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No Country for Old Men(2007)
Llewelyn Moss finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men. A load of heroin and two million dollars in cash are still in the back trunk. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law—namely aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell—can contain. Moss tries to evade his pursuers, in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives.
For more about No Country for Old Men and the No Country for Old Men Blu-ray release, see No Country for Old Men Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on February 24, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Cormac McCarthy
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald, Garret Dillahunt
» See full cast & crew
No Country for Old Men Blu-ray Review
Riveting, primal, and drenched with symbolism, the Coen brothers' latest film boasts the best picture ever authored for home video.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, February 24, 2008
A satchel packed with two million dollars in cash. A pressurized canister used to punch holes in deadbolts and skulls. A West Texas stage of flatlands, small towns and old-fashioned, honest folk. These props, places and people, molded by the skillful hands of filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, float on the surface of a deeper melodrama that has played out since the beginning of time: the battle of good versus evil and the role of fate in shaping the fight. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men is unconventional and brilliant, earning four Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and best screenplay adaptation. And the BD-50 may deliver the best video definition you will ever see.
Set in the 1970s, the story focuses on three main characters, sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), Lewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who embody law, the average man and lawlessness, respectively. Moss hangs suspended somewhere between light and darkness. A twist of fate thrusts him into a fight against evil, even though he never consciously chose to participate in it. But fighting the surging force of evil is Bell's lifelong call of duty, and that of his father and his father's father--three generations of Texan sheriffs. For Bell, this call of duty is a haunting, elusive exercise. He can reconcile the threat of evil on a physical level and intellectual level, but not a spiritual level.
As the sheriff says in the narration that opens the film. "You can say it's my job to fight it but I don't know what it is anymore. More than that, I don't want to know. A man would have to put his soul at hazard." This notion of testing one's soul against evil is frequently explored on film; but rarely as dramatically and disarmingly as in No Country for Old Men. The test is portrayed as glibly as the flip of a coin; temporally as a cat-and-mouse shootout; and as spiritually as Bell's pursuit of the other characters, the way he is haunted by the darkness of humanity and his acceptance that he can never shine a light on it.
After sheriff Bell's voiceover, the story gets rolling with Chigurh's brutal escape from a policeman. Flagging down a motorist and asking him to "hold still please", Chigurh murders the man at point blank range. This scene is immediately juxtaposed with Moss taking aim at a far away antelope through a rifle scope, muttering under his breath for the deer to "hold still". Moss squeezes the trigger, but the shot misses the head and neck and the antelope limps away. As Moss tracks it, he comes upon a wounded pitbull, a curious sight in the middle of the badlands. Moss quickly finds the dog's point of origin--a cluster of bullet-riddled pickup trucks, dead bodies and a colossal cargo of heroin. The area bristles with supreme danger.
One of the Mexican men, though mortally wounded, is still alive in his truck. He begs Moss to give him water, but Moss has none. Still using his tracking skills, Moss soon finds the money from the drug-deal-gone-bad. He grabs the satchel of cash and two firearms from the crime scene, and returns to his wife, Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald). The couple is in bed when Moss' conscience gets the best of him. He had left a dying man begging for water and now he can't sleep. In the hours before dawn, he fills a container with water and heads off to grant the man's final wish.
Back at the crime scene, Moss finds the man shot in the head. Looking up at the ridge where he parked his truck, Moss notices another truck parked adjacent to it. Note that all the action described thus far happens in the first few minutes of the film. The harrowing chase that follows and subsequent shoot-outs ar executed with a tremendous eye for detail by the Coen brothers. Chigurh and Mexican outlaws track Moss, and Bell brings up the rear, trying to make sense of the trail of bodies. The sheriff quickly recognizes the danger to both Moss. He appeals to Carla Jean to convince Moss that he needs help. But Bell is getting old. Will he be able to stop Chigurh, or will the mysterious, unblockable force of evil roll on, snuffing out the most innocent life in the story?
No Country for Old Men Blu-ray, Video Quality
With its AVC MPEG-4 video on BD-50, the picture quality of No Country for Old Men stands on the highest rung of the home video ladder. Color vibrancy, black level, resolution and contrast are reference quality. Together, the specifications add up to lifelike detail; skin so realistically colored and textured you'd think you could touch it; depth so convincing it will put you in the middle of the landscapes and action. There is simply no way to overstate the quality of the video, from the way the Coen brothers shot the film to the way it was produced in 1080p. The Prestige and Bridge to Terabithia come close, but No Country may be in class of video quality by itself. Contributing to the immediacy of the imagery is the Coens' unflinching look at the unique characters. Every line and wrinkle in Bell's face is resolved and Chigurh sports a pageboy haircut in which every strand of hair appears individually distinguishable. No other film brings its characters to life so vividly solely on the merits of visual technicalities.
Unlike many films on Blu-ray, No Country does not shy away from lingering on the makeup used to portray blood and wounds. With the level of detail possible at 1080p, makeup and special effects can be problematic, but this movie shows gunshot wounds close up, and they appear ultrarealistic. After one of the main characters suffers a shotgun blast to the leg, the camera shows the wound as the injured man cleans and disinfects it, injects the surrounding skin with lidocaine, removes pieces of buckshot and dresses the wound. Throughout the scene, the camera lingers on the skin as it oozes blood and exposes a nasty circular radiation of blast pellets. But mostly, the scene delivers reference-quality video footage that shows the wound so convincingly, it elicits winces and groans from everyone in the audience.
