Sicario: Day of the Soldado (4K Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 10-Oct-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller/Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 122:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Stefano Sollima
Studio
Distributor
SONY Pictures
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 $34.95 Music Hildur Guðnadóttir


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Portuguese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Spanish DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Portuguese
Spanish
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

    Whereas the original Sicario is not yet available locally on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (despite an overseas release in 2016), 2018's Sicario: Day of the Soldado thankfully receives a 4K release from Roadshow, albeit one hitting shelves a week later than the standard 1080p Blu-ray. It appears that as per standard operating procedure, Roadshow have sourced the 4K disc from overseas; this is the same disc produced and distributed by Sony in the United States. Since Sony are arguably the best in the business when it comes to 4K masters and encoding, you can rest assured that Soldado looks exceptional on 4K Blu-ray despite only being finished with a 2K digital intermediate, rendering this another "upscale." Sony make use of a dual-layered BD-66 here, framing the movie at its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and mastering it with a perfectly solid (though not revelatory) average video bitrate of 50 Mbps. Unfortunately, the added High Dynamic Range is only encoded in HDR10 as opposed to Dolby Vision, which may irk videophiles. Indeed, it appears that certain studios are starting to abandon Dolby Vision (first Disney, now Sony), even though titles often retain DV for streaming.

    From the opening sequence, the improvements afforded by this 2160p, HEVC/H.265-encoded video presentation are apparent in spades, topping the standard Blu-ray with ease. Shadow detail is predictably improved, with stronger textures on skin and fabric no matter the lighting conditions. The presentation looks sharp as a tack to boot, with facial hair and blinds looking perfectly resolved. As a result of the pitch-perfect sharpness, added resolution and augmented video bitrate, desert landscapes look more impressive than ever, with the video resolving every pebble and shrub to be seen, while costumes and firearms leap off the screen. A full shot at the 102-minute mark observing Gillick in the desert is truly extraordinary, as you can almost make out every grain of sand. I noted that the 1080p Blu-ray exhibited noise, both source noise and presumably compression-related noise, and there is still a smattering of it on 4K. But whereas noise occasionally looked chunky on the Blu-ray, it's finely resolved here, never serving to be a distraction as it enhances the textures on display. By design, the "night vision" shots look less impressive than the Alexa footage, but the encoding is more or less flawless considering the intended look.

    As ever, it's the HDR which bolsters this presentation, denoting a significant improvement over its 1080p SDR counterpart. There is so much more vibrancy and depth to this HDR-enhanced transfer, with deeper, truer blacks and lifelike skin tones, making the Blu-ray look washed out in comparison. Indeed, the colours pop consistently and impressively, while retaining the deliberate colour grading. I bemoaned that the standard Blu-ray looked a bit flat and occasionally lacking in textures due to mediocre contrast and the format's limited colour space, but those issues are eliminated on this 4K disc. In dark scenes - such as the opening sequence, the border crossing at the 77-minute mark, or the climax (among others) - blacks are inky and deep, and the encoding ensures that everything is discernible and no black crush sneaks in. The HDR also serves to bring out more specular highlights on skies and harsh light sources, giving them more nuance compared to the Blu-ray. Highlights in general are improved across the board, revealing the slightest nuances on skin and other surfaces. In terms of colour and contrast, the difference between the 1080p and 2160p discs is truly night and day.

    I have read reports online of rampant aliasing on the disc, reportedly appearing along sharp lines during several scenes. I looked out for the aliasing during certain scenes and moments described online, but could not see any issues on my set-up (LG 2016 OLED, Sony UBP-X700). I was only able to detect some minor shimmering, particularly during the supermarket bombing in the smoke which could be source-related but I cannot be certain. (I cannot recall how this scene looked in the cinema.) One supposes the reported aliasing could be a display or player-specific shortcoming, though it's hard to be sure. However, it was not visible on my equipment and therefore my video score remains unaffected. Aside from the mild shimmering, it's smooth sailing across the board with this encode; I was unable to detect any banding, macroblocking, or anything else to ruin this beauty. Luckily, too, no shots look too smooth or smeary, and there are no signs of unnecessary edge enhancement. Although I wouldn't exactly call Sicario: Day of the Soldado a top 5 disc, there is much to admire about Sony's encode, doing justice to the visually striking source. I can't say I have many complaints.

    English (for the hearing impaired), French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles are included on the 4K disc. I had no issues with either of the English subtitle tracks.

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

Audio

    Whereas the standard 1080p Blu-ray came with a 16-bit Dolby Atmos track and a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, there are a few more options on this 4K Ultra HD disc, led by a 24-bit Dolby Atmos track that defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on equipment which doesn't support Atmos. I was unable to detect many significant differences between the Blu-ray's Atmos track and the mix on this disc - it's perhaps a little bit punchier - and therefore my thoughts remain unchanged.

    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.

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

Extras

    The 4K disc contains no extras. All of the supplements are contained on the accompanying 1080p Blu-ray disc. However, there are introductory trailers for The Equalizer 2 and Venom.

R4 vs R1

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

    As discussed in the Video section, this is the same disc released by Sony in the United States. Lionsgate released their own 4K Blu-ray in the U.K., and it remains to be seen if there are any significant differences in terms of encoding and bitrate. Until I can gain any additional information, 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.

    This 4K Blu-ray disc makes me thankful once again that this format exists. The 2160p, HDR-enhanced video presentation is vibrant, rich, intricately detailed and stable, topping the 1080p Blu-ray with seemingly little effort. This is how I plan to experience Day of the Soldado many times in the future. With the minor but worthwhile array of special features on the accompanying Blu-ray disc, this set comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Thursday, December 13, 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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