Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: No Country for Old Men

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    No Country for Old Men (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

    Studio: Miramax
    Year: 2007
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
    Running Time: 122 minutes
    Rating: R
    Audio: PCM 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 English
    Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
    MSRP: $ 34.99

    Release Date: March 11, 2008
    Review Date: February 26, 2008



    The Film

    4.5/5

    The beginning vicious forays into major drug trafficking along the Texas and Mexico border set up the intensely dramatic impetus of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s No Country for Old Men. With a superb cast taking part in one of the year’s most compelling and violent thrill rides, No Country for Old Men asserts itself on one’s psyche early on and never lets go. Prepare to hang on for dear life!

    Out on a recreational hunt in South Texas in 1980, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles on the scene of a drug transaction gone horribly bad. Amid many dead people and dogs on the prairie, Moss finds a valise filled with cash along with a truckload of Mexican heroin. Little does he know, however, that the money case has a transmitter inside whose signal is sending psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) straight for him. Chigurh is a emotionless killing automaton who will murder anyone in his path to the money. Naturally local law enforcement (Tommy Lee Jones, Garret Dillahunt) is on the trail of the killers of the drug runners, and with the ever-thickening pile of bodies that Chigurh is leaving behind, Ed Tom Bell (Jones) is clearly in over his head.

    With this set-up, the film turns into one of the most rousingly intense cat and mouse cinematic stalkings in recent memory, made even more complex when an additional bounty hunter (Woody Harrelson) is hired on for the job. The brothers Coen keep the pace at a cracking clip, and while there’s violence aplenty dealt to one and all, its kinetic snap simply ups the anxiety levels considerably.

    The violence level is nothing new for the Coens. Their debut Blood Simple was awash in blood while Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, and The Man Who Wasn’t There were likewise steeped in gory sequences even when the brothers carefully laced even their darkest films with some black comic touches. No Country for Old Men certainly contains that ebony twinkle even as innocent people go shockingly to their undeserved deaths. The Coens’ screenplay adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel adds that sly wink and tilt of the head that has distinguished almost all of their best work.

    The actors seem emboldened by the material and turn in terrific performances all around. Brolin in particular has never been this good, and Jones’ good ol’ boy persona rings so true in the film that it‘s easily a highlight of his career. (It should be; he’s a native of the area.) Bardem’s almost alien psycho rivets the attention with his taciturn unpredictability. Allowing people to live or die on a whim, he’s mesmerizing throughout. Harrelson has less to do than the other top stars, but does well with the material he’s handed.

    The tight pacing of the film which runs two hours is still the movie’s major claim to fame. Instead of relying on the fancy camera tricks of Blood Simple (which No Country for Old Men most reminded me of in tone and texture) to awe us with their originality, the Coens concentrate on an electric energy to move things along. One is breathless with the rapid progression of the tracking and trailing and attempts to escape with the money. And, of course, eventually the money becomes secondary to merely staying alive, a rare feat that many of the principals involved in the story will sadly learn.

    Video Quality

    5/5

    The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio has been delivered in a pristine 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is sublime throughout the entire film with vast brown vistas of West Texas coming through to perfection. Though some might find the skin tones on the brown side, the leathery look to the men’s features seems right given the hot, summertime setting of the movie. Elsewhere, color is richly but not overly saturated, and blacks are solid. Even in low light levels, shadow detail is excellent, and the picture doesn’t dim and become grainy during those moments. It’s really a faultless transfer. The film is divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    4/5

    The PCM 5.1 track (4.6 Mbps) makes excellent though subdued use of the entire soundstage. Gunfire, of course, can come from anywhere, and other sounds that capture one’s attention (car crashes, moving traffic, winds on the prairie, rushing river waters) are intelligently placed in the proper channels. LFE is also used to good effect on occasion.

    Special Features

    2.5/5

    Unfortunately, all of the bonus features are presented in lackluster 480i.

    “The Making of No Country for Old Men is the most substantial extra, a 24½ minute EPK featurette that touches on the original book and deciding the tone for the film version, the casting decisions, the location shooting, the stunt work, and the special effects.

    “Working with the Coens” uses its 8 minutes to discuss the unusual situation of having two directors on a film (though they seem to speak with one voice). Adding their opinions on the depth of talent and the well-run set of the brothers are comments from several actors, the stunt coordinator, the costume designer, the special effects coordinator, the production designer, the makeup chief, and the props master.

    “Diary of a Country Sheriff” splits its 6¾ minutes detailing the working of Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem on their characters in the film. It’s an interesting featurette which deserves to have been much longer.

