
The first dream he recounts for his wife at the end of the film goes something like this: "Anyway, first one I don't remember too well but it was about meeting [my father] in town somewhere, he's gonna give me some money. I think I lost it." This sounds eerily like the proposed plan that he had for meeting Llewelyn Moss at the motel in El Paso, Texas.

Further evidence comes from the chat Sheriff Bell has with his uncle about how his grandfather died — his grandfather was shot on his own front porch by a gang. This mirrors how Llewelyn Moss was found dead at the motel.

Sheriff Bell has a distant take on events throughout the film. He never once meets the protagonist or the antagonist. He is constantly several steps behind the action. All these serve to reinforce the notion that he's only viewing events, not actively participating in them.

  • That... makes a good bit of sense. Chigurh certainly is nightmare fuel.
    • Also, the entire film (and Sheriff Bell) has a weird dream-like detachment to it... This theory is good.
      • I really like this theory. The fact that Chigurh is a clear metaphor for the growing violence that Bell fears makes this perfect.

Anton Chigurh is a Terminator.
Why else would he be so superhumanly emotionless and implacable?
  • Chigurh feels pain and gets his arm broken at the end, it was clearly stated that Terminators can't feel pain. Chigurh is just a criminally insane nihilist who's incapable of feeling emotions.

Anton Chigurh is utterly batshit insane.
Okay, that's not much of a guess.

Anton Chigurh is a "Fight Club"-style alternate personality of Sheriff Bell
The two of them are never seen together on screen, nor are they shown performing simultaneous activities during the same time period. But there is at least one scene where Bell perfectly mirrors a scene performed earlier by Chigurh (in this case, sitting down in front of Moss' TV and drinking a glass of milk).

At the very end of the movie, Bell enters a cramped motel room. Chigurh appeared to be inside. Yet, after thoroughly searching the room, he somehow fails to encounter Chigurh (who has shown that he makes a point of killing everyone else who's crossed his path). At the end of the film, Chigurh makes off with the stolen loot, and Bell retires comfortably from his job.

  • Perhaps enforced by a scene when Carla Jean calls Sheriff Bell. For the first few sentences, Bell's voice is flat and emotionless, much like Chigurh's. Then he seems to remember who he's talking to and reverts to Bell's more animated kind of speech.
  • Also suggested by a bit of dark humor near the beginning of the film. Bell's wife tells him to come back safely and not get hurt, and he amicably agrees. But when she says "Don't hurt no one.", there is a noticeable pause before he capitulates "If you insist."

Anton Chigurh is Agent 47.
After the events of Blood Money, 47 is free to do whatever he wants with his life. Ultimately, though, being a Retired Badass simply isn't enough for him. He returns to a life of crime, this time sporting a bad wig and even fewer moral scruples than before.

He has the stealth, he has the abilities and, last but certainly not least, he has the massive silenced shotgun.

  • Made unlikely by the facts that the movie takes place in 1980, and 47 didn't finish his training around 1989, and the games take place in modern times.
    • Well, to solve this problem, we may have to enter the realm of complete lunacy. At the end of Blood Money, 47 is seen entering a building and asking to see what's in the back: the theory is that, in order to escape the attention of anyone that might be looking for him, 47 is visiting a business rumored to own a time machine (probably a renegade Time Agent). So, he escapes into the past with a new name and a new face- and after the massacre at the chapel, a new morality. Sound crazy?

The entire thing is the third dream of President George W. Bush.
The lead male protagonist of No Country For Old Men, as well as his girlfriend, play George & Barbara Bush, respectively, in the later film W ('Dub-Ya'). Obviously, this tortured narrative is the third, unseen nightmare of poor George - where businessmen are shot in their offices, poor menial workers are terrorised in their gas stations, and the elderly white lawmaker is powerless to do anything to stop one criminal from shooting another.

Anton Chigurh never existed, not even In-Universe.
As revealed in his final scene. "Anton Chigurh" is so much a dynamic presence - untouchable, untraceable - that it's hard to believe that he exists at all. Witnesses get to the crime scene only after he has 'struck'. He insists on killing anyone who would be able to testify to his existence. Clearly, the man is a Jack-The-Ripper-like scapegoat created to carry the blame for a series of similar but unconnected murders and robberies while exonerating the lawmakers of the American South-West of any fault. How could they be to blame? They say they know who the killer is, but just can't catch him.

