|No Country for Old Men (2007)
|Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt
|Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
|Joel Coen (screenplay) & Ethan Coen (screenplay) .
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is a good ol' Texas boy on an antelope hunt when he discovers the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad. Moss cautiously investigates the scene and finds the gun fight's lone survivor in a bullet riddled pickup begging for agua. "Ain't got no water," Moss curtly replies. What's more, being a humanitarian is not foremost on his mind. His real interest is in finding the money that was to be exchanged for the drugs. After some effort he tracks it down and collects.
The problem is that Moss isnít cold-hearted enough. He can't sleep and so returns with water in the dead of night only to find the subject of his mercy expired. The act of kindness does not go unpunished. Before he can leave, he's chased by gun-shooting hooligans in a 4wd truck. When he tumbles down a bank and escapes into a river, they send a pit bull swimming after him. Nearly exhausted, Moss decides to head for shore and play his trump card: a 45 automatic handgun he had earlier stuck in the back of his waistband. Miraculously, it's still there and even more miraculously, after some fumbling around to get it working, he manages to shoot and kill the dog with a single bullet as it leaps for his throat.
Pit bulls are generally not used by the police because when released to attack, even though trained to subdue perpetrators by clamping down on their arms, they will, likely as not, leap several feet off the ground (pretty much as depicted in the movie) and attempt to lock their jaws on the perpetrator's throat. An attacking pit bull is fearless, relentless, and nearly impervious to pain. It can easily maim or kill a man and nothing less than a fatal shot will stop one.
Okay, there's no law of physics that says a gun can't remain tucked in oneís waistband after running, falling, tumbling down a bank, and swimming in a river. Nor is there a law of physics that says an attacking pit bull can't be stopped at the last instance with a single shot. However, the whole sequence of events is unlikely. In a conflict between a well trained guard dog and a handgun wielding human the guard dog usually wins. Why? The fatal target on a guard dog is small and the dog can cover 50 ft (15.2 m) in about a second. It's difficult to hit something that small moving that fast.
Of course, with $2,000,000 of drug money missing someone associated with the criminal endeavor must track Moss down. The task falls to Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), quite possibly the best bad guy since Darth Vadoróa definite plus for the movie. It is, after all, the bad guys not the good guys that give a movie zest.
So, why is 12 gauge door-breaching relevant to the movie? Chigurh carries a 12 gauge shotgun with a silencer on it, in addition to the air tank and captive bolt pistol. Even if it did work, why tote around an annoyingly clumsy pneumatic device when the shotgun alone could do a Jim Dandy job of euthanizing victims as well as opening doors? Ok, so the door breaching round didnít exist in the 80s when the movie takes place, but so what. Itís not like Chigurh would have cared if he killed someone on the other side and if the first 12 gauge round failed to open the door; he could have followed it up with others.
By the way, the velocity of sound in air is about 340 m/s which means that a typical 12 gauge load will travel through the air fast enough to create a sonic boom almost as loud as the muzzle blast from the gunpowder. To make his silencer work properly, Chigurh would have need to use hand loaded shotgun shells with a reduced amount of gunpowder, thus lowering the velocity of the shot to subsonic levels, but he's a clever guy so we'll assume he did.
Chigurh eventually tracks down Moss with the aid of a transponder hidden in the money. Here the movie gets high marks because the transponder only works at relatively close range. On the other hand, the transponder might not have worked at all. The money was hidden in an air-conditioning systemís return duct, which conveniently connected to the room behind. Itís doubtful that a low powered transponder could have broadcast effectively though the metal ductwork. The grate on the duct did have louvers but even with completely open slits in it a metal plate can still block a radio signal. It depends partly on the wavelength and polarity of the signal and, unfortunately, we have no data on either for the transponder.
We would add that even in the Ď80s motel rooms typically had individual, not collective, air conditioning systems for a multitude of reasons. Individual units could be better adjusted to meet individual needs or turned off for cost reduction when the room was not occupied. Smokers could be isolated from non-smokers and in the event of a fire, deadly fumes and smoke would not be transmitted from room to room.
Although Chigurh fails to find Moss at the first motel, he successfully tracks him to a second. A gun battle ensues, Chigurh and Moss are both wounded, and Moss again escapes. The next morning, in order to treat his wounds, Chigurh must sneak into a pharmacy and obtain medical supplies, but first he needs a diversion. He opens the gas cap on a parked car and wets a piece of cloth with gasoline. He places a combustible cover over the gas tankís opening with the gasoline soaked rag in front of it and lights the rag on fire. Naturally the gas tank dutifully explodes at exactly the right moment and produces the desired distraction.
About the only way this explosion could happen is if the gas tank were essentially empty except for an explosive mixture of gasoline vapor and air. With even a modest amount of gasoline in the tank, the air/vapor mixture would be too rich to burn.
The movie gives us a stylized, metaphor filled, view of life from a very unusual angle that imbues it with considerable merit as a work of art. As for its physics, we can write off the captive bolt pistol business as one of the metaphors. The device is an effective prop that helps convey the twisted logic of the movieís villain. We can ignore the transmitter. It's part in the story is a wash between good and bad physics. We can rationalize the movies many improbabilities. So, weíre left with the exploding car. It could be worse, but we have to say itís certainly no scene for old physics teachers.