No Country for Old Men (Collector's Edition) Review
The Coens' propulsive storytelling combined with three central performances calibrated to perfection and enough underlying ideas to chew and chew and chew on through multiple viewings helped No Country for Old Men attain widespread acclaim, awards and a quick elevation to the status of instant classic. It's a film that will age exceptionally well and one fully deserving of all the accolades received. The saturation that bordered on overkill during 2007's awards season may have actually briefly hindered the movie's impact, as there are only so many times any sane person wants to hear Javier Bardem say "friendo" after flipping a coin that serves simultaneously as a potential death sentence. Indeed, some distance from the hype will be nice as the years pass. I'd considered the movie in the year-plus since reviewing it here at DVD Times but not watched it again until sitting down with this misleadingly named 2-Disc Collector's Edition release. A third viewing in total and I was still completely enthralled, hardly able to come up for air. I saw more humor this time but didn't know what to make of it. My allegiances weren't as pronounced, probably from realizing it wouldn't matter. I just felt like a spectator passively witnessing it all unfold. I'd come to terms with the limitations of the viewer and the things we're denied in the film. My respect for it probably deepened.
Because I did already devote a considerable number of words to No Country for Old Men and since the coverage of the film here at DVD Times has bordered on comprehensive, with no fewer than four different reviewers offering up opinions, I'll gladly assume we've said plenty already and move on past the merits of the film to look at this new Blu-ray edition.
My cynicism must've temporarily strayed off course because I was actually surprised to learn that Disney/Buena Vista/Miramax was giving the film another DVD and Blu-ray release just barely a year after the initial offering. Sure it won Best Picture and had middling extras the first go-around, but what possibly could be gained (other than greenbacks) from another release so soon? And yet, here we are, with a (region-locked) fake 2-Disc Collector's Edition where the second disc is useful only as a digital copy. One bright side is a $10 rebate inside the case that will allow owners of the prior DVD or Blu-ray who purchase the new edition to get a little back if they act before June 30, 2009. I like the cover art for this attempt better too, but the banner directly underneath the title advertising the digital copy is an unnecessary blight that's actually printed on instead of a removable sticker. The 30-second anti-tobacco ad that comes after pressing "Play" is entirely annoying as well.
John White covered the earlier Blu-ray release, but I didn't get a chance to see it so it's difficult to say how this compares. The 2.35:1 image here certainly looks outstanding. Detail is often amazing with brilliantly rendered colors. The DVD appeared almost flat at times and couldn't compete with the depth offered up in high definition. This is an extremely impressive transfer. Audio is also excellent and a bit unique in relying so heavily on sounds instead of music. I appreciated the crispness and how full the English 5.1 DTS-HD mix comes through without ever overwhelming the scene. A Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital dub is also offered. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish. They are yellow in color and also available for the bonus material except, annoyingly, the audio-only extras.
This is really the type of release that proves quantity doesn't automatically equal quality. The supplements are copious without always being interesting or necessary. They also aren't in HD, with not a single extra feature elevated to high definition. No trailer for the film is included either, though it can be seen once, twice, three times (in standard definition, of course) as part of the other bonus features. The same basic featurettes from the first DVD and Blu-ray releases have been ported over, though they are as needless now as they were then. In addition, Josh Brolin has added some footage he shot that works as a mock behind-the-scenes look at how horrible it was dealing with the Coens. Additionally, there are 16 pieces of awards season-type whoring that are of varying times, quality and interest. To hopefully help out those reluctant to subject themselves to about 5 hours' worth of hearing the same questions and seeing the same clips over and over, I've separated the worthy from the dross and divided each bit into one of three categories below.
First, to reiterate, "The Making of No Country for Old Men" (24:29), "Working with the Coens" (8:07), and "Diary of a Country Sheriff" (6:44) are all carryovers from the first release and provide the standard interviews and explanations that are hardly essential. "Josh Brolin's Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes" (9:19) initially seems to be of the same stripe but quickly finds a funny bone and we can see it's actually making fun of those sorts of promotional featurettes. From there, the disc offers up a "Press Timeline" that takes us to the 16 miscellaneous interviews of cast and crew. It's interesting to see some of what the principals of the film go through day after day while trying to trump up interest for awards everyone agrees they only tangentially care about. Dates are given and stretch from the Toronto Film Festival to just a few days prior to the Academy Awards ceremony. I'm including the dates below while offering up my take on what's recommended, what wouldn't hurt you to watch and what should be avoided.
