No Country for Old Men appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it improved as it progressed, I thought this was a less than exemplary transfer.
Most of the issues related to sharpness. I noticed moderate edge enhancement at times, and that factor affected the film’s definition. More than a few wide shots looked soft and loose, though these did get a bit tighter as the flick went along. Nonetheless, I thought delineation was only good at best and occasionally less satisfying than that.
At least the film lacked shimmering or jagged edges, and source flaws failed to appear. In terms of palette, Men went with an arid yellow tint much of the time. This meant few – if any – more dynamic hues and a generally drab appearance. I couldn’t fault the transfer, though, as the bland colors stemmed from the visual design.
Blacks were tougher to judge, though. I thought they seemed a bit inky at times, but I wasn’t able to determine how much of that came from the transfer and how much was from the cinematography. I thought the blacks weren’t terribly satisfying, though, and shadows could be a bit murky and flat. Enough of Men looked positive to enter “B-“ territory, but this remained a lackluster presentation.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Men proved quite satisfying. Though the soundfield lacked the consistent dazzle factor to enter into “A” territory, it used the give channels in a positive manner. Most of the effective sequences came from those that involved fights with bullets or Chigurh’s bolt gun; during these, blasts and crashes popped up from all around the room. General atmosphere seemed involving as well, with a natural, spacious feeling about them. The elements were placed accurately and fit together in a tight, convincing manner.
Audio quality was also strong. Speech sounded concise and distinctive, with clear lines and no related issues. Effects seemed clean and dynamic. They were accurate and presented vivid imaging. I can’t comment on the music, though – outside of its closing credits, the movie featured no score. That was fine with me, since the audio was very good for the film and it didn’t need music. I really liked this powerful soundtrack.
How did the picture and audio of this 2009 “Collector’s Edition” compare to those of the original 2008 release? I thought both seemed virtually identical.
In terms of extras, the CE includes everything from the 2008 disc along with a second platter of new supplements. All of the contents of DVD One appeared on the prior release, as we find three separate featurettes. The Making of No Country for Old Men runs 24 minutes, 28 seconds and provides the usual mix of movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from writers/directors Joel and Ethan Coen, UPM executive producer Robert Graf, production designer Jess Gonchor, property master Keith Walters, costume designer Mary Zophres, makeup artist Christien Tinsley, stunt coordinator Jery Hewitt, special effects coordinator Peter Chesney, and actors Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, and Javier Bardem. “Making” looks at the source novel and its adaptation, shooting in Texas, cast, characters and performances, period elements and visual design, stunts and effects, and a few other thoughts.
“Making” adds up to half promotion and half facts. Most of the latter appear in the piece’s second segment, as the first devotes itself mostly to a general description of the story and characters. This never turns into a fascinating piece, but it includes a mix of useful details.
Working with the Coens fills eight minutes and seven seconds with comments from Bardem, Brolin, Macdonald, Graf, Jones, Zophres, Hewitt, Chesney, Gonchor, Tinsley, Walters, and actor Tess Harper. The show tells us what it’s like to interact with the Coens and their style as co-directors. Of course, much of this degenerates into basic praise for the Coens, but we get some good footage from the set and a few minor insights about the brothers.
Finally, Diary of a Country Sheriff goes for six minutes, 44 seconds and involves the Coens, Graf, Jones, Bardem, Macdonald, Harper, and Brolin. They chat a little about some characters and movie themes. We get some decent thoughts but not a whole lot of substance.
A few ads open DVD One. We get clips for Blu-ray Discs, Miramax Films and Doubt. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area. No trailer for Men appears here.
Over on DVD Two, we get all of the CE’s new extras. Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes fills nine minutes, 19 seconds with footage. We find comments from Joel and Ethan Coen, Jones, Bardem, Graf, Brolin, Macdonald, production supervisor Karen Getchell, associate producer Dave Diliberto and actor Woody Harrelson. Essentially “Unauthorized” falls into the category of a joke project. It includes a smattering of facts, but mostly it exhibits a dry wit. This makes it moderately enjoyable but a little too clever for its own good.
