Tommy Lee Jones did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a SAG, and a BAFTA, for portraying Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men.
Jones's appearances after this point are somewhat sporadic as he's almost always third in the sequence as Moss makes his move, Chigurh makes his own, and then Bell is far too late just trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Jones strikes up a rather interesting tone with his performance actually. Although the gloomy state of the character is always quite evident in his performance Jones does not give a dour performance. Jones in his somewhat sporadic scenes does not portray Bell as being overwhelmed by the way of the world, rather Jones at first shows him as still very much just trying to comprehend what exactly is it all about. Within this though Jones surprising enough gives really kinda a comic performance actually. He plays into the role a bit as Bell is almost like an Andy Griffith type figure stuck in this dark story. This is found in just his general demeanor such as his chuckle when his wife tells him not to hurt anyone on the job, or just the way he deals with his perhaps over eager Barney Fife style deputy. This seems like something that should not work, considering how brutal some of the sequences can be, but Jones finds the exact tone for his scenes as he's quite funny yet still feels like an honest character.
Jones manages to artfully work in this humor within the spent sort of wisdom of old Bell, who can't seem to get upset at the sights he sees, but certainly is still affected by them. There's something so wry about the way Jones has Bell wax philosophically on the various things, while still seeming to be completely confused by them. What works so well about his work here is that it never seems that Bell is not taking the situation seriously because he just can't quite seem to grasp it himself. The best he can come up with is to tell Carla Jean that Llewelyn should come to him, and they'll talk things out in good old fashioned sort of way. Well nothing works out as such, and Bell completely fails to help Moss, or stop any of the bad men. The last act belongs most closely to Jones as Bell tries to deal with his failure. Jones's is very effective in the way he keeps his demeanor yet still, in an understated way fitting to Bell, conveys how this loss seems to be the final straw for Jones. Jones never portrays Bell as breaking down, but Jones portrays less detachment from the horror as Bell through his own involvement in it. Jones is moving by presenting Bell basically lost in this world that he can't seem to ever fully understand, and can't do anything to change it. The performance ends on a hanging note but as it should be, as Jones does not give closure to the man because Bell will never have any.