Too bad the killer isn't a real person.

  • Then who killed all those people? What about all the people he chose not to kill (like those kids and the gas station owner)? They can attest to the fact that they saw a 6 foot lunatic who doesn't show emotions.

Anton Chigurh has a severe mental disorder/illness
This idea probably doesn't sound too radical. But to this troper, Chigurh seems less like the inhuman, mythical monster he's portrayed as, and more like a guy who's never been diagnosed with OCD. Notice that everything he does, he does with total precision- even the way he speaks. Before he kills, he slowly takes off his shoes, and then his socks. Unlike Moss, who casually dresses his wounds, Chigurh does a thorough job of addressing his own injuries. At one point he asks the farmer to "get those chickens out of the truck"- and then later he hoses it down. After he kills somebody, he makes sure that the blood doesn't touch his boots. And he does everything according to his inner code- it has to be done that way, there's no choice in the matter. When Carla Jean refuses to call the coin toss, he repeatedly insists that she does- as if it had to be done that way for him to be satisfied. A guy who pays extreme attention to detail would be a brilliant tracker/assassin.
  • Indeed, the boots was the first detail that implied this to myself. The ending scene where he gives the kid the money for his shirt (although the kid doesn't really care) shows that he requires a sense of balance for his world.
  • Alternatively (or additionally), he might have Asperger's Syndrome. Speaking as someone with AS, my face has a tendency to slip into that slack, emotionless expression when I'm focusing on other things. His expertise in very specialized skills (improvised weaponry, medicine...) might be a sign of an Aspergic profile as well.

Anton Chigurh is the Anthropomorphic Personification of Death itself.
"You can't stop what's coming."
  • Alternativly, he is an agent of death. Not necessarily in a literal way. Maybe he just believes himself to be an agent of death, and "knows" that even if his victim would escape him, or even kill him, death will find them in the end.
  • And he did knock four times on Llewelyn's door...
  • That's certainly how he views himself, Chigurh is a firm believer in fate and thinks free will doesn't exist. That's why he chose not to kill the gas station owner.

After the Ruinous Powers snatched the young Primarchs from the Emperor on Terra and scattered them across the Galaxy, one of the two that were never found again was Ed Tom. He had been launched back in time to twentieth-century Texas. There, he was found and adopted by a normal human, a la Superman. But the trauma of the journey stunted his growth, so he only became a man of normal stature rather than reaching the imposing size of a normal Primarch, and he aged as a normal man, as well.

His first dream (which he doesn't remember well) is of trying to find his father to get some money, which Ed Tom thinks he lost. The second is of his father leaving him alone in the cold to go ahead and start a fire.

The "father" that Ed Tom sees in both dreams, the man he knows as his father, found and adopted the Ed Tom when he found him as a baby, alone and abandoned, in the Texas desert. The dreams are not really about this man, however. They are about Ed Tom's true father, the God-Emperor of mankind.

The first dream is fragmentary and partially forgotten because Ed Tom was spirited away as an infant, and so had no knowledge of who or what he was, but his latent Psyker abilities have painted him an incomplete picture of this. He knows he has a greater destiny than to be a sheriff in rural Texas. The "money" that his father is going to give him is his rightful destiny as one of the sons of the Emperor and leader of a legion of Space Marines, defending Mankind and building the Imperium. He has the fundamental feeling that he has lost this, which he has, by virtue of being cast back in time and stripped of most of his power.

In the second dream, his father passes him by on a cold mountain pass without pausing to speak, in order to go ahead and light a fire in "all that cold and all that dark." This is about the God Emperor's mission to take the reigns of leadership over Mankind, in order to light a fire of inspiration and hope in the cold, dark distance of the far future. But because of the upset in time, Ed Tom can only stay behind and watch as he goes on ahead. Because Ed Tom was meant to be -and should be- immortal and able to simply take The Slow Path to join the Emperor and his Brother Primarchs in the Great Crusade, he has a moment of hope that whenever he gets there, his father will be waiting. But the same Psyker abilities that fill him in on the past break that hope by giving him the premonition of Horus' betrayal, and his own knowledge reminds him that he is cruelly mortal. And so he wakes up.

