This is the second time No Country for Old Men has been released on Blu-ray, this time in a 2-disc set with a host of bonus features not present in the earlier release. [editor's note: I hate double dips!] If it has taken you this long to see the Coen brothers’ most successful film, then you’re probably not a Coen brothers’ style fan. Or, you’ve just been very busy. If you have seen it, then take this as an opportunity to see it again, as it’s one of the best films to come to screen in years.
The basic story is a bit of a classic, based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name. In the early 80s (1980, in fact, which you’ll only find out by watching the bonus features), in the desolate Texas countryside near the Mexico border, a drug deal goes bad, leaving a lot of people dead. The rest of the movie consists of a series of chase scenes, shootouts and cat-and-mouse action.
Said like that, the movie might not seem that distinctive, but in Coen style, No Country for Old Men is populated by a memorable cast of characters. There’s the stoic and leathery sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones, the relentless killer played by Javier Bardem, the good guy played by Josh Brolin, who’s only good in comparison to the bad guy, and then there’s the bounty hunter played by Woody Harrelson. These characters’ fates seem thrown together in ways that are both random and inevitable, much like the violence of the movie.
On Blu-ray, the movie is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The picture looks good in high definition, but it’s not the through-a-window clarity you get with some Blu-ray discs. Some of the close ups, such as gunshot wounds and Jones' wind-worn skin are finely detailed. The release preserves the film-look and contains some grain and a slightly yellowish tint. You won’t be blown away with details, but the beautifully shot Texas vistas look grand on a large HDTV screen.
Unlike the earlier release, this Blu-ray is offered in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit) in addition to 5.1 Dolby Digital. The soundtrack itself is subtle. There are long moments of silence. The characters don’t talk a lot, but when they do, almost every line is memorable and composed with deliberation, and these memorable moments are captured well by the DTS-HD soundtrack. Activity in the surround channels is sparse, restricted to a few gun shots and lonely wind sounds.
Where this release most departs from the earlier Blu-ray edition is in the bonus features. In addition to the four featurettes found previously, we're offered a tongue-in-cheek criticism of working with the Coens (produced by Brolin) plus a series of press interviews and appearances all collected in an interactive feature called "Press Timeline." This will appeal to the obsessive fan. Most of the interviews were done for the theatrical release of the movie and as such were meant to promote the film, which by this point, Blu-ray owners will have already seen. Some are revealing, but personally I could have lived without them.
The second disc in this set contains the digital copy for transferring to your computer. It contains both iTunes and Windows Media compatible files.
No County for Old Men is more thoughtful than prior Coen films and this is saying something. There is some of the dark humor from Fargo, but not nearly as much. I found this to be a more pensive yet menacing movie than most of the brothers' earlier work, and incidentally, the first Coen movie based on a book. As a Blu-ray presentation, it's a nice package, full of extras for people who drool over insider information, but if it's just the movie you want, the prior release will do just fine.
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