Phobia Philms: No Country for Old Men

In “Phobia Philms,” I plan on reviewing and recommending scary movies based on real phobias, of which there is no shortage of, specifically what makes them scary and how they represent our anxieties.

Previous film: Take Shelter


Chronophobia – fear of the future

Wow, I haven’t written one of these since September. I never meant for that to happen, but personal life got in the way and my motivation to even write felt relatively sapped this fall. But ya now, I got this new year, no fear, kind of feeling going so I’m going to ride it a bit. Seems appropriate for the fear of the future article.

No Country for Old Men is not your typical horror movie. In fact, most would say that it isn’t a horror movie at all, and those people are definitely not wrong. It is, however, one of the movies I have been the most scared of. I’m talking real scared, not ugly guy in an ugly mask jumped from around a corner with a chainsaw surprised. I mean, “Oh my God ! What the hell is going to happen next? I can’t even….” It is the reason that my explanation at the top in italics uses the word scary instead of horror.

It was directed by my all time favorite directors, the Coen Brothers, and it won 2008 Best Picture Oscar, a rare Oscar choice that I agree with 100%. It stars Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss, a simple man whose simple life gets turned upside down when he comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. He takes the money they were fighting over for himself and ends up on the radar of some very dangerous people.

The most dangerous is Anton Chigurh, as played by Javier Bardem. He is like the shark from Jaws in human form. He quietly and swiftly adds a little chaos to the world under the disguise of order. He does so with a flip of a coin. He lets fate literally intervene and make the decision for him. In one of the scariest scenes in all of cinema, Chigurh, in the most off-putting way possible, convinces a gas station attendant to “call it.” The attendant didn’t explicitly know but seemed to understand that his life may have been on the line, and Chigurh actually believes that had the attendant meant to be dead, he would have lost the coin toss. However, Chigurh is a bad avatar for a fear of the future. He doesn’t fear it, he surrenders to it. The gas station attendant would work, but he isn’t really our hero. Llewelyn Moss isn’t even out hero.

Our hero is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones. He is Moss’ local sheriff, and he is putting the pieces together, hot on the trail of both Chirgurh and Moss. This might very well be Jones’ finest role. He is quiet and meditative and wryly funny throughout the whole movie, and if you thought he felt like he was sleepwalking throughout the whole thing, I think you should give it a re-watch now knowing what he says at the end of the movie.

He tells his wife about two dreams he had the night before, both included his late father. Sheriff Bell has outlived his father by 20 years so he remembers him ironically as a younger man. That has been echoing the whole movie. Chirgurh represents everything in the world that is new, for better or worse. It isn’t Bell’s world anymore. Every person he speaks to is a reminder that his is the old man in the title that has no country left for him. Where is a man to go when he has no country? All that’s left is death.