No Country for Old Men is the Coen Brothers’ polarising take on a Western, with the running question being, what happened to the money at the end?
No Country for Old Men is the 2007 Coen Brothers take on the Western film genre. It is the film adaptation of the novel by acclaimed American author, Cormac McCarthy, which was published in 2005, two years before the release of the film.
IMDb details the premise of the film as, “Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande.” However, ever since its release, it is the ending that has polarised film aficionados.
Why is the ending of No Country for Old Men polarising?
No Country for Old Men is the closest that the Coen Brothers have come to making a Western-themed film throughout their extensive catalogue of films. While the film follows tropes that are typically attributed with the film genre, it is the end where the brother completely subverts expectations by going against the grain of a Western.
No Country for Old Men denies the viewer the expected big showdown between the protagonist and antagonist that you would see in any Western. Instead, the perceived protagonist is assassinated off-screen, as the antagonist of the film also dies in the most anti-climactic build-up to the end of the film.
What happened to the money at the end of No Country for Old Men?
The first matter of contention in relation to No Country for Old Men is the open-ended conclusion on what happened to the money following the anti-climactic death of supposed protagonist Llewelyn Moss, played by Josh Brolin. Moss’ death in the film is disappointing, as it does not take place during the expected final showdown, as depicted in any Western. Instead, he dies offscreen after being shot to death by supposed assassins.
At the time, he hid the money in the air conditioning vent. While it is never confirmed that the antagonist, Anton Chigurh found the hidden money, the fact that he survived to appear during the end scenes have film aficionados believing that he did find the money.
Additionally, his search for Carla Jean, played by Kelly Macdonalds, was an indication that he delivered on his promise to find the money and give it back.
How did the film change the ending from the book?
One of the distinct changes between the book and film is over Moss’ wife, Carla Jean and her fate. In the book, she is killed after she takes up Anton Chigurh’s coin toss and gets it wrong. In the film, Carla Jean does not take the bait. A decision which happens to save her life.
Moreover, it seemingly put an end to the antagonist of the film, as Chigurh died from a car accident not long after leaving Carla Jean alive at home. Chirugh’s death was just another subversion as to how an antagonist traditionally dies in a Western.
Who is the real protagonist of No Country for Old Men?
Considering that the film is premised on Llewelyn Moss stealing the drug money, it is easy to pin him as the protagonist of the film. However, after more than one watch, it becomes clear that Sheriff Bell, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is the protagonist.
This is as the film ends with a retired Sheriff Bell waking up to explain the two dreams he had. Dreams which seemingly underpin the major themes the film looked to explore, which also explain the polarising ending.
Themes explored in No Country for Old Men
Each leading character on No Country for Old Men explored a theme within the film. Chigurh is seen as the personification of death. This is as despite not being responsible for Moss’ death, he is believed to have been in the room shortly thereafter. Moss is seen as the personification of humanity and its ambiguity, as he stole the drug money and attempted to act heroically throughout the rest of the film.
Lastly, Sheriff Bell is the exploration of how youth paints life in black and white. However, as we grow up, the blurry line between right and wrong becomes more evident. Hence the two dreams he has at the end of the film.
No Country for Old Men is the 2007 polarising Western-inspired film by the Coen Brothers. The film provided a compelling story inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s 2005 novel of the same name. Moreover, it played on the trope of the brothers continually subverting filmic expectations.
Hence, the film denies the viewer the expected epic showdown between protagonist and antagonist at the end of the film. Moreover, it leaves other details to the imagination, like whether or not Chigurh was able to redeem the money stolen by Moss and deliver it to his boss.