The economy has gone to hell, but you can still afford to splurge on the latest in High Definition treats. The CHUD Home Entertainment Team has taken upon themselves to draft the Top 25 Blu-Rays released in Region A thus far. From the 1st of December until Christmas, we’ll count down to the greatest Blu-Ray release of all-time. Join us and marvel at the treasures of the 1080p set.
LIST POSITION: #25
TITLE: No Country for Old Men
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Kelly MacDonald, Woody Harrelson, and a little love for Garret Dillahunt
BUY IT AT AMAZON!
WHY IT’S ON THE LIST
2007 was a tremendous year for film. No one can doubt that. It’s been hailed as a year akin to 1939 and 1999, and most would agree. Of the films released that year, the Coens’ No Country for Old Men is considered by many, including that crazy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scientists, to be the best film of a stellar year. And while you may not personally agree, you can’t fault anyone for feeling that way.
No Country for Old Men is unbelievably good.
Let’s take a time machine back to 2006 and remind ourselves of our frame of mind when it came to les frères Coen: They were just off of the pairing of the (wrongfully maligned) Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. People were asking the Coens to take a break. People thought they’d lost it. People were wrong. They came in with one of the finest crafted films of their career. It’s magnificently directed, impeccably acted, gorgeously composed, and embodies its source material perfectly while still bearing all the unique traits of the writer/director duo. In context of its release the film is even more incredible in its perfection.
The story of Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) who is just stupid enough to steal two million dollars from a drug deal gone wrong was the Coens’ adaptation of the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. Moss is hunted by the Coen-esque force of unstoppable evil in the form of Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh. But the film is really about the journey of Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff Ed Tom Bell. The way the Coens weave this chase and these stories together creates an almost unbearably tense film that is far more unique and odd a final product than you would expect from such a premise.
But enough about the film. If you don’t know about the film itself already, well frankly, I pity you. What makes it particularly worth the high definition treatment?
No Country for Old Men is what one could call a textured film. It feels dense, it feels lived in, it feels weathered and it feels real. The film captures all of the textures of this story and the gorgeous transfer makes it crystal clear. The transfer is pristine and the film looks absolutely incredible. The scenes of Moss discovering the botched drug deal and Sheriff Bell examining it are two scenes that really shine in the transfer. The level of textured detail evident in the scenes creates an uncanny feeling of experience for the viewer. You can almost taste the parch of the lips on the ultimo hombre! Agua, indeed! But truly, the film’s transfer makes for an incredible sense of environment.
Then there is the cinematography. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is epic and sweeping yet at the same time sparse. As any good artist or designer can attest, excess is easy, but doing minimalism right is supremely difficult. Deakins’ captures the desert landscape of New Mexico and Texas with beautiful simplicity that lets its vast grandeur stand for itself. It’s captured perfectly and accurately. I live in the landscape where this was filmed. I could look out my apartment window right now and see the studio where parts of this were filmed. Seriously, it’s right across the street. Every day I see the landscape portrayed in No Country for Old Men, but it’s never looked so barren, beautiful, majestic and dangerous as it does filmed by Roger Deakins. Llewelyn’s flight through the rough desert at dawn is as breathtakingly beautiful as it is tense. As the film’s chase moves from the wide expanses of the desert to the confines of cheap hotel rooms, the cinematography succeeds in being minimalistic yet increasingly claustrophobic.
Not only does the film look fantastic, it sounds fantastic. The soundtrack is another fine accomplishment in minimalism, made up mostly of ambient noise and relatively no score. If the film’s look is textured, the film’s sound is textured even twice as much. The layers of sound work to create a very real sense of environment and palpable senses of dread and tension. The unique sound of Chigurh’s cattle gun is a nightmare machine. A favorite subtle moment of mine is the slight jangling of the cord of the cattle gun as Chigurh first enters the Moss home. It’s eerie and hollow, and absolutely haunting. The sound on the disc is clear, well mixed and powerfully effective.
No Country for Old Men is a beautiful film by all accounts, and the 2
Disc Collector’s Blu-Ray only emphasizes that fact. It’s a transfer so
clear and beautiful it makes Tommy Lee Jones’ face look as deeply
creviced as Danny Trejo’s:
And it’s on sale on Amazon. Honestly, you
could buy the film on Blu-Ray, buy a Blu-Ray player to play it and an
HDTV to watch it all for this one film, and you still wouldn’t have paid
close to what this film is worth. We don’t deserve a film as good as
this. Films this good with such a perfect alignment of writer, director,
material, cast, cinematographer, sound design and on and on and on seem
to be made only in dreams. And then I woke up…
WHY IT DIDN’T RANK HIGHER
As great as the film, the transfer and the sound may be, the package isn’t necessarily the most unique or insightful with its special features. The special features are practically identical to those available on the 3-Disc DVD release, and a lot of them are strictly standard studio-cobbled EPK bits. Also holding it back would be that I suppose it best to wait a few years to look at the film from some distance and reevaluate its strengths. Will it still be a perfect classic in 5, 10, or 15 years? (Yes) Finally, the only special feature that would really make this as out-of-this-world as it deserves would be a commentary track by the Coen Brothers. For the most part they seem to have a one-and-done view of approaching their films. They seem quite content at making their films and leaving them. I’ve only found one commentary track the brothers have recorded (on the underrated masterpiece The Man Who Wasn’t There) and they wrote a very entertaining commentary for Blood Simple. But a commentary track for the film from the Coens would be a truly special feature, as opposed to most of the regurgitated features we have here.
THE BEST SUPPLEMENT
The special features are far more plentiful on the Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray than what you get on the regular Blu including a great episode of Charlie Rose with Joel, Ethan, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. There are a few audio interviews, but its really Charlie Rose where I enjoyed them the most. I love getting any sense of the Coens’ creative process and a good amount of the features here help you do just that. The other best special feature would be Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes Featurette. It’s a lighter-hearted affair than most standard studio-made behind-the-scenes clips. Brolin pals around with Bardem and Woody Harrelson, and the tone is a little goofy and very fun. It’s nice to see such a mood on set of such a dour, bleak film.
You can tell which pronghorn are CGI! (Hint: ALL OF THEM!)
Who wouldn’t want Stephen Root in Hi-Def?
9.5 out of 10