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Blu-ray Review Sicario Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Matt Hough

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Sicario Blu-ray Review

Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic offered a patchwork overview of the war on drugs as it existed at the turn of the current century, and now Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (which roughly translated means "hitman") shows us with frightening reality the state of affairs some fifteen years later. In short, things have gotten a lot worse, and the director brings the horrific violence and cruel indifference to human existence vividly to life in this thoughtfully intense thriller. With a sterling cast (many famous faces are only around for a scene or two) and cinematic techniques that put us in the middle of the ferocity, Sicario is one of those movies that haunts after a first viewing and demands a revisit sooner rather than later.



Studio: Lionsgate

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD, English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 DD

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Rating: R

Run Time: 2 Hr. 1 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet

keep case in a slipcover

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: A

Release Date: 01/05/2016

MSRP: $39.99




The Production Rating: 4.5/5

After making a devastating discovery in a drug stash house on the American side of the US/Mexico border, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is eager to play a more important role in nipping the drug cartels in the bud rather than assisting in clean-up operations after many have died. She is invited to join a quasi-military operation led by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) intending to find drug kingpin Manuel Diaz (Bernardo Saracino) that will pull of series of drug intervention tweaks in both Juarez and Tucson that will hopefully bring Diaz out of hiding. Along for the ride is the enigmatic Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who has insider knowledge about the cartels from previous experiences with them. He knows, for example, that Diaz is actually only second-in-command, and he tasks himself to gain intel on the location of the real Mr. Big. But the operations the team is attempting are not only dangerous but skirt legal channels rather flagrantly, something the by-the-book Kate is finding increasingly hard to justify.

 

Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan uses the character of Kate Macer as the audience surrogate, green to this kind of undercover operation south of the border and never quite sure (until it’s revealed more than halfway through the movie) of the identities of her confederates or the prime objective of this operation. All of the brilliant and quite varied action set pieces are seen through her eyes from the opening raid on the drug house (with a couple of shocking developments) to a quick trip through Juarez streets (where director Denis Villeneuve establishes an overwhelming sense of roughness, danger, and unease), a sensational confrontation at a traffic-jammed border crossing, and a pursuit into Merico through underground tunnels (shot eerily and with creeping intensity with night vision and infrared lenses). Director Villeneuve uses violence purposefully but without reveling in the gore and trauma, and in one of the most intense confrontations in the movie, an attack on Kate that she realizes is about to happen about two seconds too late, the camera stays tight on the combatants until the surprising denouement. Elsewhere, Villeneuve uses aerial photography not only to set the scene but also to emphasize the vastness of the areas under siege and the relative smallness of the forces trying to combat the problems.

 

Unlike Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty, Emily Blunt seems a bit physically underpowered to really ring completely true in the role. She registers concern and apprehension beautifully, and she does a fine job hiding her natural accent, but an actress with a little more physical presence and dynamism might have sold the part a little more forcefully. Benicio Del Toro interestingly takes over the picture in the final third of the movie, but he’s mesmerizing throughout being a man of few words but capable of producing powerful emotions with just his face and body. Josh Brolin has his laid-back persona down pat and uses it well in the movie once revelations come to the fore. Daniel Kaluuya plays Kate’s FBI partner Reggie Wayne, just as in the dark as she but warier than she about their involvement in this shady-seeming operation. Jon Bernthal as a friend of Reggie’s who makes a play for Kate also offers interesting layers to his performance. On the cartel side, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan focuses on crooked state policeman Silvio played simply but movingly by Maximiliano Hernandez showing us how an ordinary Mexican family is touched by the cartel in ways that might not be immediately noticeable but winding up being tragic nevertheless. In small but very effective parts, Victor Garber, Jeffrey Donovan, and Julio Cesar Cedillo (as the real kingpin of the cartel) all offer excellent performances.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

The film’s 2.40:1 original theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Black levels are the most striking aspect of the transfer, some scenes taking place with only slivers of light, and yet Roger Deakins Oscar-nominated cinematography handles the light, dark, and shadows beautifully. Sharpness is outstanding, and color is true to the terrain: sometimes a bit bleached out in strong sunlight and other times with accurate hues and realistic skin tones. Contrast remains consistent throughout the presentation. Subtitles used when Spanish is spoken are always easy to read. The movie has been divided into 16 chapters.



