No Country for Old Men Blu-ray Review
PictureThe film is a 1080P AVC MPEG-4 presentation in a 2.35:1 ratio. Overall the feel of the movie leans strongly towards a western and the parched, bleak colourless backdrops drain lots of colour out of the film. What colours there are appear fairly washed out and are not as vivid or as distinct as things could have been. The colour pallette consequently may not be to everyone's taste though the overall look may have been that by design. Skin tones are generally excellent and very photo realistic. There are some scenes that really do stand out with some depth, such as the sequence in the river, where the flowing water is very natural and realistic. Viewed on an unforgiving 10ft projection however did also reveal a number of flaws in the imagery. In the early part of the film there is surprisingly a bit of grain and dot crawl in evidence especially in the sky and desert scenes. Blacks and contrast levels were also not always as consistently deep as I had hoped for and some of the darker scenes did not have the solidity of black about them at all times. Consequently a fair bit of detail was lost in some of the murkier scenes. There again viewing this movie on a smaller display such as a LCD or 50" plasma the picture was far less open to detailed criticism and for the most part is very good. The movie was of course filmed and edited beautifully. The blu-ray disc does enough justice for most, though the movie's real strength remains in its content.
SoundThe disc comes with an English only soundtrack as either 5.1 Uncompressed (48KHz/24-bit) or as 5.1 Dolby Digital. The dialogue is very crisp and clear. Javier Bardem's lowly growling voice comes through with unerring spine chilling resonance. As a complete sound package though the disc essentially follows on from the video side of things and it's a pretty poor effort all round. The full soundstage is very infrequently used and the load is generally put onto the front stage. The surrounds are used on occasion but nowhere enough. One moment of note was a sniper shot by Chigurh when chasing Llewelyn whilst he climbs into a passing jeep.Still, it doesn't detract that much from the movie as there is not much by way of out and out action on offer. The movie still somehow manages to muster up enough ambience of its own accord. The Coen's do however need to take note that it's not all about the filming and as much detail needs to be given to the audio side of things. You have the options of English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles in both the features and the extras whereas you will only get 2-channel Dolby Digital for the extras.
ExtrasThere are only 3 bonus features on offer. These are all in 480P standard definition with an English 2.0 Dolby Digital. Unfortunately, the extras are as disappointing as the video and audio aspects of this disc and the lack of a director's commentary is definitely a short coming. This movie deserves a director's voice over at the very least.
The Making of No Country For Old Men - 24mins 29secs - Take a journey through the Coen brothers process as storytellers with a unique voice and vision. This feature interviews both the brothers as well as production staff about the film, the making and the shooting of the scenes. The Coens come across as a very sombre pair and it appears they work with a very loyal and dedicated crew. A lot is said about how literal the movie is to the novel and how they kept to it as closely as possible. It's quite a good insight but it does not replace what should have really been a voice over director's commentary.
Working with the Coens - 8mins 7secs - Learn about Joel and Ethan Coen from the perspective of their collaborators, cast and crew. This is more behind the scenes stuff but goes into more depth about the closeness of the crew that makes up the Coen camp. It appears many of them have worked with the Coen's right from the very start and it is indeed a very insular and sombre production team. There are all the usual “ yeah they are great to work for “ comments added in for good measure.
Diary of a Country Sheriff - 6mins 44secs - Explore the relationship between the comparisons of Sheriff Bell and the brutality of Anton Chigurh. This was quite a good feature that expanded on Tommy Lee Jones's portrayal of a compassionate yet ageing Sheriff. Javier Bardem was the real star here and his take on the character of Anton Chigurh was fascinating. His delivery in the film was even more so.
VerdictThe Coen brothers return to some form with a cult classic. This film won 4 Oscars including one for Best Picture and with good reason. Surprisingly it draws parallels with many movies that have come long before it. There is however, nothing revolutionary on offer here folks but what there is has been done extremely well. Plenty of attention has been given to details.
At times I was drawing reference in my mind to scenes from many movies across many, many differing genres. Still, I would best describe this movie as a western in feel and the build up of the round robin rabbit chase as a rather smouldering affair. There is actually much similarity of Chigurh as the malevolent monster, with an obsessively ruthless predatory instinct chasing Llewellyn Moss as to what Steven Spielberg achieved in Duel. The murders are brutal, the choices of weaponry remain intriguing and the intertwining of the 3 main characters is nothing short of fascinating. Javier Bardem amazingly never plays Anton Chigurh as a faceless character. It's made remarkably more so that they all never meet face to face onscreen at any one time.
As a disc package it's a mixed blessing of sorts. The soundtrack and the extras leave room for some improvement. The movie is not overly reliant on the audio so it's not a major problem, though a little more inventiveness in this department would have been welcome. A directors commentary would also have provided a fascinating insight into how the two brothers think together. Bit of a missed opportunity there really as well
Furthermore, I couldn't help but consider what a certain Quentin Tarantino's take on this film may have been? The story certainly lends to his natural style. After pondering upon this for a while, my thoughts were whilst Tarantino would have certainly delivered this as a sick, twisted and disturbed film what the Coen's actually achieved was a sick, twisted and intellectually disturbed film. Hall mark indeed.
Is it recommended viewing? Yes of course it is. It's destined to be a cult classic. It's not without fault though and best described as a flawed classic. The latter 20 minutes are not great and the ending will remain unsatisfying for some. Not withstanding, the bulk of the film remains superb.
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