Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 10-Oct-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller/Action Featurette-Behind The Scenes-From Film to Franchise: Continuing the Story
Featurette-Making Of-An Act of War: Making Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Assassin and the Soldier: The Cast and Characters
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 122:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Stefano Sollima
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Benicio Del Toro
Josh Brolin
Isabela Moner
Jeffrey Donovan
Catherine Keener
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo
Matthew Modine
Shea Wingham
Elijah Rodriguez
Howard Ferguson Jr.
David Castañeda
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Hildur Guðnadóttir


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    2018's Sicario: Day of the Soldado ran the risk of appearing to be another unnecessary, cheesy cash-in sequel to a serious drama, similar to the direct-to-video follow-ups to Jarhead or Green Street Hooligans. However, with Sicario scribe Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water) returning to the fold, this sequel confidently justifies its existence, resulting in another engaging fictitious action-drama within a relevant real-world setting. To be sure, the morally ambiguous narrative is polarising, while the movie's central conceit and themes may not sit right with everybody, hence the mixed reaction from professional critics. Admittedly, perfection does elude Sicario: Day of the Soldado due to a rocky third act and some lethargic pacing, and it inevitably falls short of its predecessor, but this follow-up is nevertheless an ideal instance of mature counterprogramming in a crowded summer season dominated by colourful blockbusters.

    When a suicide bombing in a Kansas supermarket kills over a dozen people, the American government suspects that Islamic radicals are entering the United States through the Mexican border among migrant workers. In response, the U.S. government authorises CIA agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to engage in covert black ops tactics to combat Mexican drug cartels, who control the border and are deemed responsible for smuggling terrorists into the country. Coordinating with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Riley (Matthew Modine), Graver hatches a plan to instigate a war between the cartels to destabilise border crossing operations and halt ISIS interests. To achieve this, Graver recruits black ops killing machine Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro) to kidnap 16-year-old Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner), the daughter of a major cartel kingpin who ordered the murder of Gillick's family several years prior. Complications arise during the operation, with Gillick left on his own to protect Isabel as he travels to the border, while Graver deals with the nervous U.S. government bureaucrats as they get cold feet.

    Although a Sicario sequel might seem unnecessary, a trilogy was planned from the outset, and while a follow-up was not explicitly set up, the 2015 feature subtly left room for further stories to occur involving these characters. Drugs are less of a concern in Day of the Soldado, and the plot involving terrorism represents an interesting shift, particularly given its plausibility. (There are genuine real-world concerns about terrorists entering the U.S. through the Mexican border.) Sheridan's screenplay adheres to the same narrative structure as the first Sicario; the government machinations and CIA activities intersect with an ostensibly unrelated story concerning Mexicans on the other side of the law, in this case young Mexican-American coyote Miguel (Elijah Rodriguez) who is being indoctrinated into the cartel system. Just as Sheridan's 2017 movie Wind River delivered a message pertaining to the appalling treatment of Native Americans, Day of the Soldado's parallel narratives explore the toll that terrorism, war and drug trafficking has on children, providing some thoughtful thematic content amid the chaos. Miraculously, the child characters are not as grating as they might have been, thanks to the smart casting of Moner and Rodriguez in their respective roles.

    In spite of its narrative intricacies, Sicario: Day of the Soldado feels closer to a straightforward action movie compared to its predecessor, though that is not necessarily a negative. Stepping into the director's chair is Italian filmmaker Stefano Sollima, late of acclaimed television series  Gomorrah and the 2015 Italian mobster picture Suburra. Day of the Soldado is therefore a good fit for Sollima's stylistic sensibilities, steeping the material in grit and ensuring this sequel feels wholly legitimate. However, with a runtime exceeding two hours, the ride is not as smooth as Sicario; perhaps due to Sollima's television roots, portions of this sequel progress with languid, TV-style pacing. Nevertheless, Sollima proves an able craftsman during the set-pieces, from the gripping shootouts to the horrific supermarket bombing that will churn stomachs. Unfolding in a bravura single shot, the bombing is visceral and unnerving, setting the tone for the picture and showing the harsh consequences of terrorism while still maintaining a sense of tact. Sollima smartly uses practical effects and sets as much as possible to create a realistic aesthetic, with minor digital accompaniments to subtly enhance the visuals. Furthermore, Dariusz Wolski's gritty cinematography evinces a pronounced sense of style, creating an ominous atmosphere and giving convincing life to the material. Wolski thankfully keeps the photography sufficiently steady during the intermittent scenes of mayhem, allowing us to take in and appreciate the set-pieces. Sicario: Day of the Soldado is also helped immeasurably by Hildur Guðnadóttir's brooding and effective score, reminiscent of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson's compositions for the original Sicario.

