No country for old men Explore the themes of evil and corruption with the flip of a coin.
The Coen brothers are one of the most impressive filmmakers for me because they can handle so many different tones and stories. Your impressive work spans decades, but the one I keep coming back to is No country for old men.
While it’s not the funniest movie, it has a dark sense of humor that goes well with its subject. “What did you lose the most on a coin toss?” Asks Anton Chigurh in a cult scene.
For those who saw the film, there is a certain scene that stands out from all the others. One that we will all return to. And it’s the coin toss in the gas station. For me, this scene distills perfectly what makes this movie a classic. It distills the film to the choices we make to bring us closer to life or death.
It’s a scene that embodies the two points of view within the story. The question arises: “Is the world going to an evil place where only God can save it, or was the world so bad from the beginning that nothing and no one can save it?”
These questions solidify the theme of the script about these life and death choices.
Check out the scene below and analyze it after the jump.
As the coin tossing scene occurs No country for old men Justify the topic
When you’re writing a movie, you need to think about the subject. The subject of your script relates to the subject at the heart of the story. This is not mentioned in the script, but it is the emotional or spiritual driving force behind the message of your film. If you don’t have a topic, your act will feel pointless.
Your script theme needs to carry both the weight of the story and a connection with the audience. That is a significant burden.
How does this apply to the scene in this film?
In the scene we see the ruthless murderer Anton Chigurh refueling at a gas station and entering to pay his bill. But when the owner chats a little, Chigurh pulls out a coin and decides to let fate decide whether or not to murder this man. He even finds out where he lives and when to come back to carry out this plan.
When the coin jumps in the air, we have to ask ourselves a question. Is Chigurh the embodiment of a bad world that gets worse without divine intervention, or is he part of an ever-bad world where nothing can save it? Because we know he’s dead when the coin lands and the gas station attendant calls it wrong. God / fate controls the coin, the man controls himself.
The theme of the film is about the choices we make. Do the paths we choose bring us closer to life or closer to death?
Coincidentally, the man gets the call correctly and Chigurh, following his code, is forced to move on. There is free will here. The man is free to call whatever he wants and Chigurh can handle that call as he sees fit.
But the scene is about much more than that. We learn the life story of this older man. We know why he has the gas station. And we know all of the decisions in his life that brought him to that random moment. We also see what Chigurh brought here. That feeling that none of this is inevitable. It’s all random. What is certain is that death will visit us all at least once.
They’re both there because of the choices they made. And while the man poses no danger to Chigurh, the path the man went by unwittingly choosing brought him closer to death. He escapes with his life, but only because he guessed right at that moment.
I love how well that sums up the film. Old age will bring us closer to death than anything else, but every decision we make has an inherent value. Even decisions that seem as small as a coin toss. This masterful scene sums up the film’s central thesis and shows us how the choices other characters make increase their chances of death in the future.
They might be lucky enough to find out alive or they might not.
Let us know what you think in the comments.