    The disc features previews of National Treasure: Book of Secrets and Gone Baby Gone. The trailer for No Country for Old Men is not present but can be found on other Buena Vista Blu-rays.

    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)

    One of the year’s prime thrillers, No Country for Old Men is a heady chase through some rather wicked and violent territory with edge-of-your-seat tension on full display. Its recent Academy Award recognition for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) further attest its value as a must-see film. The Blu-ray disc presents it in its full glory.


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC

    [PG]118345903[/PG]
     
  2. Will*B

    Will*B Supporting Actor

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    Great review; thanks Matt.

    Great to hear that the transfer is top-notch. Have had this on pre-order since catching it at the cinema a few weeks ago.

    It's a real shame the trailer isn't included. I really hate this new practice of not putting trailers on discs... Oh well. It looks as though there'll be a double-dip at some stage anyway, especially considering this film's success at the Academy Awards.
     
  3. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

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    Those are some pretty meagre extras for a big Oscar winner......I smell a double-dip. I will have to pass on this release and see if an SE comes down the road.
     
  4. Mike.B

    Mike.B Stunt Coordinator

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    I really hope we start seeing more HD extra features. Enough with this 480 crap!

    That said, this was my favorite movie of 2007 (getting some well-deserved Oscars the other night) and I have already preordered this. Can't wait to watch it again.
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Sold!
     
  6. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    The Coens don't usually load their movies up with a ton of extras, so this may be the best we ever get.

    In any case, there's no way I can pass on a masterpiece of cinema like this.
     
  7. Paul Arnette

    Paul Arnette Cinematographer

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    Too true. Where the hell is the anamorphic Raising Arizona already? [​IMG]
     
  8. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Is this a good blind-buy? I have yet to be disappointed by a Coen brothers movie.
     
  9. Thornhill

    Thornhill Stunt Coordinator

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    I guess you didn't see The Ladykillers??? [​IMG]

    Definitely a great blind buy, though!
     
  10. Mike.B

    Mike.B Stunt Coordinator

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    I love it. But I have heard a number of criticisms from other people who were quite disappointed by the ending / last act. I understand those criticisms, but it worked for me nevertheless.

    At the very least give it a rental. But I'll guess that a big Coen fan would probably come away pretty impressed by the movie.
     
  11. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Producer

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    Yeah, what Brandon said. This will most likely be the only release we get, unless you can hold out for a possible ten year anniversary edition.

    I was surprised to see there were as many features as there are.

    My take on the movie, as far as crime/thrillers go: It's the best I have ever seen. When Ebert described it as "a perfect movie" he was exactly right.
     
  12. Paul Hillenbrand

    Paul Hillenbrand Screenwriter

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    Thanks Matt.

    Going to have to get this!

    Paul
     
  13. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    I agree. This is it or if they do a re-release, it won't even involve the Coens.

    I saw this movie twice in theater and I still can't wait to see it again.
     
  14. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Actually, you're right - I didn't see Ladykillers. [​IMG]
     
  15. Jim_K

    Jim_K Executive Producer

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    This is an easy blind-buy. Looking forward to it.

    I'd love to get more of the Coens on Blu-ray. Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, Fargo and The Man Who Wasn't There are on the top of my list.
     
  16. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Screenwriter

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    I don't mind extras in 480p, so long as A) they exist and B) they are anamorphic widescreen so I don't have to switcheroo modes on my TV. Obviously I would prefer trailers and (if the elements are up to snuff) deleted scenes be in HD, but I'd rather have 480p widescreen docs and features than none at all. I would bet part of the reason is because a lot of space is being taken up by 24bit PCM, but I honestly applaud Disney for sticking with PCM for a while longer since there is an entire generation or two of half baked BD players without advanced codec decoding.
     
  17. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    Really looking forward to this film on BR. I had the good fortune of seeing it at home twice, but the framing was 1.78:1 and not 2:35:1 so I'm looking forward to seeing it in its correct aspect ratio with lossless PCM sound (although there's not much to speak of in terms of the audio department). It's easily one of the best movies I've seen in a long time and while I hear the complaints of some that don't like the end, I think it provokes thoughtful reflection on what was just seen in the 2 hours prior to it.
     
  18. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

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    That's true.....if I recall correctly, they didn't exactly load up the SE release of Fargo with outstanding extras either. I may have to reconsider a purchase for this BD release.
     
  19. Ron Reda

    Ron Reda Cinematographer

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    Same with "The Big Lebowski" and that's one of their biggest cult favorites.
     
  20. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    And those of you who haven't seen The Ladykillers should count your blessings. I could hear Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness rolling over in their graves as I ran the Coen Bros. remake (I was working as a projectionist @ the time).
     

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