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No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men

Released: November 21, 2007

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Movie Review: No Country for Old Men (Collector\'s Edition Blu-ray)

by Dan Goldwasser
on April 5th, 2009
[4.5 / 5] printable

When you look at a random sampling of their films - like Fargo,The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple, Barton Fink or Miller's Crossing - it becomes increasingly clear that the Coen Brothers are masters of the craft of filmmaking.  Their latest outing was an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.  Transcending any attempt to categorize the film as a comedy, action, thriller or drama, the film takes place in West Texas in 1980, the movie involves the events that occur after Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles on an apparent drug deal gone bad near the Texas-Mexico border, and discovers $2 million in cash as well as a lot of heroin, dead bodies, and one dying Mexican who wants water. After taking the money and returning home, Moss is overcome by his conscience, and returns to the scene with some water for the man. Finding him dead, he is almost killed himself when gunmen appear. Moss sends his wife (Kelly Macdonald) on a bus to stay with her mother, and now he’s on the run with the money, being hunted by a ruthless hitman, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), whose gruesome method of killing people involves an air-compressor driven cattle gun (or a shotgun with a silencer). As they play a painful and near-deadly game of cat-and-mouse, the drug-bust scene has been discovered and local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) begins the investigation to try to figure out what went down, and find Moss.

The Coen Brothers have described No Country for Old Men as one of their most violent films, and I'd be hard-pressed to disagree. The violence is presented in such a shocking matter-of-fact style that is both repulsive and admirable, in that the filmmakers were able to effectively capture the circumstances in which the main characters are thrown together.  There is a lot of excellent camera work (courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins), and lengthy shots that establish tone and setting, with a dialogue-driven storyline that gives phenomenal insight into the characters. The actors all deliver solid performances, with Bardem the highlight. His Oscar-winning performance is served with an understated delivery that will certainly rank as one of the scarier performances since Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter.  Jones' portrayal of Bell as an aging character who feels out of place in this newly violent world is quite good too.  No Country for Old Men lets the Coen Brothers explore the human condition much like they did in Fargo, and the result is a rather violent but excellent film.

Originally released on Blu-ray in March 2008, a new "Collector's Edition" of No Country For Old Men is being issued in April 2009.  From a visual standpoint, the transfers are the same.  Deakins' cinematography is excellently reproduced, with slightly low-saturation making the skintones look natural, the background bleak and lighting incredible realistic.  It's a razor sharp image with only a hint of grain.  Audio is presented in two flavors: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The soundscape in the film is rather interesting, as there is barely any music - just a few tones and strains here and there. This sonic nakedness allows the natural sound of the landscape to take center stage, and truly immerse you in the southern Texas heat.  Most of the audio is front-heavy, except during the action sequences. Dialogue is clear and while it's not going to be demo-material, No Country for Old Men has an excellently reproduced soundtrack on Blu-ray.

In terms of extras, everything from the previous release is included (though that's not saying much), as well as a rather impressive heaping of new pieces. As expected, there is no audio commentary, so we start out with the previously released"The Making of No Country for Old Men" (SD, 24.5-minutes).  This is a pretty solid look at the making of the film, from the adaptation of the book, the tone of the story, the various characters and the actors that portray them, the locations, the costumes, the makeup effects, stunts and weapons.  Overall, it's how the film is uniquely a Coen Brothers film.  A handful of featurettes go a little further in some aspects of the filmmaking process. "Working with the Coens" (SD, 8-minutes) is a small featurette where the actors and crew members talk about what it's like to work with the Coen Brothers, and the praise is rather laudatory.  "Diary of a Country Sheriff" (SD, 7-minutes) looks at the complex relationship between Sheriff Bell and Chigurh, with the Jones and Bardem talking about their motivations, and the Coen Brothers and executive producer Robert Graff talking about the background in which the film takes place, as well as the locations they chose to shoot the film in. 

