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September 15, 2008
No Country For Old Men Blu-Ray Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
26/12/200730/7/2008ParamountCoen Brothers
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4Linear PCM 5.1 4.6MbpsMA15+Josh Brolin

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Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell.
Over the years there have been thousands of crime thriller styled movies, so many in fact that getting one to stand out from the crowd, or the 'been there, done that' response is quite rare. Last year Paramount released No Country for Old Men, a movie which went on to win four Academy Awards, and take over $US160 million at the box office. Having passed on the movie at the cinemas we were quite keen to check this out on Blu-Ray.

There Are No Clean Getaways... Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds a pickup truck surrounded by a sentry of dead men with a load of heroin and two million dollars in cash still in the back. When Moss takes the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law - in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) - can contain.

As Moss tries to evade his pursuers - in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives (Javier Bardem) - the film simultaneously strips down the American crime drama and broadens its concerns to encompass themes as ancient as the Bible and as bloodily contemporary as this morning's headlines.

There are a couple of areas where this movie really shines. The first is the acting. All three leads including Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin really are superb, although their screen time is almost exclusively telling their own story with only a couple of moments where they share any screen time. Javier Bardem is haunting in is portrayal of the psychopathic killer and every time he appears on screen you'll get chills. While Tommy Lee Jones is as good as ever as the sheriff it's Josh Brolin that steals the show for me as a man down on his luck who has, what he thinks, is a little fortune.

Besides the main cast though it's the supporting actors that help bring this movie to life with great characters. Woody Harrelson puts in a fine turn as the bounty hunter Carson Wells and Kelly Macdonald is superb as Moss's wife Carla.

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Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.
Besides the acting the directing in this movie deserves credit (as it did with an Academy Award) with the Coen brothers taking what really is a rather simple tale and turning it into something quite special with the smallest attention to detail being brought to life. Take, for instance, the randomness when Javier Bardem's character shoots at the bird on the bridge - exactly what you would expect from his state of mind, but not something you would expect in a movie really. Also deserving mention is the cinematography by Roger Deakins, which is simply stunning. From the motel interiors to the vast planes of the wild west and the American/Mexican border everything looks authentic and in the right place for this film.

No Country for Old Men isn't a movie for everyone. It is somewhat violent, but not in the typical glorified 'Hollywood' style. This is more realistic - you only need to see the strangulation early in the movie to realise that. That is a rare occurrence though as, in actual fact, most of the deaths aren't seen on screen, but only the aftermath.

There were a couple of things that had me a little confused during this movie (minor spoilers ahead - skip to next paragraph if you don't want to know). While I can understand hiding the case full of money in the air vents in the hotel, I'm not sure how Moss knew he would need to change rooms, thus necessitating tying the string to the case to pull it through with the grappling hook. Why not just take the case to the second room to start with? Also, there are a couple of occasions when the 'action' seems to end abruptly with characters failing to pursue their foes as one would expect, especially as they are injured - case in point being when Moss shoots Anton. The ending too is somewhat abrupt, very in fact, and while things seem rather open-ended they are actually all closed off nicely. Still, I can see that some people won't like this ending.

No doubt about it the script, acting and direction in this movie is superb. At times gripping, at other frightening, and at others delightful No Country For Old Men really is a fantastic movie. Why then don't I award it all the praise that I can? Well to be honest it's not the most entertaining movie. I have seen it twice now, and it's unlikely that I would watch it more then very occasionally again.

No Country For Old Men is presented on Blu-Ray at 1080p using the AVC MPEG-4 codec in the films original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it certainly demonstrates the benefits of High Definition video superbly. From the opening scenes in the planes where Moss is hunting, to the city streets every scene is filled with fine detail, from the pores on actors faces, to the weeds and grasses on the open planes everything is presented as one would expect on Blu-Ray. Colours are vivid, while never overbearing, while the contrast levels are consistent from start to finish. As one would expect, for a movie released under a year ago there are no film artifacts such as dirt or reel markers at all during the movie.

In terms of issues, and this really is nitpicking, there is the very occasional change in the level of grain evident - particularly in the darker scenes - and the occasional scene that seems to demonstrate a slight reduction in sharpness. Very small issues in an otherwise gorgeous transfer.

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Josh Brolin on the run in No Country.

Despite not stating it on the technical specs on the back of the case we can confirm that No Country For Old Men includes an uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 track encoded at 4.6Mbps as well as the stated Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 640kbps.

The PCM track is certainly the track of choice with a little more clarity, and even in the opening monologue from Tommy Lee a little more depth and clarity to his voice. Music throughout the movie is pretty subdued, and there aren't a lot of audio effects such as explosions or gunshots either, but what is there is very impactful. Dialogue is for the most part very clear however there was the odd line which I found a little hard to understand due to accents - a fault of the original film rather then the transfer that's for sure. Also an issue with the source is a lack of surround sound use at times - it could have been ramped up a little I felt.

We must point out that the French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are not included on this disc as stated on the back of the box - we suspect they gave way for the English PCM track. No loss for me, but for some it may be worth nothing. Likewise the number of subtitles is massively reduced from what is stated on the case. Instead of the 16 languages stated on the case we actually only have English for the Hearing Impaired, French and Spanish.

Despite winning four Academy Awards this movie is pretty lightweight on extras and, disappointingly, what is included is done so in Standard Definition on Blu-Ray. Anyway, onto the content...

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Kelly Macdonald as Moss's wife Carla.
The Making of No Country For Old Men (24:29): A fairly decent "Making of" documentary with interviews with teh cast and crew including the Coen Brothers, and some great behind the scenes footage. There's are certainly some interesting comments and footage here and it's worth a look.

Working With The Coens (8:07): A look at the Coen Brothers, Ethan and Joel, and what it is like working with them with interviews with the cast. While a little 'praising' it's clear that the actors enjoyed and respected working with the Coen's.

Diary Of A Country Sheriff (6:44): A short look at the role of a country sheriff. Somewhat unnecessary and too brief to hold any real detail.

No Country for Old Men is a great crime thriller that is deserving of the awards it received. I can, however, see that this movie isn't for everyone as it's not your typical 'Hollywood' fare. With a great transfer this disc offers a great reproduction of the movie. Worth checking out if you haven't seen the movie yet, and purchasing if you liked it!

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Paramount. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.