No Country for Old Men is an extraordinary film — it’s probably the strongest Best Picture winner of the last decade, it’s one of the top achievements in the consistently superb oeuvre of the Coen Brothers and it just gets better with every viewing. Cormac McCarthy’s source material certainly provides a compelling story, but more than anything, it’s the mood, the tone and the themes that the Coens extract that put this film in a different league than most. Every shot is impeccably crafted — the mise-en-scène sparse, but filled with visual meaning.
It’s a film that is constantly subverting its western/thriller veneer, while still succeeding on a pulpier level. The scenes where the menacing Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem in an atypical, thoroughly award-deserving role) is tracking down Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) are chillingly suspenseful and better than almost anything similar, but that’s not the primary pursuit of No Country. It’s a deeply philosophical film, filled with ruminations on the changing of eras by soon-to-be-retired Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and a commentary on morality and violence via Chigurh, who may just be the most principled character.
No Country works on a number of levels — as a pulpy, nostalgic western; as a crime thriller; as a gorgeous piece of cinematography; and as a layered, deeply interesting film that demands multiple viewings. Most anyone can take something away, and like most of the Coens’ work, this one has punctuated bursts of violence, dark humor, and an exploration of fate. It’s a must-see film for those who haven’t, and it’s a must-see-again for those who have.
The Blu-ray Disc
No Country for Old Men is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. One assumes that it’s the same transfer from the original Blu-ray release of the film, which required no improvement. This is a stunning representation of the film, far better than what standard def can provide. Picture sharpness and clarity excels no matter what kind of shot — the sepia, color palette that defines the film really comes alive. Watching No Country in high def gave me a new appreciation for the film in a greater way than most other Blu-rays I’ve seen.
The sound is presented in Dolby DTS-HD, and it provides a wonderful platform for the excellent sound design. A lack of dialogue pervades most scenes, with only a hint of a score popping up occasionally and long stretches with little dialogue, but the sound mix is hardly idle, full of a number of small, ambient details like approaching footsteps. Near silence never sounded so good.
Being that the Paramount already released a Blu-ray of No Country a little over a year ago, the special features are going to be the determining factor for the potential double-dip here. Quantity-wise, there is certainly a good deal of material present that wasn’t on the previous version, but it’s questionable how valuable most people will find it.
The second disc in the set is a digital copy, which may be a nice drawing point for some. Disc one contains all the special features, including those carried over from last time — a short making-of doc, a featurette about working with the Coens, and a featurette about Jones’s country sheriff character.
What’s new is an unauthorized behind-the-scenes doc by Josh Brolin that starts out oddly before it becomes apparent the whole thing is a goof, and a large selection of publicity interviews organized into a press timeline. The quality is really variable on these, and in some sense, all of this material is previously available. There’s a lot of overlap in the questions/answers, and it helps give you an idea of how weary actors and filmmakers must get doing press junkets and publicity events for months on end.
The best moments in this section include a Charlie Rose segment with the Coens, Brolin, and Bardem and a Q&A with director Spike Jonze. Other video interviews include pieces from Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Creative Screenwriting Magazine, ABC’s Popcorn with Peter Travers and NBC’s Reel Talk. A number of audio interviews are included as well, mostly from various NPR programs. For those who are simply overwhelmed by the choices, a “Call it, Friend-O” feature picks one at random for you.
This is a lot of material, but it’s also a lot of the same stuff over and over again. There are some good interviews here, but something along the lines of a Coens' feature length commentary would’ve made this a collector’s edition to recommend without reservation.
The Bottom Line
No Country for Old Men pretty much demands to be seen in Blu-ray, but for most, the original release is enough. For those who crave a digital copy and/or loads of publicity material, the collector’s edition is probably worth the double-dip.Powered by Sidelines