No Country for Old Men (2007)

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller / Western
Miramax, Paramount Vantage || R - 122 minutes - $29.99 || March 11, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-03-17


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: The Coen Brothers
Writer(s): Cormac McCarthy (novel); The Coen Brothers (adapted by)
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson


Theatrical Release Date: November 21, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • The Making of No Country for Old Men
  • Working with the Coens
  • Diary of a Country Sheriff


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

No Country for Old Men has garnered many awards, with the Best Picture Oscar the crown jewel. It’s a critical darling praised by both movie critics and movie fans alike. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), I’m not one of them. After hearing so much about this movie and after it went on to win 4 Oscars, I was looking forward to seeing this.

Upon writing this, it has been three hours since I saw it and rather than trying to contemplate what happened in the movie, instead I am trying to figure out why it has been praised so much. Differences of opinions happen all the time, none so much when it comes to movies, yet at the same time I like to take a step back and at least try to understand what others saw and loved about it. More on that later...

For me, there were only a number of things that really worked. One is an excellent performance by Javier Bardem, playing a unique psychopath who isn’t someone who is bouncing off the walls with bursts of enthusiasm for killing but instead, when he is at his quietist, is absolutely frightening, but also intriguing at the same time. While I’m unsure he deserved the Oscar Best Supporting Actor, in a year when so few movies have impressed, I can’t name someone else to take his place. One also should not forget two other fine performances by Tommy Lee Jones as a grizzled small-town sheriff (haven’t seen that before) and Josh Brolin, an actor that continues to impress. Brolin shows you get into a movie with at least a glimmer of merit; the acting talent will also rise.

The other thing going in No Country’s favor is the patient direction by the Coen Brothers. Now, I’m not going to sit here and kiss ass saying they’re a couple of the best directors working today, in fact I think they’re overrated, but what they did was tell a story in a unique and unusual style both in writing and direction. They adapted their screenplay based upon the Cormac McCarthy novel.

The Coen Brothers are not like some directors stuck in one genre; you look at their career and they tend to go from one genre to another with ease. Beginning in 1984 with Blood Simple to critically acclaimed Fargo in ’96 to a quirky comedy with The Big Lebowski following that up with a friggin musical of all things (O Brother, Where Art Thou?). They have a certain pizzazz in their style. They’re movies tend to be extremely violent and bloody but that doesn’t get in the way in telling a story, and such is the case here, no matter my feelings on the film. As much as I didn’t completely “get” why No Country for Old Men is such a critical and audience darling, I do see a progress with the Coen Brothers and the talent they have. They don’t bow down to conventions and have not sold out when, in Hollywood, doing so would be so easy and lucrative.

McCarthy’s work was previously brought to the big screen in 2001 with All the Pretty Horses, a movie I, at the time, enjoyed. Can’t speak to how it’s held up over the past 7 years (haven’t seen it since), but I also recall it wasn’t well reviewed either (oh the irony).

There are several points of contention, though. First, the story itself is set up with Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) coming upon a murder scene of a drug deal gone wrong. He finds $2 million in cash, decided to take it and is then hunted down by not only the drug dealers but also by a psychopathic serial killer named Chigurh (Bardem). This in itself causes other things to spring into action. You have the town sheriff (Jones) trying to wrap his head around someone like Chigurh and his murderous ways but at the same time watching a society he does not understand.

The first 45 minutes are filled with tense, but quiet, scenes that made me comprehend how it could be so loved, even if I only “liked” it. But as the film wore on coming toward the two hour mark, it lost so much steam that it became tedious and boring. Yes, I know it’s a character study but when you have characters that aren’t all that fascinating, not to mention new ones being introduced throughout – none more obvious than the sheriff’s wheelchair bound father – I failed to even connect with it on any level. For example, you have a character like Llewelyn who sees the riches before him just sitting in a saddle. He also knows how much trouble he could be in if he’s found out (drug dealers/psycho killer/police), so he’s not a completely stupid man but at the same time, he decides to go back to the scene of the crime. It is dumb and irrational. The reason for his return is noble enough, but risking his own life and that of his girlfriend made little sense. One of the biggest complaints from those who disliked this film is its abrupt ending, and indeed it is abrupt. Between this and “The Sopranos”, the whole ambiguous finales have gotten on my nerves. Again, I realize this is a character study first kind of movie, but when you don’t really care for these characters, you can only sit back and watch.

I know this review will not sway someone who loved to merely like it now, but I do hope to prepare those who had the same kind of hope as I to brace for disappointment. As to the whole issue of seeing why others love this movie so much, I can understand some of it. Between some beautiful open land direction by the Coen Brothers and three good performances, it is understandable. Is it Best Picture worthy, though? That I cannot see. Coming from someone who was, for the most part, underwhelmed for the year 2007 in movies, I guess it was inevitable.

No Country for Old Men co-stars Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald. Long-time Coen Brothers contributors’ composer Carter Burwell provides the old Western-type score while DP Roger Deakins gives a sweeping landscape of a harsh and brittle land.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The Making of No Country for Old Men (23:22) – The most extensive of the features is just your standard piece you see in every other DVD. Here you get interviews with the cast and crew talking about each other, about the story and other things. Sadly, this is the best featurette...

Working with the Coens (8:06) – More interviews and soundbites with the cast and, primarily, crew as they explain their thoughts on the Coen Brothers, how much they complement each other and how they go about making a movie.

Diary of a Country Sheriff (6:44) – This is just an examination of the Tommy Lee Jones character and his progression from beginning to end. Some of this is filled with footage from the film mixed in with comments from Jones and others. I actually think it would’ve been far more interesting seeing a featurette on a real old-time, small town sheriff and how he has seen the world change.

The lack of features makes me think Miramax will re-release this in the future with more substantial material. Crash did it after winning Best Picture so one can expect the same here.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The picture is absolutely perfect and pristine. This is a dark film in its style and the black levels look great to go along with the browns and tans of the Texas desert and the overall color palette. I didn’t notice any edge enhancement or any imperfections. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.35 OAR.

The audio is a bit underwhelming but given this is a dialogue heavy movie, I wasn’t expecting much. A Dolby 5.1 track is the only option with English, French and Spanish subtitles.



.::OVERALL::.

No Country for Old Men may not have been my cup of tea, yet I can see why people liked it. It is a film filled with solid performances, and even one that was not recognized in Josh Brolin. But as far as the DVD goes, even the most diehard fan will be disappointed. I can only hope the studio gives it another release with more features because what’s here is lacking.