New for this "Collector's Edition" release is "Josh Brolin's Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes" (SD, 9-minutes), which is basically a mini behind-the-scenes mini-featurette, using personal footage and interviews with the principles that Brolin shot.  But the bulk of all-new extras appear in "Press Timeline", which is a rather immersive collection of all of the various press appearances related to the film, laid out in chronological order.  The complete list is here, and it's a truly amazing collection that would get you most of the information you could possibly want to know about this film.  "Lunch with David Poland" (SD, 26.5-minutes) features Brolin and Bardem;  "L.A. WGAW Q&A Panel" (SD, 24-minutes) is a panel discussion with the Coens, Brolin, Macdonald and Bardem; "Variety Q&A" (SD, 3-minutes) is a quick interview with Brolin, Macdonald and Bardem;  "EW.com - Just a Minute" (SD, 13-minutes) is an interview with Bardem; "Creative Screenwriting Magazine" (audio, 21.5-minutes) is an audio interview with the Coen Brothers; "NPR's All Things Considered" (audio, 5-minutes) is an audio interview with Josh Brolin; "ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers" (SD, 15-minutes) is an interview with Macdonald, Brolin and Bardem; "In-Store Appearance" (SD, 40-minutes) is a public interview with Brolin and Bardem; "Charlie Rose" (SD, 22.5-minutes) is the full Charlie Rose interview with the Coen Brothers, Brolin and Bardem; "WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons & Bailes" (SD, 10-minutes) is another interview with Josh Brolin; "Channel 4 News" (SD, 4-minutes) is an interview with the Coen Brothers; "KCRW The Treatment" (audio, 28.5-minutes) is a radio interview with the Coen Brothers; "NPR's Day to Day" (audio, 6.5-minutes) is a radio interview with Javier Bardem; "Spike Jonze Q&A" (SD, 61-minutes) features filmmaker Spike Jonze interviewing the Coen Brothers, Roger Deakins, the sound team, and the production design team.  "NPR's All Things Considered" (audio, 8-minutes) is a radio interview with producer Scott Rudin.  Finally, "NPR's Weekend Edition" (audio, 5.5-minutes) is another radio interview with the Coen Brothers.  Interestingly, Tommy Lee Jones makes no appearances here.  If you want to feel adventurous, you can click the "Call It, Friend-O" link, and you'll be taken to a random press event.  All told, there is well over 4.5 hours of interview material here!

There is no trailer for the film included on the disc, but considering how little material we tend to get on Coen Brothers films, there are a solid amount of extras on No Country for Old Men - I only wish there was more about Roger Deakins' amazing cinematography and the excellent sound design.  If you haven't picked up one of the best films of 2007, then now is the time to do so.  No Country for Old Men has been given a second chance on Blu-ray, and if you were fortunate enough not to pick up the previous release, this is the time to add it to your collection.

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

by Dan Goldwasser
on November 28th, 2007
[4.5 / 5] printable

The last Coen Brothers film, The Ladykillers, was a comedy that didn't do very well at all. Thankfully, they're back with a vengeance in the dramatic thriller adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. The film takes place in 1980, and involves the events that occur after Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles on an apparent drug deal gone bad near the Texas-Mexico border, and discovers $2 million in cash as well as a lot of heroin, dead bodies, and one dying Mexican who wants water. After taking the money and returning home, Moss is overcome by his conscience, and returns to the scene with some water for the man. Finding him dead, he is almost killed himself when gunmen appear. Moss sends his wife on a bus to stay with her mother, and now he's on the run with the money, being hunted by a hitman (Javier Bardem) whose method of killing people involves an air-compressor driven cattle gun. As they play a painful and near-deadly game of cat-and-mouse, the drug-bust scene has been discovered and local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) begins the investigation to try to figure out what went down, and find Moss.

The film is presented in very typical Coen Brothers fashion: lots of excellent camera work (courtesy of Roger Deakins), lengthy shots that establish tone and setting, with dialogue that gives phenomenal insight into the characters. The actors all deliver solid performances, but without a doubt, Bardem is the best of the bunch, with an understated delivery to his hitman character that will certainly rank as one of the scarier performances since Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter (look for an expected Oscar nod in January).

The soundscape is rather interesting, as there is barely any music - just a few tones and strains here and there. This sonic nakedness allows the natural sound of the landscape to take center stage, and truly immerse you in the southern Texas heat. There is music during the end titles, but it's not enough to qualify composer Carter Burwell for any serious awards consideration. Though the ending might disappoint many people for its untraditional structure, No Country for Old Men lets the Coen Brothers explore the human condition much like they did in Fargo, and the result is a somewhat violent but excellent film.



Trailer Music

The trailers for No Country for Old Men featured music by Two Steps From Hell, Cliff Martinez, and X-Ray Dog.

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