Studio: Mirimax Films
US Rating: Rated R for Graphic Violence And Some Language
Film Length: 122 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Optional French and Spanish
The Film - out of
Silence is so rarely remembered in film. The desire to fill the screen with a cacophony of noise, be it ambient atmospheric sounds, endless mountains of witless and witty dialogue or the emotionally reinforcing abilities of synth and symphony; films rarely allow the power of silence to become an affecting element of the movie going experience. Knowing when to use quiet to become the step to incredible tension, the sole possessor of our attention or the reminder that we don’t have nervous violins or ‘sad’ piano to walk us to the emotional point in a given moment, is exactly what elevates No Country for Old Men into something far more impressive than simply the best American film in several years.
Joel and Ethan Coen, writers and directors with a solid body of work behind them (Fargo, Blood Simple, O’ Brother Where Art Thou?) have adapted Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name into a deceptively simple and thrillingly complex film, and deserved winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture. It isn’t necessarily the story’s framework that makes No Country For Old Men riveting, intelligent and remarkable, but rather the substantial amount of actor talent that saturates the desolate 1980 Texas landscape and the keen, persistently smart eye the Coen brothers use to piece everything together.
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a macabre scene in the middle of the Texas open. Finding nothing but strewn bodies after a fierce gun battle, the discordant arrangement of their trucks and the eerie still that follows death, Moss follows his instincts and soon comes across a large sum of cash in a mid-size satchel. Calmly and cautiously he takes the money home. Later than night, with a modest notion of morality, he awakes and decides to take water to a man he found in one of the trucks at the scene – a half dead and thirsty soul. The man is dead and Moss soon finds his choice a poor one as he is discovered, shot and chased across the rough of the wilderness blanketed by night.
This action sets in motion a furious get away, with the police, drug-runners and a deadly psychopathic assassin burning up his heels across the backwater of Texas. Javier Bardem is Anton Chigurh, the insidiously calm and deliberate killer who stalks Llewelyn’s getaway, delivering the Best Actor award winning portrayal that is scary as hell. He exists in the film as one of the most menacing figures of recent memory, flowing from place to place with callous impunity and blazing disregard for life and other inconveniences. Tommy Lee Jones provides yet another solid performance as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, one that contains nuances of his brilliant role as ranch hand Pete Perkins in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada , but here is far more clever, wise and pensive. His character is perhaps the most relatable in the film, but not because he thinks and acts as we may, but because his view of the world, eloquently and usefully posed during the film, makes the most sense. The film contains an array of fantastic supporting performances, characters cut from the dusty earth and every bit as real and quirky as you might expect to find in the slower paced veins of America. These talents include Kelley Macdonald as Carla Jean Moss and Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells. But in my mind, it is the strength of Josh Brolin’s terrific performance as Llewellyn playing the yin to Javier Bardem’s yang; the tense cat and mouse action that serves as the thrilling core of the film keeping it utterly captivating.
From the opening moments of No Country For Old Men, as Tommy Lee Jones gruff voice, with a life weary Texan drawl begins the tale until the surprising and powerful closing minutes, the Coen Brothers relish in the untamable wilderness of America’s harsh open and the untamed human tendency to pursue, to all ends, the interests of self. They capture views of America that rarely make it to film, sights of barren and fearsome landscapes, like the snow smothered cold of North Dakota in Fargo and now the dusty Texas wild, with the talents of their longtime Director of Photography collaborator, Roger Deakins. The brutal and bloody tale is crafted with a seemingly simple hand, but the complexity of the characters and layering of action manage to exist beyond the mere visceral experience, becoming great satisfaction to discerning minds that thirst for more than just shoot outs and car chases.
Joel and Ethan Coen are among the most remarkable of American filmmakers, past and present, and have become so with films that explore and examine consequence. Their stories are often anchored in the confluence of luck and misfortune, with one often parading as the other, and with some of the very best, natural and quirky dialogue out there, they follow what that means for each character in their films. No Country For Old Men is without a doubt their darkest and most satisfying film to date. At times unflinchingly brutal, the film layers moment after moment of extraordinary circumstances in ordinary surroundings until the false sense of calm it creates is smashed to smithereens. It will keep you off guard and on the edge of your seat, with the breath shallow and your eyes fixed to the screen with its unapologetically unpredictable and unsettling tone.
With an utter absence of easy and obvious quips and retorts, the script is impeccable, indeed worthy of its Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. No Country For Old Men is a fierce and darn near perfect film.
Presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, No Country For Old Men comes to DVD from Miramax with a superbly faithful transfer. The perfect level of grain along with the drained palette and texture permeate the entire experience and serve to compliment this incredible Coen brother’s film. The image has a nice, sharp clarity for the most part but does have a few moments of issue, particularly in some of the unlit night shots later in the film. The slight over exposure in the sun scorched Texas wilderness looks great in this presentation.
With a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio track, No Country For Old Men will spend far more than your average amount of time with next to nothing coming from any of your speakers – a fact that creates remarkable tension and unease, but that also allows the speakers to open up when absolutely necessary and deliver the goods. Those periods of near silence are pierced only by the rumble of a distant thunder or dialogue at times but others, the 5.1 produces some awesome moments as gun shots echo into the surrounds, shotguns punch deep into the bass and the growl of diesel truck engines kick the subwoofer into high gear. While restrained at times, it serves the film perfectly and does exactly what it is supposed to do when called upon.
Each special features is a combination of full frame and widescreen but not enhanced for widescreen TVs when showing clips from the film. A little light on valuable extras, this film cries out for a deeper exploration.
Working with the Coens - (8:06) – Described as the same person with two heads, the Coen Brothers are described by the actors and others – lauded for their vision and openness, they clearly have earned enormous respect from those they work with.
The Making Of No Country For Old Men - (24:27) – Interviews with the actors, one of the executive producers and the Coen brothers with some interesting behind the scenes peaks – they discuss the cinematic nature of the story, the dark tone of the story and creating the gory effects and dead bodies with prosthetics . The description of the disconcerting Chigurh character and Javier Bardem who plays him phenomenally well, is particularly satisfying. They also discuss the challenge of making a period piece since the film was set in 1980. Quite a detailed look at the various elements of the film.
Diary Of A Country Sheriff - (6:43) – A quick little extra feature with a focus on the Ed Tom Bell character played by Tommy Lee Jones. It also continues to explore the various elements of the film (location, violence story) that were covered in the ‘Making Of’ featurette.
The Best Picture Oscar has been awarded to films that truly represent the very best of cinema in that year. It has also been awarded to films that have struck a nerve or have been novel enough at that time to win, but have failed the test of time. This years winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, No Country For Old Men is reassurance to us and the world that the Academy Awards can be right more than wrong. The Coen Brothers film is quite frankly the most intense film to come along in quite some time. An incredible piece of cinema.
A highly recommended film that should be seen, examined, enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.