Matchup of the Day: Monster vs. No Country for Old Men
It’s a Josh Brolin and Christina Ricci birthday celebration. Today’s matchup pairs two films about homicidal killers and the fickle finger of fate.
In Monster, Christina Ricci plays Selby, a lonely and insecure lesbian who meets Aileen (Charlize Theron, who won Best Actress for the role) at a bar. Aileen has spent most of her rough life as a prostitute, developing a jaundiced view of the world and men in particular. They find solace in each other and start a relationship. At first, Aileen continues working as a prostitute in order to have money to take Selby out on a date. That is, until a man brutally assaults her and she ends up killing him. Aileen attempts to find legitimate employment so she can still provide for Selby. Her past legal troubles and lack of work experience, as well as her unstable personality, make this impossible. She returns to prostitution, but this time as a means to murder men for their money.
There are a few scenes in Monster where the topic of choice vs. circumstances come up. Actually, the whole movie is about that. Aileen’s circumstances are very sad and disturbing. She doesn’t seem equipped to deal with the poor hand life has dealt her in any other way but violently. Her relationship with Selby is the only one approximating healthy human interaction she’s probably ever had. So, when she’s starts her killing spree to fund her hopes for domestic happiness, it’s hard not to root for her a little. Not everyone she murders deserves it, however, and any justification for her behavior eventually goes out the window. At the end of Monster, Aileen mockingly says “Everything happens for a reason” after she is sentenced to death for her crimes.
In No Country, the psychopathic hit man Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem, who won Best Supporting Actor) at times determines the fate of his victims by flipping a coin. Like Aileen, he kills as a means to an end. Unlike her, he experiences no moral quandary of any kind. There are two instances in the film where Chigurh’s victims point out that he doesn’t have to kill them, that he can choose not to. This also occurs in Monster when Aileen is about to shoot a man who is entirely innocent. She decides to kill him because he could potentially turn her in, even though this causes her great anguish. Chigurh does seem to make a distinction between those who are deserving of death (for his purposes) vs. those who were just unfortunate enough to cross his path. The latter is when he dispassionately allows the flip of a coin to decide their fate.
Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, who Chigurh most definitely intends to kill. Moss walks into the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad and finds a briefcase containing $2,ooo,ooo. Chigurh, who works for the drug cartel, sets out after Moss. Both Moss and Chigurh are confident that they will end up with the money. What occurs instead is that neither turn out to be as in control as they believe themselves to be. The notion that “Everything happens for a reason” doesn’t appear to be true in the film, as there is no resolution for anyone involved. The difference between Monster and No Country could be that Aileen was born into bad circumstances and made terrible choices as a result. Moss makes the bad choice of taking the money, which leads to terrible circumstances for him. Chigurh maybe just sees himself as removed from both choice and circumstances entirely.