On some weird tangent, I started thinking about
No Country for Old Men again today. It's one of my favorite movies. I enjoy almost anything by Coen brothers and the acting in the movie was also fantastic. Like many good movies, and like a good Rorschach ink blot, the details of the plot are left open for interpolation by the viewer.
One key point of the plot left ambiguous is: where is Chigurh when Ed Tom enters the hotel room?. There are lots of theories out there. I've never seen my theory presented however, so I feel like I should write about it.
To me, the central theme of the move is Ed Tom's feeling that he is too old to continue fighting evil. He feels like crime is getting worse and he is no longer up to fighting it. He's "overmatched". Chigurh represents the modern evil. The meeting in the hotel room is the ultimate test of Ed Tom. Is he up to it?
To me, it seems clear that Chigurh is in the room. There is no good reason as to why he would not be there and that's why it was a popular topic of discussion after the movie's release. So, if he is there, why was there no confrontation?
The key clue is provided when the accountant asks Chigurh "Are you going to shoot me?". Chigurh responds
That depends. Do you see me?. There are numerous examples in the movie of evidence that Chigurh lives by some strict code of rules.
Ed Tom makes himself not see Chigurh. It's the only explanation that makes sense to me. Chigurh is standing behind the door but Ed Tom ignores him. He is not up to confronting the evil. He knows he will die and he is afraid. Chigurh follows his code and does not kill him.
The exact details of how the situation unfolds is not clear. I haven't watched the movie in a while but in my imagination, Ed Tom initially does not see Chigurh. When he does, Chigurh has got his gun pointed at him and there is no way Ed Tom could win the showdown. Instead Ed Tom lets Chigurh escape.
At the end of movie, the first dream is about this failure. Ed Tom's father entrusted him to uphold the law, protect innocent people, fight against evil. Ed Tom failed. The second dream is a forgiveness for this failing.