That would be the title of An Inconvenient Truth, if it had been produced by the Coen brothers — since young men (and women) are poised to suffer through the worst consequences of our immoral short-sightedness. (This is not such an odd pairing of movies, considering that No Country star Tommy Lee Jones was the Harvard roommate of Al Gore).
I do think No Country for Old Men deserves the Oscar this Sunday for best movie of the year because it is brilliantly constructed and acted — and delivers a powerful, coherent message to all of us from the Coen brothers and Cormac McCarthy.
Yet this is easily one of the most depressing and nihilistic major movies ever made. On the nihilistic/life-affirming story scale, where Hamlet is a 1 and It’s a Wonderful Life is a 10, No Country is easily a zero, and perhaps deserves negative numbers.
Normally I do not like movies with an unhappy ending, and this movie arguably has about the unhappiest ending a movie of its kind could possibly have — but the movie did seem to me a perfect metaphor for modern American politics and global warming.
[You can read the basic plotline here. Since Wikipedia is untroubled by spoilers, with nary a warning, why should I be? Note to people who haven't seen the movie 1) I'm assuming you have figured out that when a film is titled No Country for Old Men, you can be sure it does not end well, and 2) this post will not make much sense to you.]
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin, in a career-relaunching role) stumbles upon a drug-deal gone bad and walks away with a case containing $2 million (and a transmitter). Let’s say he represents humanity, taking and burning the fossil fuel resources of the world. He is more ingenious than he at first seems, like humanity, but over the course of the movie he slowly realizes just what a terrible mistake he has made, how he has set himself on a path toward destroying himself and everyone he loves.
Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in a chilling Oscar-nominated performance) is the relentless, consciousless killer who pursues him. Let’s say he represents both modern American politics and the consequences of global warming, both of which respect neither person nor place.
The local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones, another terrific performance), though jaded by the mystery of modern evil, seems to be as smart as Chigurh, and the only one who can save Moss. Now I bet you’re thinking I’m going to say he represents Al Gore [don't worry, I know you're really thinking Joe has gone off his meds -- again]. But no!
Al Gore is, in fact, symbolically represented by Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) a bounty hunter who shows up briefly in the middle of the movie. Like Gore, he explains to Moss/humanity that Chigurh/warming is relentless and will prove fatal if Moss/humanity stays on its current path. Like Gore, Wells offers M/h a way out. And like Gore (so far), M/h chooses to ignore Wells until it is too late. [Okay, Gore hasn't been killed heartlessly by warming, but he is (or was) metaphorically killed by modern American politics -- if you're still with me and not, say, filing papers to have me committed.]
So who — or what — does Sheriff Bell represent? Here is where things get interesting….