    The morality behind Day of the Soldado is a bit of a mess by design; the moral implications behind the staged kidnapping are shaky in the first place, even though such underhanded black ops tactics are combatting domestic terrorism to thwart further attacks. This provokes questions regarding the lengths that are acceptable in order to save lives. Much of the movie's second half explores the fallout from Gillick refusing to murder Isabel to cover the government's tracks, further complicating the screenplay's moral foundation. With Gillick allotted a bigger role here, he's inherently less interesting and badass, as he is given more backstory and moral dimension. Your mileage will vary on this front, but Gillick was a more menacing screen presence in the original Sicario, though he certainly has his moments here and Del Toro still makes a positive impression. Brolin is equally impressive, remaining captivating and tough-as-nails, while Catherine Keener represents a welcome addition to the cast as a CIA boss, playing well against Brolin.

    Sicario: Day of the Soldado visibly struggles as it approaches the finishing line, with a few incredulous moments that strain credibility and took this reviewer out of the action. Although Day of the Soldado is not exactly entertaining in the stereotypical popcorn-munching sense, and the absence of Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins is felt, this is nevertheless compelling adult filmmaking which is more gratifying than any number of brainless action movies released during 2018. It also represents a fine companion piece for Sicario, and leaves the door open for the proposed third instalment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras by veteran cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, Sicario: Day of the Soldado arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Roadshow with a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Presented on a dual-layered BD-50, Roadshow have mastered the movie with an acceptable average video bitrate approaching 26 Mbps, and the resulting presentation should prove perfectly watchable for casual viewers. At a glance, there is much to admire, from the firm textures throughout to the often extremely good clarity and top-notch sharpness. The encode capably brings out textures on uniforms and firearms, with close-ups faring the best. Desert landscapes look lifelike and true, while facial hair is competently resolved on the faces of the characters. Day of the Soldado carries a very deliberate lighting and grading scheme, reminiscent of its predecessor, and Roadshow's presentation retains the colour palette that was displayed in the cinema during its theatrical run. As a result, the image is not conventionally good-looking due to the palette's push towards a sickly yellow colour, while the deliberate excess of shadows can limit how much fine detail is on display. Although this does trace back to the limitations of 1080p Blu-ray, it would be interesting to see what the image could have looked like with a more generous bitrate and superior encoding.

    In well-lit scenes, the presentation unsurprisingly fares the best. On the other hand, the transfer visibly struggles during certain darker scenes; one scene at the 43-minute mark exhibits oppressive darkness and crush, while skin textures visibly struggle with the limited lighting at various times throughout the movie. Certain shots involving smoke, such as one instance looking through the windshield at Graver during the vehicular attack, do struggle as well. Furthermore, chunky noise is evident at various points throughout the movie, which appears to be compression-related as opposed to source-related, especially given that it is finer on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray during the scenes in question (see Graver interrogating his suspect in Africa). Thankfully, though, there are moments when source noise does look finely-resolved and subtly accentuates the textures of the image. See, for instance, the scene of Graver and Cynthia talking at the 65-minute mark; fine detail is impressive and source noise is appreciably resolved. The subsequent scene in the desert looks equally excellent, revealing superb textures on clothing and skin. It also looks sufficiently sharp, though mild softness does creep in depending on the scene. Banding inevitably appears at various points, including during the introductory Lionsgate logo and some moments when harsh light sources are used in darkness. This is all par for the course.

    As to be expected from a Standard Dynamic Range presentation, highlights are not always spot-on, and the image occasionally looks flat, owing to mediocre contrast and image balance (not to mention the nature of the intended grading). In addition, some shots containing skies or light sources tend to look either blown out or too softly defined, whereas the 4K Ultra HD counterpart is able to resolve these shots with more refinement thanks to the use of High Dynamic Range. Nevertheless, aside from the aforementioned banding and mild crush, no other major distracting encoding anomalies arise throughout the presentation - I couldn't see any aliasing or macroblocking. Likewise, it doesn't look as if any unnecessary digital tampering was conducted in creating this Blu-ray master. When the Blu-ray is on, it's on. But when it falls short, I was left wanting to switch over to the 4K disc.

