Acts of kindness are wasted in Cormac McCarthy World. Llewelyn Moss mighta got away with $2 million cash if his conscience hadnt dragged him back to the desert with water for a dying man.
Instead of helping the doomed stranger Moss becomes known by Mexican drug dealers as the man with their satchel. They chase and shoot him and sick a devil dog on his trail. Moss kills the dog but theres worse behind it. Anton Chigurh. Merciless hunter and deaths indifference personified.
The shock of reading Cormac McCarthys novel is how few words he needs. His minimalism. Whole scenes are mostly dialogue with very brief description. No commas. He gifts visceral specificity. Gun mechanics. Bits of fabric Moss and Chigurh dig from buckshot skin holes after shotgun dueling. Pain of recovery. Wire hangers stretched and clipped to stash the money satchel in one scene and blow up a car in another.
“If the rule you followed brought you to this, of what use was the rule?” Cormac McCarthy World also demands contemplation of death. Chigurh flips a coin. Says Call it. Every choice was a step here and the coin took a path here too and its heads or tails. You stand to win everything.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the book asks a prosecutor if he knows what Mammon is. The prosecutor doesnt. I looked it up. Mammon is wealth regarded as an evil influence or false object of worship and devotion. Money as the devil. Moss finds money and keeps it and death follows. McCarthys screenplay for The Counselor tells a similar story where the decision to chase dollars brings death. The Coen Brothers masterpiece Fargo is about money bringing death.
The novel arrived in 2005. The movie in 2007. It was obvious how well it would translate to screen. Probably just as obvious who should direct. The Coens spun Oscar gold. Every actor is perfect.
A predator hunts deluded prey across siltstone and through border towns. Fear the killer who understands fate. His inevitable deadish eyes. These storytellers understand the dramatic potential in a bag of cash.