Throughout the film, the main characters grapple with their conflicts, but all seem to be connected, often overlapping directly in dialogue or in thoughts and actions. In the outset of the film, Anton and Llewelyn, despite being the protagonist and antagonist, are immediately connected through editing when Anton tells a police officer to “Hold still please” before killing him, transitioning into Moss repeating the same phrase before killing an animal with his sniper. Moss demonstrates actions of greed and impatience, giving in to the temptation of the briefcase filled with money, while Chigurh inhabits a jaded philosophy of ‘fate’, decided by a coin toss to decide who lives and dies. They also both become heavily wounded over the course of the film, but do not seem to be affected much at all by the brutality of physical violence. Lastly, none of these characters are morally good people, only they differ in the level of immorality they exhibit. Although Moss would never deliberately kill without remorse like Chigurh (he comes back to give a man water after feeling guilty), he still steals the money and a pistol and loses his family in the process.
Their traits, values, and actions are often hypocritical and never definitive. Observing Chigurh, for example, his philosophy that a coin flip represents fate is flawed and becomes exposed, leading to his demise as a character. Toward the end of the movie, when Carla Moss is told to choose between the two faces, she refuses, forcing onto Chigurh a moral challenge. Since she will not choose a side, his idea of fate is entirely gone. As an antagonist, this moment is where his philosophy, and therefore he himself, finally becomes defeated.
Contrarily, Moss personally does not seem to possess as rigid a philosophy. He feels like more of a character who lives by quick decision-making, but also a refusal to let up with a decision. Despite all of the pain and bloodshed, he refuses to give up the money he stole, eventually leading to his own death as well.
Neither of the two main characters holds any moral standards, and Tom Bell, the only one who does, gives up entirely in his attempt to stop the killing from happening.
The violence in the film is intense, disturbing, and hyper-realistic. Because of this realism, such as how the blood splatters or an arm graphically hangs on by the tendons, the Coen Brothers seem to be using this gore as a device to further a theme of nihilism in the movie, rather than as a stylistic decision to be entertaining and fun like a Tarantino movie.
The scenes which stick out the most are the ones dealing with an ‘aftermath’. The bone sticking out of Chigurh’s leg, the rotting corpses of the dogs, the way the blood spews out of Moss’ stomach after getting hit with the doorknob, all portray the world grimly, without any melodrama or hope. The lack of emotion in the characters when they try to treat their own wounds, get shot with a bullet, or walk over a dead dog makes it feel scarily normal like death is just stepped over like a rain puddle. Even in the funeral, there are no shots of a casket being lowered or a group of people crying; the movie decides to skip out on the drama of death and cut only to Carla Jean’s reaction to it.
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