Faith in Film, No Country For Old Men
“The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, ‘O.K., I'll be part of this world.’” — Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, "No Country For Old Men."
Tonight we come to our final discussion and our final film, "No Country For Old Men." Of course this is a sometimes brutal movie that isn't easy to watch. It poses some hard questions and is ultimately a sad story.
It's set in America in 1980, and it's really a film that operates on two levels. On one level is the basic story, a crime story about a man who makes a discovery in the desert and it pulls him into something he never expected. That something includes being put in the crosshairs of a deadly assassin who won't quit in his pursuit.
But the other key player in the film is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who is sort of watching all these things unfold and trying to work out what it means for him and the world. And there's no easy answers there. That's the second part of this film — which is a larger subtextual exploration of the problem of sin and the problem of evil.
That's the part I want to focus on tonight, specifically the world view of Bell, which we get in glimpses. The novel, by Cormac McCarthy, beautifully laid out his point of view by having narration from Bell open each chapter. In a film, you have to be more subtle. Still, the opening narration — a portion of which I quoted above — sets the tone for the film and its exploration, and it's beautifully done.
Ultimately, Bell can't reconcile his ideas about how the world, and how people, ought to be with what he sees, and he feels lost. That is a certain perspective that can overtake us if we can't lean into our faith. That's something we'll be talking about tonight, because I think it's something that Christians and non-Christians alike struggle to come to grips with. How do we reconcile our belief in a loving and benevolent God with the suffering and evil we see in the world, especially when that evil sometimes prevails?
1. Did this film work for you, why or why not?
2. Moss is presented with a bag of money, but it also presents him with a choice. It’s an allegory for sin in our lives. His choice defines his fate, and the fate of his family. How do you deal with the concept of sin and temptation?
3. How do we reconcile the idea of a loving God with a broken world?
4. Sheriff Bell had a romanticized view of the past, something his father’s old deputy points out to him. But he can’t let that view of the past go, and it’s part of his undoing. Why is it important to put the past into context?