Watching No Country For Old Men once again, this time as a DVD, only serves to remind me how thoroughly terrific Joel & Ethan Coen are at mixing farce and utter ruination. Their characters seem always to skitter along a precipice, and survival often tends to be the road least traveled. Even the boogeyman in this picture, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a death-dealing golem with a Peter Tork of the Monkees hairdo, takes a series of hard lumps, walking out of the film with a compound fracture.
I won’t deny that this is an uncommon feature; it takes a few turns that upset audiences expecting a more conventional resolution at the end. But there’s also no denying it’s a canny little suspense movie, a chase between a man, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who seems to know quite a bit more about survival than most, and the unstoppable killing machine, Chigurh, who’s pursuing him. Meanwhile a sad, weather-beaten, old Texas cop (Tommy Lee Jones) watches the events unfold, with their own ticking inevitability, from a distance, all the time wondering what his place is, if any, in a changing world.
The movie, which takes place in 1980, pulls in elements from some of writer Ernest Hemingway’s better moments, including the underrated novel To Have and Have Not and short stories like “The Killers,” and adds a bit of post-Vietnam noir. And if Brolin seems to have something in common with the young Nick Nolte, it might be because No Country shares quite a bit with 1978’s Who’ll Stop the Rain, a dark picture about a vet (Nolte) who gets trapped inside the machinery of a deal gone bad.
This three-disc Collector’s Edition box set has more supplemental material than 10 normal DVDs. It includes long, complex interviews with the cast and the Coens on TV, on podcasts and on the radio (NPR). The funny, “unauthorized” making-of feature put together by Brolin makes this set worth the extra money, even if the unending dissertations in the other segments are at times redundant. But the segments are also entertaining; the cast is funny and smart, and the extras will tell one everything they may want to know about how the screenplay was adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, how Javier Bardem spent three long months on location, wearing that absurd haircut, and how much the Coens depend on their daily naps.
The collection also contains a “digital copy” disc, which means that the movie is downloadable to iPods, laptops and other electronic devices.