In the opening scene of No Country For Old Men, Tommy Lee Jones gives a speech in which he meditates on the changes between current times and the past and expresses a great deal of nostalgia.
Jones’ speech is accompanied by a montage depicting a sunrise over the Texas Plains. The scene begins in total darkness, and gradually moves from predawn light to silhouettes until it reaches early afternoon. This progression is particularly interesting in that it’s juxtaposed with the progression of his speech; at the beginning, when the frame is nearly dark, he talks about the positives of the old times, and at the end, when it has become midday, he has moved on to discussing the senselessness of current events. The purpose of this seemingly ironic comparison, dark with the good old days and light with the gritty present, is to foreshadow the realization he makes at the end of the film when he talks to his grandfathers old injured deputy; the reason he believes the good old days were the good old days is because he is in the dark about what took place back then; in learning about cruel events, he becomes enlightened.
The film, and therefore Jones’ opening speech, takes place in 1980. Therefore he is living at the tail end of an era of intense nostalgia and cynicism, as observed by J. Hoberman in “Cine Paranoia: Conspiracies Unmasked.” The film is taking place at the era of the era of the Manson Killings, Watergate, and Vietnam War; The character of the film who could be considered the protagonist is a veteran of the war. Jones’ character is an old man, and would have grown up and gone through middle age during the morally just second world war and through the postwar boom that followed. This explains why he would have such an intense longing for the past.