The changing of settings in Westerns
No Country for Old Men (2007) is considered a neo-noir western. It is film filled with dark and haunted characters. The plot is simple- a man stumbles upon a large amount of cash in a drug deal gone wrong. A hit man discovers the man at the scene and this creates a hunt in which another hit man and a sheriff become involved. The movie becomes an exploration of character as the men hunt one another.
The significance of this movie lies not so much in the plot or in the character development, but rather in the development of the movie as a western. If any film exemplifies the western of the future it would be No Country for Old Men. The movie is complete with a classic western hero (Tommy Lee Jones) and an arch villain (Javier Bardem). Both men’s characters are dark in their own way. Each of them has demons and they are driven by these forces. Each character is a plot unto himself and an equivocation of morality, good, evil, and fate. While the character archetypes are static with good or evil, they nuanced with the past. For instance, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones) is a classic hero but he is haunted by his own past in which he had to send a teenager to the electric chair. It is these demons that make the character depth and when one watches the movie he or she is forced to contend with the same demons and understand these characters.
The movie also shows how the setting of the western continues to change. The characters are clearly western but the setting is updated to be modern. The contemporary western will no doubt continue to expand into settings such as cities and larger communities. Perhaps No Country for Old Men shows that the western is even more flexible of a genre than merely saloons and the old west.