And the closeups are the least of it. Sweeping scenery like that of Moss walking in the desolate plains early in the film best shows why No Country is a visual stunner. Nearly every shrub appears in gorgeous detail, stretching off into the distance. A lone tree in the countryside appears in mesmerizing definition, with seemingly every leaf individually resolved. The earthtones of chaparral, ground and sky gracefully complement their respective forms. Dark scenes are equally impressive, predominantly noise-free, even in areas of inky blacks. Watch the nighttime shoot-out between Moss and Chighur outside the hotel. The dark streets come alive with detail, highlights and sharpness bursting from the screen with the impact of the gunshots themselves. As bullets slam through the windshield of Moss' getaway car, watch as every crack and bullet hole in the glass is extraordinarily defined.
No Country for Old Men Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While the video is reference quality, the audio performance of No Country is not, but few will have complaints. Listen to Bell's narrative that opens the film. The center channel delivers a detailed presentation of Tommy Lee Jones' voice with good microdetail and macrodetail in the casual, drawl and delivery. The audio is ever so slightly constricted, colored and thin. But overall, the 24-bit 48 kHz lossless PCM serves voices well, and excels in more treble-prone sounds. Technically, the 5.1 PCM yields 4.6 Mbps. The BD sounds at times like well-engineered Dolby Digital; at other times more open and detailed. Subtleties in the sounds of car and engines, explosions and especially firearms are easily resolved.
Perhaps the most audibly dynamic sequence is the dawn chase scene after Moss returns with water. Close your eyes and listen to Moss' breathing and footsteps as he runs, the truck in pursuit as it labors over rocks and shrubs, the crack of the rifle and hissing of bullets as they rip through the air and hit the ground. When Moss reaches the river, other sounds filter in: flowing water, the initial barks and panting of the pitbull, the clicking of Moss' handgun as he emerges from the water, checks the chamber, blows into the barrel, replaces the clip, fires a shot, the yelp of the dog and the thud as the bodies hit the ground, the far-off rumble of thunder. The whizzing bullets sound especially impressive. With no soundtrack or large crowds, the soundscape is sparce. The entire sequence and the film overall sounds very convincing. Almost no effects are assigned to the surround channels--only some incidental ambient sound, adding to the realism and immediacy of the action.
No Country for Old Men Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
At first inventory, the bonus features appear disappointing because they are in standard definition with two-channel audio. And by-and-large they are disappointing, but some solid material and revealing content is included--particularly with the Coen brothers themselves.
Working with the Coens: Reflections of Cast and Crew (8 minutes) includes mostly meaningless banter from Javier Bardem and the other actors gushing about their chance to work with Joel and Ethan Coen. But it is the moments with the brothers themselves that are rewarding. They are very quirky, but appear more mature and "PR-savvy" than they came across in the '90s.
The Making of No Country For Old Men (24 minutes) is the gem of the supplementary material. It includes important discussions with Joel and Ethan Coen regarding their inspiration to adapt the book into a film, and some nuts and bolts of production. Jones, Bardem and Brolin also play a big role in this featurette.
Diary of a County Sheriff (7 minutes) covers sheriff Bell from several angles. Much of the seven minutes are spent comparing Bell to Chigurh, but frankly I find the comparison between Moss and Chigurh more apropos. Unfortunately, no such featurette is included.
Fans of the Coen brothers hoping for a commentary track will be disappointed. It is not surprising that the featurettes are somewhat lacking with only four short months between the film's debut in theaters and its release on BD and DVD.
No Country for Old Men Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What makes No Country for Old Men so unconventional? Several factors, but the main reason is no final showdown in the classic sense. This lack of conventional resolution led to undue criticism from those who did not understand the story. Part of the film's appeal and genius lies in the way it dispenses with tying up the loose ends of conflict/resolution as deftly as it sets them up. The juxtaposition of Moss and Chigurh is fascinating. We watch them operate with comparable efficiency, both sustain injuries, both treat themselves. Both are motivated by the money. Both are skillful with firearms. We learn that Moss has served two tours in Vietnam. Chigurh's past is never revealed but, unlike Moss, he lacks any hint of remorse or conscience and he believes only in fate.
Characters as strong as these are not new to the Coen brothers. But in the Coens' earlier films like Fargo, the most brutal violence was often followed by quirky levity than can be described as comic relief. Even the most horrific acts, for example when a man is ground into tiny pieces, are minimized by farcical dialogue: "I guess that was your accomplice in the woodchipper." The sardonic humor, quirky facial expressions and odd, lilting accents are all legitimate devices that make Coen brothers films endearing and special to audiences. But those moments of levity are nowhere to be found in No Country. One can argue it is the first film from the Coens in which they despensed with the comic relief and made a movie that doesn't flinch from its own narrative flow or bend under its own weight.
In no way does this minimize the importance and success of the Coen's earlier body of work. As in Shakespeare's plays, comic relief makes the tragedy easier to take. And let's face it: part of the Coen brothers' gift is their sense of humor and timing. But to successfully tackle a story like No Country, they needed to dispense with humor for the most part, and I'm glad they did. Had they made this film in the 1990s, dialogue like that during the coin flip scene in the convenience store would have been peppered with humor. Instead, the Coens made sure the drama escalated with no hint of levity. The Coens simply execute. That is a great achievement for No Country because its real message is not tragic. It is merely an observation: evil can never be defeated, but when you're no longer gung-ho to face it and fight it, it's time to step aside.
No Country for Old Men: Other Editions
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No Country for Old Men Blu-ray, News and Updates
• No Country for Old Men Announced - December 13, 2007
Miramax Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring one of the highest rated films of the year, 'No Country for Old Men', to Blu-ray on March 11th. Video will be presented in 1080p and accompanied by a PCM soundtrack. Extras should be similar to the ...
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