Audio Rating: 5/5

The Dolby Atmos sound mix (decoded as Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on my non-Atmos receiver) is quite revelatory with the sound mixers and editor (Oscar-nominated) achieving enormous heft to the engines of trucks and airplanes and in explosions and crashes which carry real weight in your listening environment. Johann Johannsson’s rumbling, pulsating score (Oscar-nominated) is quite unique and gains added emphasis with its placement through the fronts and rears of the soundfield. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.

 

Dolby Atmos Update: I listened to Sicario on a 7.2.4 system (4 ceiling speakers). In addition to the surround channels, the pulsating score Matt mentioned could often be found overhead along with explosions, aircraft and other localized overhead effects. Atmos was used very effectively in the tunnel raid scene, giving me a good startle at one point. A very nice mix. -- Adam Gregorich



Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Stepping into Darkness (16:46, HD): director Denis Villeneuve, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, producers Edward L. McDonnell, Molly Smith, and Trent Luckinbill, director of photography Roger Deakins, production designer Patrice Vermetter, set decorator Jan Pascale, and actor Daniel Kaluuya talk about the necessity for reality in the filmmaking, all the way from the storyboards to the actual filming in New Mexico and Mexico City (which doubled for Juarez).

 

Blunt, Brolin, & Benicio (14:35, HD): the three above-the-title actors discuss their characters and the parts they play in the story with additional comments about their roles provided by director Denis Villeneuve, writer Taylor Sheridan, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and producers Basil Iwanyk, Molly Smith, and Trent Luckinbill.

 

A Pulse from the Desert (6:19, HD): composer Johann Johannsson discusses his choices for the score for the film with director Denis Villeneuve explaining why he thinks the composer’s score is so effective for the piece.

 

Battle Zone (13:45, HD): writer Taylor Sheridan discusses the genesis for his script in the sheer quantities of murders committed each year in cartel operations and a particularly terrible instance of women disappearing without a trace. A number of border-affiliated journalists and correspondents also comment on the terrible crimes and dangerous situations going on around the border.

 

Promo Trailers (HD): The Last Witch Hunter, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II, Heist, Mississippi Grind, The Hurt Locker.

 

DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.



Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Sicario is an eye-opening, intelligent thriller involving the dangerous and mortifying drug business operating with huge profits delivered through great expense of human life on both sides of the Mexico/U.S. border. The Blu-ray offers outstanding picture and completely enveloping sound to draw one into the terrors of the story and comes highly recommended.


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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bujaki

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Matt, "sicario" is a paid hitman. A soldier in the mafia can be a hitman, but he wouldn't be a sicario. It's a subtle distinction.

This is an excellent movie, full of moral ambiguities, as Villeneuve's movies are. Enjoyed your review.
 

Adam Gregorich

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I really enjoyed Sicario. It reminded me a bit of Man on Fire (which is due for a re-watch). I thought Emily's frailty added to her character and helped sell the role that they were asking her to play on the taskforce.
I didn't see the moral twist with Benicio Del Toro's character in the third act coming.
I completely agree that this will be a movie that encourages repeat viewings.
 

Walter Kittel

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Excellent film. I guess I'll spoilerize this comment about Emily Blunt's character...


When I first saw trailers for the film, it would have been easy to anticipate her character as someone who was preternaturally talented and suited for the role. For instance, in a typical 'Hollywood' treatment of the storyline. Instead the filmmakers presented her as someone who while capable was clearly out of her depth. This was so much more credible and greatly helped with viewer immersion (at least for me) into the film.


- Walter.
 

Reggie W

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So, I loved this film and thought it was tremendously well made. Once again Deakins does amazing work. For me Denis Villeneuve is a guy to watch and I look forward to seeing what he does next...which in this case is the Blade Runner sequel with Deakins once again on his team.

There is one strange thing about this film though that struck me after watching the special features on the blu-ray. Obviously this film stirs some emotions, or at least did for me, with regards to the "war on drugs" and it is pretty sly how it sets you up but in the special features Emily Blunt says that
they hoped in making the film the audience would come away taking the Josh Brolin character's side. I found this a little shocking because the Brolin character is running an illegal operation that is basically an assassination squad. Now, history shows that the CIA has done this in the past so I don't find that aspect shocking but what I do find a bit shocking is they basically made a "propaganda" film that endorses illegal hit squads as a way of coping with our issues in other countries...in other words Blunt openly states in the special features they want the audience to walk away feeling that covertly entering a country that is our ally to perform an illegal assassination is not only OK but should be applauded. I mean she openly states her character in the film is wrong for wanting to play by the book...to follow the law...and that Brolin's crew taking matters into their own hands and ignoring the law is right. So, the speech that Benicio gives her at the end in her apartment, basically at the end of the barrel of his gun, about the fact she should walk away because she is not a wolf...really was about how she was wrong all along in the movie. That was the final message of the film...that those that wish to follow the rule of law should get out of the way.


