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,Á‚ both complete with a massive slew of extras and a limited edition digital copy of the film. Although I’ll argueÁ‚ 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 clientsÁ‚ near the U.S.-Mexico border, and finds a satchel of money with no survivors to claim it. However, higher-upsÁ‚ involved in the drug trade send their personalÁ‚ Hand of Vengeance,Á‚ the remorseless killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) toÁ‚ recover their cash.Á‚ Chigurh will kill anyone–anyone–who gets in his way, and as Moss goes on the run, the local law enforcer SheriffÁ‚ 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 castÁ‚ underpinning an unusually strong script, takesÁ‚ theÁ‚ bold risk of having virtually no incidental music whatsoever (whereas mostÁ‚ 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 ofÁ‚ how people meet their end, andÁ‚ living–or dying–with the consequences of the choices we make.
The DVD comes withÁ‚ the most extras I’ve seen on any recentÁ‚ film, with the possible exceptions ofÁ‚ the releases of TheÁ‚ 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–Á‚ the restÁ‚ of the backstory on disc 2 is very, very redundant.Á‚ First upÁ‚ on disc 2 is the moderately amusing Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes, in which Brolin getsÁ‚ “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 ifÁ‚ script lines are questioned, et cetera.
Then there’s the Publicity Timeline, whichÁ‚ 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.Á‚ Not only are the interviews uneven in theirÁ‚ level of professionalism (“Creative Screenwriting”‘s Jeff Goldsmith’s declaration that the Coens are “hands down the greatest writing-directingÁ‚ 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 theÁ‚ moment one gets to the fifth time that Bardem is asked about the haircut he wore to play Chigurh,Á‚ you’ll be wishing you had a cattle gun you could hold to the heads of the various interviewers.
My recommendation:Á‚ Unless you really areÁ‚ curious as to how muchÁ‚ wearing the Chigurh haircutÁ‚ for three months annoyedÁ‚ Javier Bardem(spoiler: A LOT), you’re better off holding onto theÁ‚ 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 othersÁ‚ 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 myÁ‚ small gripes with the ending (which I respect a little bit more now, even if I don’t fully appreciate it), the film isÁ‚ both powerful and evocative, and proves a strong rumination on the futility of the motions we go through in life.