The Screening Room
no country for old men blu ray
NOTE: This is the same review as done on the "No Country For Old Men" DVD. Picture and sound quality notes have been added.

The Coen Brothers, Joel & Ethan, make movies that appeal to lovers of film. That is, their movies invite analysis about the plot, the characters, the editing, the clever camerawork, etc. "No Country For Old Men" is the latest in a series of Coen films that dares you to figure out what it's about.

The Oscar-winning Best Picture, "No Country For Old Men," is now on a new edition Blu-ray.

Even though the Coen Brothers have been making feature films since 1984's "Blood Simple," I didn't notice their filmmaking talent until "Raising Arizona" in 1987. To a young film lover, "Arizona" was brilliant. I admired their use of campy dialogue and quick camerawork. I thought their screenplay was well-written. These two had talent, and I wouldn't be proven wrong in the future. "Miller's Crossing" (1990) was plodding at times, yet excellent in its love for the criminal underworld. "Barton Fink" (1991) was strangely beautiful in its filmmaking. But it was "Fargo" (1996) that showed how clever the Coen's writing and directing could be. Now comes "No Country For Old Men." It's as if the film gods finally recognized the brothers as true craftsmen of the art (although they won Oscars for their writing of "Fargo").  

I won't say that "No Country" is my favorite Coen Brothers film. That belongs to "Fargo." This new movie is more simple and yet more complex than the 1996 film. It lacks much of the humor that has been a staple in most of the Coen Brothers movies. The villain, Anton Chigurh (Bardem), is cold and unlike almost any villain I've seen in years. The film is bloody violent, but that's nothing new to the Coen Brothers' style. You don't warm up to the characters like you do in past Coen films, but each is dynamic and commands your attention. "No Country" is a hybrid of every Coen staple, twisted into a slow but reasonably paced film. It may not be the quirkiest Coen movie, and it shouldn't be, but it'll get your attention. 

The story essentially involves a chase. Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) stumbles across a drug bust gone bad and finds a briefcase full of money. Suddenly he's embroiled in a chase between mysterious drug runners and the very callous Chigurh. Caught in the middle of all this mayhem is Jones' Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. What surprised me is how layered this simple plot really is, and how much deeper the characters really are. 

Bardem is completely frightening as Chigurh. It's been a long time since I can recall seeing a cold-hearted villain such as Chigurh. Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) was one of the great cinematic villains, but he had a soft side. Chigurh doesn't have a soft side or remorse. His victims only have one saving grace and that's the flip of a coin. When he's on-screen, he's intimidating. There have been villains who are just as cold and calculated as Bardem's character in numerous films. But they're bad just to be bad. They're the type of villain written into a movie to move the plot along, and give the good guy someone to battle. They're not scary like Chigurh. Upon viewing Bardem's role in "No Country," I noticed how smart this guy is. In the scenes when he's talking to his potential victims, he's usually thinking one step ahead of them. You never know if he's going to commit to killing or not. The killing of his victims is a part of him and how he deals with business, or how he escapes from a situation. I also think that there's more to this man's character and it's for the audience to figure out. And perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Either way, Bardem is excellent in this role.

Josh Brolin is quite a re-discovery in this film. I can honestly say that I can only recall one movie Brolin was in, and that was "The Goonies" in 1985. Looking at his credits on iMDB, I saw that he's done a lot of roles in independent films and TV. He's remarkably low key in this film and fits the part of Llewelyn perfectly. He's just as calculating as Chigurh in keeping that briefcase full of money. He's just not a cold blooded killer.

Tommy Lee Jones plays that classic Tommy Lee Jones in this film. He has that sorrowful look on his face and that Texas drawl that makes Jones so enjoyable to watch. He's one of those great actors who doesn't have a lot of range, and he plays his roles comfortably. For me, that's okay. What he gives on the screen is convincing. He's like Morgan Freeman; he can read off of a cereal box and I'd listen. Jones is surprising in "No Country." He's even more low key than ever before. But his role as Bell is the center of the film. His character is simple on the surface, yet there is much going on in that head of his. Without giving too much away about the story, you can see how he's an honest and peaceful man who doesn't like how things around him are changing.

The Blu-ray picture quality on this film is excellent. The picture maintains Roger Deakins' fine cinematography. I noticed all the gory details I seemed to miss on the DVD, as well as the gleam in Bardem's evil eyes.

The DTS-HD Master Audio is remarkably impressive. I don't have the original Blu-ray edition with the uncompressed PCM audio track option to compare. This new edition features quite a robust soundtrack. When Chigurh fires his cow killing device, there were a few times when I jumped out of my seat. The soundtrack packs a wallop to your eardrums, and it's all great.

The Coen Brothers, working from the Cormac McCarthy book, have written and directed (and produced) a film that will probably leave audiences baffled to what it's about. I watched the film twice now and still am trying to figure out what it all means. I have a hunch, but I ain't telling. I could be wrong! And maybe that's what the Coen Brothers want.  

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photo: Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Paramount Vantage. All rights reserved.

Blu-ray Quick Glimpse



Cleverly plotted and acted chase film

Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen  

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin 

"Making of," numerous audio tracks, "digital copy," and more


Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

The Coen Bros. love making movie lover's movies

Aspect Ratio (2.39:1)


April 7, 2009
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