Joel and Ethan Coen
Tommy Lee Jones
Like most Coen flicks, No Country For Old Men gives us a whole bunch of genres brilliantly rolled into one. The excessive violence evokes a feeling of horror. The relentless tension makes it a thriller. The dry deadpan humor makes it a dark comedy. The barren Texas landscape gives it a Western feel. And all blend together seamlessly to create an atmosphere that is totally unique. In accordance with that, each of the performances is wildly different as well, and yet, each is pitch-perfect. This film is definitely a character piece and each character adds an important piece of a very complex puzzle. Bardem’s Oscar-winning portrayal as the crazed Anton Chigurh has already become one of the most infamous villains in film history, right up there with Hannibal Lector and Norman Bates. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones are equally effective as an average Joe Vietnam Vet and an old-school sheriff respectively, and Kelly MacDonald’s restrained performance will break your heart. Not to be outdone, Woody Harrelson's wily character was so cool, confident and convincing, if he'd told have me he was Wyatt Earp reincarnated, I probably would've believed him.
While this is certainly not an action film (although again it has elements that can classify it as such), each of our three protagonists are, in my mind, infinitely more badass than today’s hollow, super-human action heroes like Jon Cena and Jason Statham. What makes Jones, Brolin and Bardem so tough and unique here is the fact that they don’t walk the walk or talk the talk, because they just don’t feel the need to. These men are real. Each is, in their own way, simultaneously educated in and broken down by the harsh realities of life. They don’t fight with their shirts off and they’d never unleash a barrage of flips and roundhouse kicks on their opponents. These are gritty, hardened men (and ones I’d never want to tangle with).
Though the movie is wildly entertaining and thus accessible to mainstream audiences (at least until its final act), it also is comfortable as an artistic indie film. I can’t remember another movie that says so much, while it's characters speak so little. Each line is witty, short, and carefully chosen. Cinematography (by master DP and longtime Coen collaborater Roger Deakins) is beautifully sparse with vast, haunting landscapes for us to stare at and wallow in. In line with that, the score is bare and minimal, which makes for a much more haunting experience. The beauty and effectiveness of No Country lie in the little details (shoe scuffs on the floor, the cat's bowl of milk, etc.). The honesty inherent in it comes not in what is said or what happens on screen, but what is not said, and what happens off-screen.
There’s a reason this film won the Oscar for Best Picture. I found myself constantly shaking my head and saying “Wow” at the cleverness and originality of each moment. I could go on for hours, spewing my thoughts on what this film is trying to say, or what such and such line of dialogue might mean, but you’d probably disagree and come back with a completely different interpretation. And that, right there, is what makes No Country For Old Men a truly original and engaging cinematic masterpiece. See...this...film. Actually, see it twice.
Working With the Coens (8:07) - A fitting tribute feature in which cast and crew reflect on working with the greatest filmmaking siblings alive. If you disagree with that statement, watch this film. If you think the Wachowskis are better, email me your home address so I can come kick you in the junk (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Diary of a Country Sheriff (6:44) - Fairly useless and misleadingly-titled special feature that should have just been combined with the Making Of, as it feels like a bunch of footage simply deleted from that. Skip it.
Josh Brolin’s Unauthorized Behind-the-Scenes (9:19) - I think it’s awesome that Josh Brolin shot this. It’s a quirky little mockumentary about what a nightmare it was working with the Coen Bros. I dug the originality and oddball humor of it quite a bit, and Javier Bardem is hilarious.
Press Timeline - The following features are all located under the Press Timeline Menu, a blistering 5 hours (literally) of TV programs, radio shows and live audience Q & A’s with the cast and crew. If this is your favorite film ever made, you’ve found your Mecca. Here we go...
Lunch With David (26:30) - Shirt-and-shorts style interview with Bardem and Brolin hosted by some dude named David Poland. The thing looks and sounds like it was shot on a webcam, and there is a crooked lamp in the background. Another misleading title, as there is no lunch to be eaten anywhere. Weird.
WGAW Q&A Panel (24:13) - After a screening, Brolin, Bardem, MacDonald and the Coen brothers sit down for a Q & A with a live audience. Tommy Lee Jones shows up halfway through looking 80 years old. Interviewer (and filmmaker) Noah Baumbach seems terribly nervous, which is always fun to watch. If you’re one of the many who wondered why in the film a certain character got killed off-screen, watch this and find out.
Variety Q & A (3:08) - Thankfully, a quick one this time. Brolin, Bardem and MacDonald answer a few questions. I just checked the Press Timeline and there are about 20 more interviews to go. Sheeit.
EW.com's "Just a Minute" (12:55) - Despite the title, this thing is much longer than a minute. Javier Bardem takes center stage here. Rehashing stuff he's already said.
Creative Screenwriting Podcast (21:25) - Jeff Goldsmith (not to be conused with Jeff Goldblum) hosts a podcast with Joel and Ethan Coen. No video here. A little too praisy. I don't think that's a word.
NPR’s 'All Things Considered' (4:44) - A short, no-nonsense radio interview with Josh Brolin. No video here.
ABC’s "Popcorn with Peter Travers" (14:51) - The Rolling Stone critic interviews Bardem, Brolin, and MacDonald. This is for a TV show so its more ‘PC’ than the others. I'm getting sleepy...
In Store Appearance (40:31) - Another live audience Q & A with Brolin and Bardem, this time with long clips of the film peppered in. The sound is horrible, as if we’re listening to an airline pilot’s transmission.
Charlie Rose (22:33) - The Coen brothers sit down for a talk with the famed host. Joel looks like he’s starting to get tired of talking about this film…
"Reel Talk with Lyons & Bailes" (10:02) - Either Lyons or Bailes (I’m not sure which he is) sits down with Josh Brolin to talk. At least this guy brings up The Goonies. Still, if I hear one more person ask Josh what it's like to work with the Coens...
Channel 4 News (3:45) - A brief press piece on a British TV station (or so I surmise from the narrator’s accent). Watch this for the Coens' reaction when they find out they just got nominated for Golden Globes. I love these guys.
KCRW’s 'The Treatment' (28:30) - Another radio interview with the Coen brothers, hosted by Elvis Mitchell. If you’re still listening at this point, you have an unhealthy crush on the Coens and should seek medical help.
NPR’s 'Day to Day' (6:37) - OK. Not only is this another radio interview (which means no video), and not only is this another Javier Bardem interview, it’s also another NPR interview! This is getting ridiculous.
Spike Jonze Q & A (1:00:47) - I wish I’d watched this first! Finally a Q&A, not only hosted by the uber-cool (and uber-nervous) Spike Jonze, (who reminds me of a young Coen) but also we get Roger Deakins, the Production Design team, and more. If you’re looking for an interesting discussion that doesn’t focus exclusively on the actors or Coens, watch this.
NPR’s 'All Things Considered' (7:49) - Yet another NPR radio interview, this time with producer Scott Rudin, who’s been strangely absent from the press tour till now. Again, no video here.
NPR’s 'Weekend Edition Saturday' (5:32) - For those counting at home, this is NPR radio interview #4. This time with the Coen brothers. It provides a little info on their humble beginnings and there is some Raising Arizona talk, but at this point, my ears are numb and it’s all just noise.
Disc 2 is a Digital Copy of the film, which I immediately installed on my Macbook. Score!