It is the knowledge that despite being made and nurtured by the hand of the Emperor himself and bred for the sole purpose of being an immortal, invincible guardian of mankind, he has by a whim of fate been consigned to live and die a mortal man, and that in the face of the infinite, universe-shattering threats the universe holds, he cannot even contend with the evils created by humanity itself that drives him to despair and a defeated retirement.

  • Warhammer 40,000 and No Country.....I swear TV tropes gets alittle more epic each day.

The entire film was Llewelyn Moss' self-delusion (or dream) about what he would have done rather than what he actually DID.
Think about it:Moss finds a bunch untraceable drug cash leftover from a shootout and later he RETURNS TO THE SCENE OF THE SHOOTOUT? To help somebody who was already likely dead? Instead of taking the logical course of action by hauling ass out of Texas and never coming back?

Given the fact that Chigurh is shown as having almost mystical levels of insight and is portrayed as being a super assassin and that Tom Bell also shown to far above average (for a rural county sheriff) as well,it's likely that they are solely creations of Moss' mind.

Moss actually took the money,abandoned his wife and his old life and is now running a fishing boat charter business in Tarpon Springs,Florida.

Chigurh will eventually be caught
The two boys at the end of the movie will probably slip up and tell someone, especially after the police come asking about their neighbor's death. The (meta) purpose of the car crash was to give the boys a better look at Chigurh, so the police would be able to identify him. Chigurh is pretty much helpless with only one good hand, as he couldn't even make a sling for himself. If he can't fix his broken arm, he can't kill people (at least not very well) or defend himself, and he'll be weakened enough to go to a hospital or the police catch up to him.
  • The movie poster does say "There are no clean getaways."

Llewelyn is illiterate.
Not really much of a WMG, but he does seem to have a hard time figuring out the very straightforward rate structure of the Del Rio motel, eventually just telling the clerk what he's looking for.

  • Llewelyn was a Vietnam War veteran, he have to know how to read to join the military.

Chigurh is an avatar of Judge Holden from Blood Meridian.
Chigurh is bad, but the Judge is worse.

Alternately Chigurh is the "Good" counterpart of Judge Holden from Blood Meridian.
As bad as Chigurh is, he has some form of moral code which he sticks to at all costs and refrains from engaging in what he sees as pointless cruelty and bloodshed (emphasis on what he sees as pointless, whereas the Judge has no such code, and his actions are far, far worse.

Chigurh is a corrupt, undercover DEA Agent.
At several times during the movie, it's mentioned that the DEA want to get in touch with Ed Tom Bell. Could this be Chigurh wanting to eliminate or otherwise inform Bell to prevent a possible arrest? At one point it is asked of Chigurh, "what kind of killer walks back into a closed crime scene?" Obviously, somebody with authorization. This could also explain how Chigurh never leaves behind evidence and his choice of an untraceable weapon. He knows forensics. His conflicts between his loyalty to the DEA, the Drug Cartel, and himself could also serve to inform why his moral code is so screwed up.

Chigurh is terrorism/Al Qaeda unleashed by the US's involvement in Iraq
The movie is a metaphor for the US's involvement in the Middle East/Iraq. We went there and got mixed up in a fight between the locals over a natural resource (oil/heroin money), which we took and in our foolishness unleashed Al Qaeda/Chigurh, which then visited terrible violence on us. Chigurh taking a pot shot at the bird on the bridge. Chigurh going into the office building and killing. WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE SEE THIS!

Chigurh injured his arm too badly and he won't be half the killer he once was
Symbolizing that even Chigurh is not free from cruel fate. A dramatic irony, where Chigurh's reflexes are slower and his movement painful, restricting his ability.

Anton Chigurh was a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.
He went by the name "Bushmaster," the deadliest, most feared snake in South America. He was expelled from the group when Bill found him too difficult to control.

Anton Chigurh doesn't actually want to kill
From his conversation with Carla Jean, it's evident that he doesn't think that his personal desires have any impact on whether or not he kills; he doesn't understand why his victims keep telling him "you don't have to do this." There's a fair chance that he dislikes what he does, but believes that he has to keep doing it anyway.

