“Hey, have you seen this movie? What did you think about THAT SCENE?!” We have all used that phrase at one point during our discussions of movies with the other person’s eyebrows raising, “Oh yea, THAT SCENE!” You go on to pick that memorable scene apart by listing what you loved or didn’t like, how it made you feel and the impression it left on you.
In this series, we will do just that. We will take a scene from a movie and discuss its impact on us. Some of these scenes may be frightening, weird, iconic, controversial, hilarious and everything in between. Let us know your impression of the scene and the impact it left on you the first time you watched it down below in the comments. Enjoy!
*Warning: May Contain Spoilers*
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Scene: The Coin Toss
“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.” Part of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell’s (Tommy Lee Jones) opening monologue to begin No Country For Old Men. The Sheriff meets something he doesn’t understand in the form of Anton Chigurh, played fantastically by Javier Bardem. Anton is a remorseless hitman and the main antagonist of the film. He is of a one-track mind and willingly to dispatch anyone that impedes his mission. Although he is emotionless and without pity, he is described as “a peculiar man. You could even say that he has principles. Principles that transcend money or drugs or anything like that.” As much of a monster as Chigurh is, he kills mainly to serve his purpose. His purpose throughout the film is to find the money from a drug deal gone wrong that was taken by a hunter who happened to stumble upon the scene. A deadly cat and mouse chase ensues where we learn about Chigurh’s principles.
From the first moment, we meet Anton Chigurh, we can see just how peculiar he is. His hair? WTF is that hair, right? Even for 1980, the year the movie is set, that hair is ridiculous. He carries with him a captive bolt stunner, for murder and other sorts of mayhem, which isn’t exactly conspicuous. He is cold and calculated and seemingly only kills to serve his purpose of completing his mission. However, he seems to like to spice things up from time to time by leaving someone’s life up to chance. This brings us to this week’s scene of unbearable tension.
While on his way to the drug deal gone wrong, Anton stops at a convenience store for a snack and gas. The scene starts off innocently enough with Chigurh asking the clerk how much he needs to pay and the good old Texas boy, as we do, asked a friendly small talk question to just pass the time. However, this simple attempt at small talk of asking, “Y’all getting any rain up your way?” would set something off inside of Chigurh for unknown reasons to the viewer. As he calmly eats his peanuts, Anton begins to grill the bumbling clerk who seems to be a bit deaf when he is thrown off by the reaction to his simple question. Something this innocent has probably done a thousand times may have just cost him more than he can afford. After some back and forth, with Chigurh getting more and more agitated, it’s almost as if he is simply having some pleasure while on his business trip. Maybe his line of work has become too monotonous and wants to change things up a bit. He flips a coin, places it on the counter with his fingers covering it and asks the clerk to call it. We all know what this means but the unassuming clerk is baffled.
No voices were raised, no punches or kicks are thrown, no weapons drawn, not one single drop of bloodshed but this is one of the most heart-pumping, tension filling, stomach-turning, somewhat comical scenes I have ever witnessed. You feel genuinely uneasy watching this because you just know how it is going to end for this poor old blue-collar Texan. No Country For Old Men is one of the best movies all-time with one of the best villains all time. On paper, this scene doesn’t seem all that special but the way it was acted and shot with no background noise in the light of day is just brilliant. It is around four and half minute scene of simple back and forth dialogue that was an instant classic in my book. Below will be the scene and the dialogue between the two. Reading the words and then watching the scene takes to a whole other level for me but whatever you do don’t put your lucky coin in your pocket!
Anton Chigurh: What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss.
Gas Station Proprietor: Sir?
Anton Chigurh: The most. You ever lost. On a coin toss.
Gas Station Proprietor: I don’t know. I couldn’t say.
[Chigurh flips a quarter from the change on the counter and covers it with his hand]
Anton Chigurh: Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Call it?
Anton Chigurh: Yes.
Gas Station Proprietor: For what?
Anton Chigurh: Just call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Well, we need to know what we’re calling it for here.
Anton Chigurh: You need to call it. I can’t call it for you. It wouldn’t be fair.
Gas Station Proprietor: I didn’t put nothin’ up.
Anton Chigurh: Yes, you did. You’ve been putting it up your whole life you just didn’t know it. You know what date is on this coin?
Gas Station Proprietor: No.
Anton Chigurh: 1958. It’s been traveling twenty-two years to get here. And now it’s here. And it’s either heads or tails. And you have to say. Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Look, I need to know what I stand to win.
Anton Chigurh: Everything.
Gas Station Proprietor: How’s that?
Anton Chigurh: You stand to win everything. Call it.
Gas Station Proprietor: Alright. Heads then.
[Chigurh removes his hand, revealing the coin is indeed heads]
Anton Chigurh: Well done.
[the gas station proprietor nervously takes the quarter with the small pile of change he’s apparently won while Chigurh starts out]
Anton Chigurh: Don’t put it in your pocket, sir. Don’t put it in your pocket. It’s your lucky quarter.
Gas Station Proprietor: Where do you want me to put it?
Anton Chigurh: Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it’ll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.