Does anybody else that has seen the film feel Blunt saying this was a little strange?
 

Reggie W

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I would also say if you want a compare and contrast example to have a look at Bridge of Spies where:


the Tom Hanks character gives a speech to another character about how important it is that we as a people and country follow the rule of law. It is a great speech and delivered beautifully by Mr. Hanks but is the polar opposite of the message of Sicario.


Sure, we are talking Spielberg here and people will say he can be a little fluffy...or maybe a lot fluffy...but in both cases the characters are discussing how we cope with very dangerous enemies and situations. Just was curious to hear others who have seen this (or both of these) discuss how they felt about it.
 

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^ I wish we lived in a world where Tom Hanks' speech/"right makes might" could work but unfortunately, I think we live in a world that is much more like Sicario where people kill, backstab and do anything to achieve their goals.
 

Reggie W

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Well, yes, I certainly understand where you are coming from, Travis. In Sicario...
...the case is plainly made that the "law" is just a hindrance that just needs to be removed or worked around. Really, as you watch the film you do root for them to succeed because we are shown at the start how horrible the enemy (in this case the drug cartel) is. We are also shown over and over how ineffective those who follow the law are as Blunt's character is basically a total disaster and mainly just in the way. The film interestingly is really about Benicio's character and Blunt is only used as our entry point to discovering who he is. I guess the thing that surprised me was I thought there would be a big gray area about how things were accomplished in the story but really...there isn't. We are plainly shown that the "spooks" are, despite breaking the law, doing the right thing and at the end it would also basically be right for Benicio to execute Blunt's character because she is just one more hurdle for them to have to go around or get past.
 

hanshotfirst1138

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TravisR said:
^ I wish we lived in a world where Tom Hanks' speech/"right makes might" could work but unfortunately, I think we live in a world that is much more like Sicario where people kill, backstab and do anything to achieve their goals.
Reality is an unpleasant place.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I watched the UHD disc of this tonight. What a beautifully shot film. Roger Deakins was probably the first of the great celluloid DPs to really embrace digital cinematography and take advantage of the things you can do with digital that you can't do (at least not easily) on film. I can see why he got the Oscar nomination.

The movie sort of lets the cat out of the bag in terms of the final act developments with its title. I still enjoyed the ride. Looking backward, you can see how this kicked off Taylor Sheridan's meditation on Western themes in a modern context.

I'm not generally the biggest Benicio Del Toro fan, but he's wonderfully restrained here. This is a man of deep passions who nevertheless operates coldly and deliberately. He does what he needs to do to accomplish his objectives, no more and no less.

My plan is to watch the sequel tomorrow night.
 

Robert Crawford

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I watched the UHD disc of this tonight. What a beautifully shot film. Roger Deakins was probably the first of the great celluloid DPs to really embrace digital cinematography and take advantage of the things you can do with digital that you can't do (at least not easily) on film. I can see why he got the Oscar nomination.

The movie sort of lets the cat out of the bag in terms of the final act developments with its title. I still enjoyed the ride. Looking backward, you can see how this kicked off Taylor Sheridan's meditation on Western themes in a modern context.

I'm not generally the biggest Benicio Del Toro fan, but he's wonderfully restrained here. This is a man of deep passions who nevertheless operates coldly and deliberately. He does what he needs to do to accomplish his objectives, no more and no less.

My plan is to watch the sequel tomorrow night.
Unless you speak Spanish, I don't think many knew the meaning of the word. I didn't know what it means.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Unless you speak Spanish, I don't think many knew the meaning of the word. I didn't know what it means.
The movie has a title card near the beginning explaining that: "The word Sicario comes from the zealots of Jerusalem, killers who hunted the Romans who invaded their homeland. In Mexico, Sicario means hitman."
 

Robert Crawford

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The movie has a title card near the beginning explaining that: "The word Sicario comes from the zealots of Jerusalem, killers who hunted the Romans who invaded their homeland. In Mexico, Sicario means hitman."
I was too engross in the film to pay attention as it was obvious this dude was a killing machine throughout the film.
 

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