"L.A. WGAW Q&A Panel" (24:13) - 11/6/07 - Director Noah Baumbach stammers his way through some questions for the Coens, Josh Brolin, Kelly MacDonald, Javier Bardem, and latecomer Tommy Lee Jones before opening it up to the audience. This is Jones' only participation in the press festivities included on the disc and the session finds everyone a little fresher than what we see a month or two later on.
"Charlie Rose" (22:33) - 11/21/07 - The Coens, Bardem and Brolin join PBS interviewer Rose for a well-intentioned chat. Generally, this is good but I wish the clips had been edited out. If it seems like things end abruptly, they do. The full version lasts nearly an hour and can be watched on Google Video. Why the whole thing wasn't included is anyone's guess.
"KCRW The Treatment" (28:30) - 12/19/07 - Elvis Mitchell interviews the brothers Coen in an audio-only affair taken from Mitchell's radio show. One of the deeper explorations into the film in comparison to the often inane softballs lobbed most everywhere else.
"Spike Jonze Q&A" (1:00:47) - 1/27/08 - Following in Noah Baumbach's footsteps, Spike Jonze asks the Coens a few questions, but what makes this a bit more interesting than normal is the presence of various behind the scenes collaborators. The Coens are present during the entire session, joined in twenty minute intervals by director of photography Roger Deakins, four members of the sound team, and production designer Jess Gonchor.
Harmless enough to watch (or listen to):
"Lunch with David Poland" (26:30) - 10/26/07 - Online critic and blogger Poland gets Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem before they've told the same stories hundreds of times in this interview conducted during the Toronto Film Festival a couple of weeks prior to the film's domestic release. The audio is troublesome at times, but the two actors are looser and less perfunctory than in later appearances.
"EW.com Just a Minute" (12:55) - 11/8/07 - Entertainment Weekly magazine's Dave Karger sits down with Bardem for a few questions. I generally had low expectations for this, but it was better than expected.
"WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons & Bailes" (10:02) - 12/1/07 - TV film critic Jeffrey Lyons has a rapid fire discussion with Brolin that's worth watching mainly because it delves into the actor's career in addition to the film at hand.
"Channel 4 News" (3:45) - 12/16/07 - A short few moments with the Coen brothers done for a British television station. The highlight here is seeing their real time reaction to getting Golden Globe nominations.
"NPR's All Things Considered" (7:49) - 2/7/08 - Robert Siegel talks with producer Scott Rudin just a few days prior to the Oscars. This is Rudin's only time popping up in these extras, though he's mentioned on other occasions. He also produced There Will Be Blood, another Best Picture nominee, but the focus seems centered more on No Country.
Not Recommended (out of repetition or lack of relevance):
"Variety Q&A" (3:08) - 11/6/07 - Short portion of a question and answer session with Josh Brolin, Kelly MacDonald and Javier Bardem.
"Creative Screenwriting Magazine" (21:25) - 11/9/07 - Audio interview with Joel and Ethan Coen conducted for a podcast. A few questions are almost interesting, but the interviewer clearly has a list of things prepared and simply moves on to the next one regardless of how the Coens answer.
"NPR's All Things Considered" (4:44) - 11/9/07 - An earlier audio interview with Brolin done by Michele Norris. It's not bad, but the shortness of what we hear and commonness of the questions make it easily forgettable.
"ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers" (14:51) - 11/14/07 - I don't like Travers, who's the blurb-happy critic for Rolling Stone magazine, and these junket-like minutes he spends talking to Brolin, Bardem and MacDonald for ABC News Now helped remind me why.
"In-Store Appearance" (40:31) - 11/20/07 - Way too long, padded by an abundance of clips seen elsewhere and often empty-headed questions from a guy at the Apple Store probably thrilled just to be talking with Brolin and Bardem.
"NPR's Day to Day" (6:37) - 1/17/08 - Michele Norris is back to talk to Javier Bardem the day after he won the Golden Globe. Short, audio-only and with no new ground covered.
"NPR's Weekend Edition" (5:32) - 2/9/08 - The Coens are briefly interviewed by Scott Simon in another piece of superfluity.
There are also sneak peek trailers for Lost and Doubt, and promos for Blu-ray and Miramax.