At times, the world runs on our differences more than our similarities. Everyone has their favorite directors, and of course there are those who dispute their choices. For every lover of Spielberg, Lucas, Aronofsky or Coppola, there’s someone who can’t stand anything from their bodies of work. The arguments which ensue are part of what keeps life interesting.
Although I’ve liked some of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, I’ve never been a particular fan of theirs. That said, I loved the entirety of their 2007 Academy Award winner No Country for Old Men…at least, until the last 20 minutes.
No Country for Old Men is about to be re-released on DVD and Blu-Ray this coming Tuesday,Â both complete with a massive slew of extras and a limited edition digital copy of the film. Although I’ll argueÂ until the end of my days that Gone Baby Gone should have taken the Oscar for ’07 (based on my own personal belief in the quality of its emotional and dramatic satisfaction), I can’t deny that No Country is one hell of a powerful and disturbing film.
Adapted by the Coens from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story tells the tale of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a man who one day happens upon the aftermath of a bloody disagreement between a group of drug dealers and their clientsÂ near the U.S.-Mexico border, and finds a satchel of money with no survivors to claim it. However, higher-upsÂ involved in the drug trade send their personalÂ Hand of Vengeance,Â the remorseless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) toÂ recover their cash.Â Chigurh will kill anyone–anyone–who gets in his way, and as Moss goes on the run, the local law enforcer SheriffÂ Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) becomes involved in trying to find a way to track down and save Moss, while attempting to figure out how he’ll ever deal with Chigurh…a new type of evil which Bell doesn’t understand, and isn’t sure he’s prepared to face.
No Country for Old Men is a rare breed of film: it’s entirely unpredictable from beginning to end, has a powerful castÂ underpinning an unusually strong script, takesÂ theÂ bold risk of having virtually no incidental music whatsoever (whereas mostÂ drama-thrillers of this ilk tend to use their scores to manipulate the audience’s feelings every step of the way) and is a tense treatise on the inevitability of fate, the unfairness ofÂ how people meet their end, andÂ living–or dying–with the consequences of the choices we make.
The DVD comes withÂ the most extras I’ve seen on any recentÂ film, with the possible exceptions ofÂ the releases of TheÂ Incredible Hulk and Blade Runner. The problem, however, is that aside from the very well-done documentaries on disc 1–The Making of No Country for Old Men, Working with the Coens and Diary of a Country Sheriff–Â the restÂ of the backstory on disc 2 is very, very redundant.Â First upÂ on disc 2 is the moderately amusing Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes, in which Brolin getsÂ “confessions” from Javier Bardem and several other crew members of the “real” behavior of the Coen brothers on set: starving the crew if takes aren’t done correctly, beating actors behind closed doors ifÂ script lines are questioned, et cetera.
Then there’s the Publicity Timeline, whichÂ encompasses virtually every appearance the central actors and the directors made on the talk circuit, prior to the release of the film, and the impending Oscar win.Â Not only are the interviews uneven in theirÂ level of professionalism (“Creative Screenwriting”‘s Jeff Goldsmith’s declaration that the Coens are “hands down the greatest writing-directingÂ team in the world” is a bit much, and the interviewer for the Writers’ Guild of America West panel is so obviously star-struck and stuttering, plus he asks horrible questions), but by theÂ moment one gets to the fifth time that Bardem is asked about the haircut he wore to play Chigurh,Â you’ll be wishing you had a cattle gun you could hold to the heads of the various interviewers.
My recommendation:Â Unless you really areÂ curious as to how muchÂ wearing the Chigurh haircutÂ for three months annoyedÂ Javier Bardem(spoiler: A LOT), you’re better off holding onto theÂ version released back in 2008. The extras on the first disc of the new release are exactly the same, and the quality of the film (presented in crisp letterbox) has only improved slightly. For all othersÂ who haven’t seen No Country for Old Men, unless you’re a fan of almost meaningless bells and whistles, you should also seek out the original disc. In spite of myÂ small gripes with the ending (which I respect a little bit more now, even if I don’t fully appreciate it), the film isÂ both powerful and evocative, and proves a strong rumination on the futility of the motions we go through in life.