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In a Coen Brothers Classic, A Mythic Texas Standoff

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

In the Coen brothers' great "No Country for Old Men," that extraordinary confrontation at the end -- you remember it, too, I'm sure -- Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), the psycho hit man on the trail of Llewelyn Moss, has tracked his wife Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) to her mother's house. He faces her, pulls a coin and begins that profoundly insightful soliloquy on the law of fate. We've seen it before. We know that he'll flip the coin; heads she lives, tails she dies. The coin is airborne.

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From the closet, Tommy Lee Jones's Sheriff Ed Tom Bell steps out. Chigurh hears him; we see the calculation in his shrewd eyes and knowing that the other man won't count on his speed, he turns, raising his really cool sawed-off semi-auto 12-gauge.

Oh, he's fast all right. But this is Texas, son, and a sheriff like Ed Tom don't carry a .45 'lessen he knows how to use it.


Two .45s in the left ventricle. Silence. Then a kind of click, as the flipped coin hits the floor. Chigurh smiles, then blood gushes from his nose and mouth, and he hits the floor hard. We watch as the satiny pool of blood bubbles across the wood, until it surrounds the coin. Tails.

Hmmmm. Wait a minute. You're telling me it never happened? But I say: Isn't it pretty to think so?

-- Stephen Hunter

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