No Country for Old Men: 3-Disc Collector’s Edition
April 3, 2009
After two lackluster efforts – the bland romantic comedy, Intolerable Cruelty (2003) and the unnecessary remake of The Ladykillers (2004) – the Coen brothers return to form with a vengeance with No Country for Old Men (2007). Even though it is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy, the subject matter is very familiar territory for the Coens. The story revolves around a bag of money and the desperate quest by several men to acquire it and who are more than willing to kill for it. Sound familiar? Blood Simple (1985), Fargo (1996) and (rather humourously) The Big Lebowski (1998) are past Coen brothers films that feature a similar story so it is certainly material that they are drawn to and the results speak for themselves: critically-lauded and the recipient of numerous awards including four Academy Awards.
Like Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men is set in Texas and features introductory narration that makes an observation about human nature. We are introduced to Anton Chigurh (Bardem), a vicious serial killer who dispatches two people in the first five minutes. While out hunting, Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) stumbles across a drug deal gone horribly wrong. Everyone is dead save one man who is mortally wounded. Moss finds a pick-up truckload of heroin and a briefcase with two million dollars. He takes the money and returns home with it – a decision he will come to regret. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones) is a veteran lawman who investigates the crime scene and finds Moss’ truck (he returned to the scene and had to abandon it when he ran into trouble) as does Chigurh who is hired by drug dealers to find the money and the man who took it. The rest of the film plays out the chain reaction of events that are kick-started by Moss’ initial actions.
Javier Bardem is chillingly effective as a sociopathic killer who sometimes lets his victims decide their fate with a coin toss. Like other cold-blooded killers in Coen brothers films (the Dane in Miller’s Crossing, Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink, and Gaear Grimsrud in Fargo) Chigurh is an enigmatic unstoppable force of nature. In contrast, Sheriff Bell is the film’s moral voice of reason and who better than Tommy Lee Jones with his kind, weathered face and equally weathered voice that instantly suggests years of life experience. He conveys the intelligence of his character by the way he works a crime scene, quickly deducing what happens through keen powers of observation much like Marge Gunderson in Fargo. Unlike Marge, however, Bell has seen better days and does not share her optimism. There is a tired sadness in his eyes that says so much about his character. Between this role and his colourful turn in Planet Terror (2007), Josh Brolin finally comes into his own as the everyman who foolishly decides to take two millions dollars that does not belong to him.
Roger Deakins’ superb cinematography perfectly captures the harsh, desolate West Texas landscape and how its vast expanse dwarfs the characters. They are at its mercy as much as they are with each other. The Coens have made a nihilistic thriller reminiscent of ones made in the 1970s. As bleak as things get in No Country for Old Men (and they get pretty bad), there is a humanistic streak as represented by Sheriff Bell and in a nice scene where he and a fellow lawman lament about the state of things and how they’ve changed for the worse which is about as close as the Coens get to social commentary in their films.
It is common practice for studios to rush out a bare bones DVD release in order to capitalize on the success of a film only to double dip some time later with more extras thus forcing fans to decide if the film is really worth buying again. In this case, if you are a fan of this film, it is worth picking up yet again. You can get rid of the previous version as all of its extras are included on this new Collector’s Edition.
The first disc includes all of the extras from the previous edition. “The Making of No Country for Old Men” takes a look at how this film came together. Producer Scott Rudin brought the book to the Coens. They liked the cinematic possibilities and how it could be adapted into a genre film that subverts genre. The Coens talk about how they cast the three lead roles with the actors that were cast talking about their characters. This is a fairly standard featurette but everyone speaks eloquently about the film.
“Working with the Coens” features the cast and crew speaking admiringly of working with the Coen brothers with a lot of their crew having worked with them for years. Bardem told his American agent that he wanted to work with them but figured that he would never get the chance and was pleasantly surprised when he got the call for this film.
“Diary of a Country Sheriff” takes a look at Sheriff Bell and how his character is a meditation on aging. He pursues Chigurh but does not understand him or what motivates his actions. The Coens and the cast talk about these two characters and their contrasting takes on life.
The second disc contains all of the new extras, which consist of an exhaustive collection of press junkets that the Coens and their cast endured over several months. First up is “Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes,” the actor’s own take on the film being made. He obviously had insider access with hints of inside jokes with his fellow cast members appearing throughout. Javier Bardem tells a couple of amusing filming anecdotes. This featurette has a slightly satirical vibe that is quite funny.
“Lunch with David Poland” was first aired on the Movie City News website. Poland interviews Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. They joke with each other and tell some funny anecdotes. Brolin comes across as a good-natured smart-ass and the two actors actually settle down and answer a few questions seriously in this entertaining extra.
“EW.com Just a Minute” features an Entertainment Weekly writer interviewing Javier Bardem. He talks about his experiences on the film and the unique look of his character, as well as specific scenes.
“NPR’s All Things Considered” is an audio interview with Josh Brolin. He talks about working with the Coen brothers.
“LA WGAW Q&A Panel” features filmmaker Noah Baumbach moderating a Q&A with the Coens and actors Kelly Macdonald, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones. A noticeably nervous Baumbach tries (most unsuccessfully) to get a substantial answer out of the notoriously evasive Coens while Jones shows up late.
“Variety Q&A” is an after-screening session with Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald and Javier Bardem. They talk about working with the Coens.
“Creative Screenwriting Magazine” is an audio podcast with the Coen brothers. They talk about their writing process and give a lot of smart-ass answers as they aren’t really fond of talking about how they work which makes for a weird interview.
“ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers” features Rolling Stone magazine’s film critic interviewing Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Kelly Macdonald about the film. They talk about their characters and how they fit into the story.
“WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons and Bailes” is an interview with Josh Brolin. He talks about his career, from his start in The Goonies (1985) to his recent run with films directed by Robert Rodriguez, Ridley Scott and so on. He talks about how he was cast in No Country for Old Men.
“In-Store Appearance” is a Q&A with Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. They talk about the origins of Javier’s haircut in the film. Brolin talks about how he got Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to shoot his audition tape for the film using a million dollar digital camera.
“Charlie Rose” features an interview with the Coens, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. The Coens talk about how they got involved with the project and what drew them to it. Brolin rehashes how he was cast, while Bardem talks about how he approached the role. This is an excellent and informative interview.
“Channel 4 News” is a brief interview with the Coens, as well as a profile of the film’s success with critics and awards.
“KCRW: The Treatment” features Elvis Mitchell interviewing the Coens. He asks good, intelligent questions but the interview still covers a lot of familiar ground.
“Spike Jonze Q&A” features the filmmaker interviewing the Coens and key crew members about technical aspects of the film, like cinematography, sound design, and so on. This is a fantastic look at the nuts ‘n’ bolts of the key elements of a film.
“NPR’s Weekend Edition” is a radio interview with the Coens done after the Academy Award nominations were announced. In typical Coen fashion, they take the announcement in stride having been through it before.
“NPR’s Day to Day” is an interview with Javier Bardem, done after he won the Golden Globe for the film. He talks about his character.
Finally, there is “NPR’s All Things Considered,” which is an interview with the film’s producer Scott Rudin. He talks about the genesis of the project and why he wanted the Coens to do it.
Also included is a digital copy of the film.