DVD Review: No Country for Old Men

Miramax
Movie ••••½ Picture •••• Sound •••• Extras •••

With his bad haircut and the 1,000-mile stare frozen on his doughy face as he kills, Javier Bardem creates one of the most satisfying embodiments of pure evil that the screen has seen in a long time. He also lugs around one of the best weapons in Hollywood-villain history. Bardem's character stands at one end of a moral continuum that is anchored at the other by Tommy Lee Jones as a disillusioned Texas lawman, who with his down-home, seen-it-all narration serves up some of the better lines from the Cormac McCarthy novel upon which No Country for Old Men is based. In between, we get Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and others, all of whom present different takes on the evil that men do. The end result: This film vaults directly into the rarefied upper echelon of Coen Brothers movies.

As they did so effectively in Fargo, Joel and Ethan use the vastness of a landscape to suggest moral ambiguity and hard choices to be made. In this case, the actual landscape is New Mexico (standing in for West Texas), and it looks fabulous on DVD. The action is sometimes bathed in sepia tones, sometimes more sharply hued, but there's a stunning level of image detail throughout. Few actors working today have a more expressive, world-weary face than Jones, and in close-ups the DVD reveals every craggy line and subtle nuance of his visage. This is a vibrant transfer that serves its story well.

Sonically, the disc is more about subtlety than bombast. Exterior gunshots echo for miles as they fade away into the surround channels. And then there's the whoosh of the high-powered air weapon that Bardem wields to such chilling effect.

The extras package is fairly modest but satisfying enough. Three short making-of featurettes (which could have been combined into one) include comments from the cast and crew and serve up some interesting production notes and tidbits. The overall message of the featurettes shouldn't surprise anyone: The Coens are master filmmakers working at the top of their game.

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