Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 122 minutes
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.