A slew of elements appear under the banner of Publicity Timeline. This starts on October 26, 2007 with “Lunch with David Poland” (26:29) and progresses through another 15 elements that end on February 9, 2008 with “NPR’s Weekend Edition” (5:33). In between, we find “LA WGAW Q&A Panel” (11/6/07, 24:12), “Variety Q&A” (11/6/07, 3:08), “EW.com Just a Minute” (11/8/07, 12:55), “Creative Screenwriting Magazine” (11/8/07, 21:26), “NPR’s All Things Considered” (11/9/07, 4:45), “ABC Popcorn with Peter Travers” (11/14/07, 14:50), “In-Store Appearance” (11/20/07, 40:29), “Charlie Rose” (11/21/07, 22:32), “WNBC Reel Talk with Lyons and Bailes” (12/1/07, 10:02), “Channel 4 News” (12/16/07, 3:45), “KCRW The Treatment” (12/19/07, 28:31), “NPR’s Day to Day” (1/17/08, 6:39), “Spike Jonze Q&A” (1/27/08, 1:00:44), and “NPR’s All Things Considered” (2/7/08, 7:50).
That adds up to a grand total of four hours, 53 minutes and 50 seconds of material. Across these, we hear from Joel and Ethan Coen, Brolin, Bardem, Macdonald, and Jones. For the “Jonez” clip, we also find director of photography Roger Deakins, supervising sound editor Skip Lievsay, sound designer Craig Berkey, sound mixer Peter Kurland, sound re-recording mixer Greg Orloff, and production designer Jess Gonchor; it’s the only place anyone other than the actors or directors appear.
The various pieces cover a variety of topics, though they tend to emphasize the work of the Coens and the actors. Since all of them come from publicity appearances in media outlets, that makes sense; I wouldn’t expect NPR to dig too deeply into more technical topics. We do get a lot of good info about cast and performances, the script and the Coens’ working processes, and various production stories. The “Jonze” program is the major exception to this rule, as it digs into cinematography, production design and sound choices.
Because these elements come from promotional opportunities, I feared they would follow a superficial path. To my pleasant surprise, they tend to be fairly involving and deep. However, they can turn redundant, as we hear some of the same information over and over again. We also see the trailer and a few movie clips many, many times.
The redundancy issue becomes especially true for notes from Brolin and Bardem. Of all the participants, they show up the most often, so they tell us some of the same stories during many of the components. At least both men are entertaining; Brolin boasts a slightly dark, dry sense of humor that adds zest to his moments. Perhaps the most fun moments with Brolin appear during the “Lyons” piece, as he actually talks about The Goonies there; we get a few other cool, unusual topics in that piece.
With nearly five hours of footage, I sure can’t criticize the amount of material found under “Publicity Timeline”, though I must admit that I’d have preferred a tight, better-balanced documentary. The “Timeline” feels a bit like an easy way out; rather than go to the effort to create something unified, it simply includes lots of prefab elements and lets the viewer sort through them. You’ll learn a lot from these components, but you have to sit through a lot of redundancy to get to the good stuff.
My shorthand recommendation: “Spike Jonze Q&A” is a must-see since it’s the only place to learn about the technical elements. I think if you stick with the longer components – all of the ones over 20 minutes – and skip the shorter ones, you’ll get most of what the package has to offer. The short clips have some unique elements – and the Lyons one deserves mention – but they also include most of the redundant bits.
One more comment about the “Publicity Timeline” area: each screen offers an option that read “Call It, Friend-O” at the top. You might think this is an Easter egg, but it’s not. Instead, it just provides a random way to watch the clips; hit “Call It” and you’ll get a featurette of the DVD’s choosing.
Over on Disc Three, we get the ubiquitous Digital Copy. This means you can easily transfer the movie onto a portable viewing device or your computer. I have no interest in doing so, but if that sounds good to you, have a blast!
Do I like No Country For Old Men? Yeah, most of the time. It suffers from ups and downs, but it succeeds as a whole. Do I think it was the best movie of 2007? Nope. Indeed, of the five Best Picture nominees from 2007, I feel it’s the second weakest. There’s not a big gap between the best and the worst, as 2007 was a year deficient in cinematic greatness, but I would’ve preferred to see any of those three take home the big prize.
As for the DVD, I liked the involving and realistic soundtrack, but transfer was lackluster. The “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach to the extras can become frustrating, but I must admit that we learn a lot about the movie, so those elements ultimately satisfy.
If you enjoy supplements, then this Collector’s Edition merits your attention. If you’re all about the movie, stick with the original disc. Both provide virtually identical picture and audio, so there’s no movie-related upgrade here.
To rate this film visit the original review of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN