Judge Clark Douglas just has to laugh sometimes. Ain't much else you can do.
Our reviews of Javier Bardem 3-Film Collection (published December 18th, 2012), No Country For Old Men (published March 17th, 2008), and No Country For Old Men (Blu-Ray) (published March 11th, 2008) are also available.
There are no clean getaways.
Despite winning several Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, No Country for Old Men received a pretty standard DVD and Blu-ray release, offering only the film and three lightweight featurettes. Now the obligatory collector's edition has hit hi-def. Is it worth checking out?
Facts of the Case
Our story begins in a manner somewhat similar to Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. The setting is West Texas, right above the Mexico border, and the year is 1980. A man named Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin, Milk) is out hunting one day, and comes across a handful of dead bodies and empty vehicles in the middle of a field. Near the scene, Moss finds a suitcase with two million dollars inside. He contemplates things for a moment and decides to take the money home. Within a matter of hours, Moss finds himself being hunted by a vicious killer, and must make a run for it until things cool down. He instructs his wife (Kelly McDonald, Gosford Park) to go stay with her mother, and he hits the road.
The killer's name is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, The Sea Inside); he is one of the most terrifying cinematic villains in recent memory. There's a line in Cormac McCarthy's novel that doesn't make it to the movie, but it describes Chigurh quite well. "He doesn't have any enemies. He doesn't allow them." Chigurh is a man who will take down any and every person who gets in his way in the slightest, even innocent bystanders. Every once in a while he will permit the victim the luxury of a coin toss, asking them to call heads or tails for their life. This is first seen in a masterful piece of dialogue between Chigurh and a humble gas station attendant early in the film.
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada) knows what kind of man is after Moss, and determines to try and find Moss before Chigurh does. Sheriff Bell has his own troubles, though…he's not so sure he's up to the task. Bell engages in some very thoughtful conversations as the film progresses, and comments soberly on the state of things in this troubled world of ours. He doesn't understand Chigurh, and isn't sure he wants to. In a world where killers simply kill for the sake of killing, not for sake of anything else in particular, Sheriff Bell feels outdated and outmatched. Is there anything he can do before things take a very nasty turn?
I could write all day about No Country for Old Men. The masterful thriller from Joel and Ethan Coen is one of the best films of the early 21st Century, loaded with rich symbolism and remarkable attention to detail. I've seen the film roughly half a dozen times now, and it never fails to be a gripping and thoroughly fascinating viewing experience. Layers upon layers upon layers of ideas can be found here, and yet the plot is deceptively simple and straightforward enough to be thoroughly appreciated on a first viewing. In many ways, No Country for Old Men is the perfect literary adaptation. It is very faithful to Cormac McCarthy's book, but the Coens did a superb job of determining which passages would work in a different medium and which wouldn't. It's a great film, and you must see it. Beyond that, I won't waste your time providing you with yet another gushing, in-depth analysis of No Country. Let's just answer the question you're all asking: is this double-dip worth checking out?
Before jumping into the supplements, let's check out the transfer. The previous Blu-ray release was blessed with a top-notch transfer and remarkable sound; nothing seems to have changed here. This is such a good-looking film, and it deserves to look amazing in hi-def. Take a look at Roger Deakins' cinematography. The man has been doing stunning work for years, including Coen films like Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? But this is one of his career highlights, as he captures everything from the barren Texas landscapes to lonely hotel rooms with searing precision. The level of detail on this disc is simply amazing. Blacks are deep and rich, flesh tones are spot-on, and the image is generally flawless. The audio is often subtle and low-key, but also very impressive. The soundtrack (featuring very subtle music and sound effects by Carter Burwell) provides an eerie effect by letting the wind blow in the background of many scenes, a simultaneously innocent and menacing presence that suggests the oncoming storm of violence. The use of sound in general in the film is immensely impressive…consider the tension generated by the quiet beeps of a key piece of equipment in the film, or the way you hear the distant telephone rings in the distance as Moss dials the front desk in the hotel. These effects are masterfully mixed to create a very immersive audio experience, and when the occasional blasts of noise come, they pack a powerful punch.
Okay, digging into the extras.
• The Making of No Country for Old Men (24 minutes): A pretty standard EPK-style making-of featurette that offers a quick behind-the-scenes look at the film's production. This featurette, along with "Working with the Coens" and "Diary of a Country Sheriff" were included on the previous release.
• Working with the Coens (8 minutes): The actors and other filmmakers talk about working with the two brothers. Lots of praise and kind words.
• Diary of a Country Sheriff (6 minutes): Tommy Lee Jones talks about playing his character and about his character's relationship with Anton Chigurh.