Anton Chigurh is Keyser Soze from The Usual Suspects
For those who haven't seen Usual Suspects, here be spoilers. Chigurh has a mythic, boogeyman persona to the point where no one is completely sure of what he looks like or even if he's real, just like Keyser. After dealing with his rivals in Hungary and the death of his family, he assumes the life of a hitman in the US while he laid low and built his empire. Notice the mind games and cold-blooded method in which he kills people, similar to Keyer's MO. In the flashback sequence in Usual Suspects, we don't see Keyer's face but we do see that he has long hair. Keyser got it cut a little once he left his homeland, although he wasn't sure of the fashions of the US, resulting in a horrible hairstyle. As he spent the 80's in America, his accent improved to the point where he could speak fluently with a standard American dialect by the time the mid-90's rolled around. As to why he doesn't look like Kevin Spacey, it's simple: Magic Plastic Surgery. In Usual Suspects, he was trying to kill one person who saw his face. How did he know what he looked like, he was his plastic surgeon.

Anton Chigurh won't kill civilians who show backbone.
This is of course excluding his target, officers of the law, and other combatants. The only civilian/uninvolved he didn't kill was the fat old landlady who wouldn't reveal Llewelyn's location. Consider the other people he killed: the dopey-eyed man he pulled over and stole his car, the friendly man with the chicken truck, the hotel clerk (off-screen). They were all friendly, polite, obedient, tractable. It's no coincidence that his favored weapon is a device primarily used to slaughter cattle.
  • It's not necessarily those that just stand up to him. The landlady clearly had her own code that she would not bend on. Given his obsessive adherence to his own code, he may have just respected her for having and sticking to her own.

Chigurh does have a conscience.
Which is at least partially why he set up such an elaborate moral "code" to begin with; as a way to justify and rationalize actions his conscience tells him are wrong, and shrug off any guilt he may feel deep down. On some level, Chigurh is adversely affected by his work as an assassin, though he lacks the emotional capacity to express it very strongly. This explains his mini-Villainous Breakdown when Carla Jean tells him, "The coin don't have no say,"; Chigurh can't stand to have his flimsy excuses be revealed for what they are, and must go to great lengths to deny the reality of what he does, or else the cognitive dissonance becomes unbearable.

Finally, keep in mind that The Unfettered does not necessarily lack empathy; what's more important is that they don't let their empathy hinder them in their goals, which, if he does have a conscience, Chigurh doesn't.

The drug deal turned shootout was caused by a double cross.
First of all, it is implied that the Matacumbe Petroleum Group is new to the drug trade. They put a transponder into the money, showing a lack of trust, the two managerials sent to recover the money are incompetent, the man who hires Wells is blustery and arrogant, and they hire Anton Chigurh, with whom they apparently have no experience. It seems likely that the Juarez Cartel saw an easy chance to take advantage of this Texan corporation, who obviously would have no legal recourse, by setting up the deal with the intention of killing their agents and stealing an easy $2.4 million. This is compounded by the fact that they recover their heroin shortly afterwards and yet they tell Matacumbe that it was stolen as well. Obviously they did not count on their own men getting killed during the double cross, or on a local resident stumbling across the money. The story, which takes place in 1980, manages to subtly weave in a background plotline about the corporate crime and violent drug cartels that will become prominent in The '80s.

Anton Chigurh never killed again.
This isn't necessarily based solely upon the extent of his broken arm (though it is highly unlikely he went to a hospital), but rather, relatingto his views and beliefs. Throughout the novel and film adaptation Chigurh believes and adheres to a bizarre system of beliefs and ethics and seems to regard himself as something of an agent of fate. Aside from a few snags in his hunt, he more or less comes across as damn near invincible, and he definitely regards himself as such. He's driven by an unseen force that motivates him to kill, and perhaps in his views, also protects him.

At the end, presumably after murdering Carla Jean for refusing his coin toss, he's in a violent car wreck. And he's visibly unnerved by it, granted one could chalk it up to shock and pain, but given his actions over the course of the story I don't entirely see why it would. Even a bullet hole in the leg didn't phase him like the crash did. In those moments he suddenly feels human and vulnerable. Like something changed, as though whatever drove him to kill had suddenly turned against him.


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