    Only English subtitles are included.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Sicario: Day of the Soldado debuts on Blu-ray with a superb Dolby Atmos track, which defaults to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix on set-ups which aren't Atmos compatible. A BD Info scan revealed that the track is actually 16-bit, but the resulting aural experience is so good that I doubt 24-bit encoding would make much of a noticeable difference. The layered, intricate sound design perfectly translates to home video through this lossless soundtrack, truly coming to life throughout the action scenes while providing agreeable nuance during the quieter moments. I do not have an Atmos set-up and therefore cannot comment on the overhead activity, but I was very impressed with the panning effects, precise placement and use of the surround channels on my 7.1 system. The opening sequence wonderfully showcases the strengths of the track, with the powerful rotor blades of a chopper coming across with deafening accuracy, while panning is used whenever it hovers out of frame or shifts its position. The Kansas City supermarket bombing is exceptionally layered and exhibits terrific subwoofer activity; the bomb blasts themselves are so loud that your neighbours may come knocking, and the subsequent ruckus - people screaming, alarms going off - fill the surround channels.

    Every gunshot makes significant impact, underscoring the power of each pistol, rifle and machine gun turret, while prioritisation is never an issue. Even amid the chaos of any given scene, dialogue is perfectly discernible and comprehensible. Environmental ambience can be heard throughout, from the bells of Isabel's school to the rumble of car motors and the chirping bugs of the Mexican desert. The atmospherics make use of the surround channels to excellent effect. In short, nothing feels underdone or underwhelming, and the lossless encoding does justice to the superb sound design. The brooding score by Hildur Guðnadóttir comes through with perfect precision and clarity, making terrific use of the surround channels, creating an immersive and full soundscape. During periods of intended silence, no hiss is apparent, while the slightest sound effects - such as removing a pistol from a holster, or the jangling of a bag zipper - are perfectly brought out. No encoding issues crop up throughout, such as sync issues or drop-outs. I have no complaints about this exceptional Atmos track.

    For those seeking an alternative to the Atmos mix for whatever reason, Roadshow have also included an English DTS-HD MA 7.1 track, ensuring they cater for all tastes. There is not a great deal of difference between the two mixes (I cannot judge the additional channel activity of the Atmos due to my 7.1 surround sound system), though I found the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track to be slightly more aggressive, making it a potentially preferable option for those watching with only TV speakers or a soundbar. Pick your poison.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Three featurettes are included, totalling barely forty minutes of behind-the-scenes content. This falls in line with the extras produced for the original movie, but it's still disappointing we don't get a commentary or anything more substantial.

From Film to Franchise: Continuing the Story (HD; 8:26)

   This behind-the-scenes extra concentrates on finding a story for Sicario: Day of the Soldado to follow on from the original movie. Cast and crew wax lyrical about 2015's Sicario, and stress that this follow-up is a standalone story merely taking place in the same world with the same characters. Inspiration for the plot is also discussed.

An Act of War: Making Sicario: Day of the Soldado (HD; 15:34)

    This brisk EPK-style featurette covers a variety of topics in relation to the making of the movie: selecting director Sollima, recruiting cinematographer Wolski, how several scenes were approached (including a nifty camera rig used to shoot vehicular interiors), the use of practical effects, and even using real Black Hawk helicopters transporting the actual actors themselves. Various cast and crew members discuss the production, and there is behind-the-scenes footage aplenty. Naturally, the extra ends with everybody talking about how great the resultant movie is.

The Assassin and the Soldier: The Cast and Characters (HD; 14:04)

    This third and final featurette delves into the advancement of the characters in this sequel, with a discussion about Gillick's arc throughout the movie. The actors are also briefly touched upon, including Isabela Moner and Elijah Rodriguez. The interviews are interspersed with plenty of film clips.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The American release from Sony (reportedly Region B compatible) only arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, whereas the local disc and the U.K. release contain an Atmos track. The U.K. release sports a slightly higher video bitrate, but supplemental features remain the same across the board. I'm calling this one a draw.

Summary

    Sicario: Day of the Soldado is reliable, well-crafted adult entertainment. The set-pieces are sensational and the movie looks great from top to bottom, though it's still not on the same level as the original Sicario. It's disappointing that the movie fell short at the box office, putting the third Sicario in jeopardy.

    Roadshow's Blu-ray arrives with a stellar 1080p video presentation, two excellent audio tracks, and a small but nevertheless interesting selection of behind-the-scenes featurettes. Due to the movie's polarising reception, it's probably best to try before you buy. But if you like the movie, buy with confidence, particularly if you're not 4K compatible yet.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, December 14, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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