• Josh Brolin's Unauthorized Behind the Scenes (9 minutes): A brand-new featurette offering a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. This piece was directed by Josh Brolin, and features amusing interviews and footage. For instance, Bardem is asked what he hoped to accomplish by playing the role. "To win an award and get a big f—-ing mansion in Beverly Hills," he quips. A special warning precedes the footage, warning us that it is, "incredibly unauthorized." Funny stuff.
Most of the new stuff can be found under a feature called "Press Timeline," which offers a chronological series of interviews & specials spotlighting No Country for Old Men.
• Lunch with David Poland (26 minutes): Movie City News head honcho David Poland sits down for a chat with Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. The interview is very casual and jokey, with lots of fun banter mixed into the usual stories about how the guys got involved with the film.
• L.A. WGAW Q&A Panel (24 minutes): The Writers Guild and America, West gets the opportunity to offers questions to The Coen Brothers, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Kelly McDonald. The questions here are actually quite interesting, and understandably focus heavy on the writing. The Coens are asked about the process of adapting a novel: "Well, one of us sits at the typewriter, while the other one holds the book open so the person typing can see the words." Good stuff.
• Variety Q&A (3 minutes): Film critic Brian Lowry does a very quick 3-minute Q&A session with McDonald, Brolin, and Bardem.
• EW.com Just a Minute (13 minutes): Dave Karger of EW.com sits down for a jolly little conversation with Javier Bardem. Unfortunately, this is a bit clip-heavy, but a decent interview that veers between lightweight fun and genuine insight.
• Creative Screenwriting Magazine (20 minutes): Jeff Goldsmith, host of the Creative Screening Podcast sits down for a 20-minute audio interview with Joel and Ethan Coen. They chat about their writing process, and claim that they spend most of their "writing time" taking naps. It's fun to listen to these guys baffling their interviewers with their dry yet nonsensical responses.
• NPR's All Things Considered (5 minutes): Michelle Norris of NPR conducts a typically engaging interview with Josh Brolin. It's short, but more revealing than some of the lengthier interviews.
• ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers (15 minutes): The infamously hyperbolic Rolling Stone critic chats with Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, and Kelly McDonald. A little bit dull in comparison to some of the other stuff here.
• Instore Appearance (40 minutes): A fellow from GQ offers an extended conversation with Brolin and Bardem. The interview is punctuated with lengthy clips from the film. Unfortunately, the audio quality on this is pretty awful, but otherwise it's an engaging interview.
• Charlie Rose (22 minutes): I've never been a huge fan of Charlie Rose in general, but he manages to get some reasonably interesting answers of his subjects. Rose is joined by the Coens, Brolin, and Bardem, and they all seem to take him a little more seriously than they do their other hapless interviewers.
• WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons and Bailes (10 minutes): Another quick interview with Brolin, who seems to be the busiest guy on the No Country interview circuit.
• Channel 4 News (3 minutes): The British news group offers a quick interview with the Coens during the heat of awards season.
• KCRW—The Treatment (28 minutes): Radio host Elvis Mitchell offers us a low-key and informative interview with Joel and and Ethan Coen. Like the Charlie Rose interview, this one mostly stays serious and on-target.
• NPR's Day to Day (6 minutes): Another brief NPR interview, conducted by Alex Cohen. Cohen speaks with Javier Bardem about playing a guiltless murderer.
• Spike Jonze Q&A (60 minutes): The brilliant director of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation offers an in-depth interview spotlighting the technical aspects of the film. First up, a discussion of the cinematography in the film with the Coens and cinematographer Roger Deakins. Next, an examination of sound design as the Coens are joined by sound wizard Skip Lievsay and the rest of the sound crew. Finally, production designer Jess Gonchor jumps in for the final segment. This comprehensive interview really stands out as a highlight of the package.
• NPR's All Things Considered (7 minutes): Robert Siegel conducts an interview with producer Scott Rudin, a guy with a real knack for getting involved with strong movies. Nice to hear from him.
• NPR's Weekend Edition (5 minutes): Saturday morning mainstay Scott Simon gives us a brief chat with Joel and Ethan Coen shortly before the film won the Oscar. He asks about their mysterious relationship with the ever-elusive editor "Roderick James."
Finally, the second disc includes a digital copy of the film. While it's somewhat disappointing that the film still hasn't received the comprehensive "three audio commentaries and a four-hour making-of documentary" treatment, pulling together this collection of press interviews was a pretty good idea, as almost every aspect of the film is discussed at some length. It's an impressive package.
If you only want the film and an awesome transfer, you're fine sticking with the original release. If you're a bonus feature junkie like me, there's more than enough here to make an upgrade worthwhile.
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