Woody Harrelson plays southern gentleman bounty hunter Carson Wells, a retired special forces Colonel, another ‘Nam vet who crosses Chigurh, and finds his forces aren’t special enough. Kelly Macdonald, once the Scottish schoolgirl seductress of Ewan MacGregor in Trainspotting, plays Moss’s trailer park wife with an affecting mixture of vulnerability and sassy compassion, with an accent that sounds like it has floated on the desert winds from Corpus Christie for all time.
The Coen brother’s direction is a master class in economy and dynamics. They keep up all the suspense and tension that the chase element of the narrative needs, while rejecting any of the usual clichés normally demanded by Hollywood. The enigmatic ending will infuriate many, as the dots remain defiantly un-joined; however if this is how you feel, the point of the film has been well and truly missed.
The Coens find time to let the camera linger on sweet wrappers unfurling, socks being changed, or cowboy boots just being, to keep the fans of their quirks busy with much to debate. There is probably a film studies thesis being written now about the use of reflection or numerology in this film. The film plays out devoid of musical distraction, the sound of silence punctuated by gravel crushed by boot, distant gunfire, or lonesome bells tolling. The dialogue, much of it directly from the novel, has a litany of quotable lines, and maintains the oblique strategy of real conversation, never descending into the archetypical narrative signposts that real blockbusters substitute for dialogue. It is this dialogue that takes this modern western, for all its fast paced action, and turns it into an elegiac meditation on life, death, and the regressive nature of progress.
"You can't stop what's comin'. It ain't all waitin' on you. That's vanity." So says Bell’s uncle Ellis as the story draws to a close. It is this theme that is at the heart of the film, as Chigurh’s personification of death stalks good men and bad, in a totally arbitrary manner (with Harrelson’s bounty hunter comparing Chigurh’s mortal ambition to the bubonic plague, one wonders if there isn’t a homage to Bergman’s Death in the Seventh Seal lurking within this movie).