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No Country for Old Men (2007)
Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/11/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/1/2008
Sam Raimi made a name for himself in horror circles with his early films and then gained worldwide notoriety with theSpider-man films. The Coen Brothers started with arthouse thrillers and then found Oscar glory with their quirky movies. But did you know that Raimi and The Coens have been collaborators in the past? Joel Coen was the assistant editor on Raimi's first film The Evil Dead, and the three worked together to write the script for The Coen's The Hudsucker Proxy. Thus, it shouldn't seem that odd that they each made separate films which essentially have the same premise. But, while Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan went largely ignored, The Coen's No Country for Old Men was lauded by critics and won the Best Picture Oscar. I'm here to say that Raimi got robbed.
No Country for Old Men opens with Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) hunting in the dessert area of Texas. He comes across a group of trucks parked in the middle of nowhere. Approaching the vehicles, he sees that dead bodies (of men and dogs!) cover the ground. He follows a trail and finds a dead man holding a suitcase full of money. Moss returns home to his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) and hides the cash. However, he is racked by guilt over leaving a survivor at the scene and returns to the dessert, only to be chased by a group of gunmen. Moss barely escapes, but he must leave his truck behind. The next day, we learn that assassin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) has been hired to find the missing money. He quickly surmises that Moss has taken the money. Knowing that someone will find his truck, Moss sends Carla Jean to her mother's and takes the money with him, hoping to elude any pursuers. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bell (Tommy Bell Jones) is investigating the crime scene and the trail of bodies which soon to begins to cover his territory. He knows that the man he is tracking is no normal killer.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of The Coens. I saw Blood Simple in the theater in back in 1985 and I've admired their work ever since. But, I didn't see No Country for Old Men until just recently, after all of the critical and pre-Oscar buzz, which obviously lead me to expect a great film. Having now seen it, I must say that A Simple Plan is a better movie.
Now, don't get me wrong, No Country for Old Men is a good movie, and there's no denying the fact that The Coens are truly gifted filmmakers. There are some scenes in this film which truly define the word cinema. The shot where Moss realizes that there are now two trucks on the cliff, or, not long after, the scene with the dog, are both scenes done without dialogue -- the entire story is told through pictures and both will send a chill down your spine. The first half of the film plays very well, as we meet Moss, Chigurh, and Bell, and learn that each man has something which he must do. There is a certain amount of suspense as Moss flees from Chigurh and the action set-pieces in the movie are very well done.
However, things begin to unravel in the second half of the film. If you're heard or read anything about No Country for Old Men, then you may have heard some complaints about the film's ending. Actually, it was the middle that I didn't like. This section of the film is going to hinge on how you feel about Chigurh. I've read many comments from people who found him creepy and evil. Frankly, I found him boring and I just couldn't take him seriously with that haircut. At first, he's mildly intimidating, but as he goes through the film killing everyone in sight with that gun with the tall-boy beer can on the end, it becomes ludicrous and redundant. Chigurh borders on being The Terminator, and the film reaches a point where there's no suspense because we've learned that he won't hesitate to kill people. As for the film's very ending, yes, it may be confusing and slow, but The Coens have performed their greatest act of treason by having the story's finale happen off-screen. How can we trust them after that?
When viewed as a noir/action/thriller, No Country for Old Men works just fine. We've got characters thrust into intriguing situations, and there's enough jarring blood and violence to keep the viewer on their toes. But, the Best Picture of the Year? I don't think so. The movie simply doesn't create the kind of emotional response or moral questioning that comes from films likeGone Baby Gone, Into the Wild, or In the Valley of Elah. And it certainly isn't as good as A Simple Plan, which also deals with a rural man dealing with the aftermath of finding a stash of drug money. That movie is an exercise in suspense and it had my stomach in knots. No Country for Old Men was headed in that direction, but it fizzled out. I think that a lot of people who haven't seen the film will rent or buy it based solely on its reputation and they are going to be disappointed.
No Country for Old Men takes the money and runs on DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image here is fairly sharp and clear, as it shows only a small amount of grain during the daytime scenes. The bulk of the film takes place in very bright sunlight landscapes or at night. Given that, the image is never too dark or experience "burnout" from being too bright. The beieg backgrounds make the colors stand out, especially the reds. There was some mild artifacting and some video noise at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action scenes in the film provide some surround sound, but the audio is notably flat here. Gunfire sounds more like pops that bangs and an explosion in the film, which should rock the sound system, is wimpy. Otherwise, there is some nice background noise in the surround speakers.
The No Country for Old Men DVD contains only three bonus features. "The Making of No Country for Old Men" (24 minutes) features comments from Teh Coens and the main cast. The piece examines the story and each of the primary characters. It then looks at the locations and production design, as well as the costumes. We get a look at the special effects makeup and the practical effects, including the weapons. In "Working with The Coens" (8 minutes) the cast and crew talk about The Coens directing style and what it's like to work with them. They discuss their approach and how well they work together. "Diary of a County Sheriff" (7 minutes) examines Tommy Lee Jones' character through comments from The Coens and Jones. They discuss what Bell goes through and what he's up against.
Miramax Home Entertainment has also brought No Country for Old Men toBlu-ray Disc. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc features an AVC 1080p transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. This transfer corrects all of the flaws found on the video of the DVD. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain whatsoever and no defects from the source material. The image has a very nice amount of detail and the landscape shots show a notable amount of depth. Colors are fine and skin tones are very realistic. The image shows no artifacting or video noise. (I've read other reviews which claim this to be the best-looking DVD yet. For me, that honor still goes to The Santa Clause 3.) The Blu-ray has a Linear PCM 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 4.6 Mbps. Again, a noticeable improvement over the DVD. The dialogue is always clear and audible. During the quiet scenes, of which this film has several, this is no hissing. The gunshots sound nice and that explosion definitely sends a rumble through the room. The surround speakers bring us traffic noise and they really come into play during a sniper scene, as the bullets come from every direction.
The extras on the No Country for Old Men Blu-ray Disc are the same as those found on the DVD.
On April 7, 2009, Miramax Home Entertainment released a new "Collector's Edition" of No Country for Old Men on Blu-ray Disc. This new release appears to contain the same video transfer which was on the original Blu-ray Disc release. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. Again, this is fairly good transfer which contains a slight amount of grain. The colors are good and the image contains a nice amount of depth. The Disc does feature a new audio track. This track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.2 Mbps. (Disney started using DTS tracks a few months ago, something about which I'm very pleased.) The track provides clear dialogue and sounds effects. It is a powerful track which offers impressive surround sound and bass during the action scenes.
This new Blu-ray Disc contains the three extras found on the first release, plus a few new ones. "Josh Brolin's Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes" (9 minutes) is supposed to be a "making-of" spoof, but it actually plays just like a real featurette. "Press Timeline" contains sixteen segments ranging from October, 2007 to February, 2008, which offers various types of media coverage of the film, from reviews to press junkets. These feature interviews with the Cohens, the cast, and other crew members. Are these few extra worth rebuying this? I don't know. This version does come with a Digital Copy, if that's important to you. I'm sure that many were holding out for a commentary by The Cohens, but we don't get that here. If you only love the movie for the movie, then skip this new release.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long