Suburbicon (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 7-Feb-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Drama None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 104:23
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Clooney
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Matt Damon
Julianne Moore
Oscar Isaac
Noah Jupe
Glenn Fleshler
Tony Espinosa
Steven Shaw
Jack Conley
Frank Califano
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Alexandre Desplat


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
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 No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    At face value, 2017's Suburbicon is an encouraging prospect, boasting a screenplay co-written by the Coen Brothers, an outstanding cast, a competent director in George Clooney, handsome production values, and slick visuals. Unfortunately, however, even though the resulting picture has its charms, it fails to come together in a cohesive or substantive fashion, biting off more content than it can adequately chew. Thus, Clooney's sixth directorial undertaking amounts to a muddled, disjointed mix of dark comedy, social commentary and a crime-gone-wrong plot, yet Suburbicon is surprisingly entertaining despite major narrative issues, and it's more watchable than its harsh critical reception implies. Even though the Fargo-esque story is overly standard-order, Suburbicon manages to keep its head just above water, though it is not essential viewing and it's Clooney's weakest movie as a director to date.

    Set in the late 1950s, the titular Suburbicon is a flourishing, idyllic suburban community which embodies all the clichéd traits of '50s suburbia: perfectly manicured lawns, shiny cars, white picket fences, and even the overly smiley mailman who knows everybody. However, the arrival of a black family, the Mayers, leaves the enclave's entirely white population in an uproar, leading to harassment and protests. Amid this, nondescript office worker Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) resides in Suburbicon with his paraplegic wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and son Nicky (Noah Jupe), but a home invasion by two brutes (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell) leaves Rose dead and the family shaken up. Gardner's sister-in-law Margaret (also Moore) soon moves in to help Nicky adjust to losing his mother, while Nicky's Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba) is on hand to offer support when required. However, insurance claims investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac) harbours suspicions about Rose's death, while Gardner is pursued by criminals to whom he owes money.

    Despite the Coen Brothers receiving writing credits, Suburbicon is more the creation of Clooney and frequent collaborator Grant Heslov, merging an unproduced Coen Brothers script from the 1980s with an unrelated story based on the true events involving an African-American family moving into an all-white neighbourhood in the 1950s. Including the racism tangent is an opportunity for Clooney to deliver an obvious societal commentary about using minorities and immigrants as scapegoats for our problems, in the process satirising the hypocrisies of this period's cultural values. It might make sense thematically and theoretically, but the execution is slipshod at best; consequently, Suburbicon is disjointed and out of tune. Ultimately, the two separate storylines lack an intrinsic link to cohesively tie everything together. Nicky does play baseball with the Mayers' son, Andy (Tony Espinosa), but the angle is not substantial enough - perhaps the link would be stronger (and the commentary would be amplified) if black criminals carried out the Lodge home invasion, or if the Mayers were blamed for the crime.

    From a technical perspective, Suburbicon is a big winner, with eye-catching set design and high quality production values convincingly bringing this 1950s neighbourhood to life. Additionally, the film opens strong, with a lively advertisement for Suburbicon that nails the intended satiric tone. Meanwhile, the cinematography by Oscar-winning veteran Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice, Nightcrawler) is downright stunning; slick and aesthetically pleasing, with smooth framing and gorgeously saturated colours. In keeping with the intended tone and style, Alexandre Desplat's accompanying original score is deliberately overdramatic, which is effective and suits the material. Furthermore, Clooney successfully apes the Coens' directorial style, at times achieving an admirable sense of authenticity throughout the adeptly-crafted set-pieces, which is understandable given his prior movies with the pair. Clooney also builds an eccentric, uncanny feeling throughout the neighbourhood, though Suburbicon is not as amusing or as quirky as it might have been if the Coens directed this picture themselves.

    An array of noticeably Coen-esque characters inhabit Suburbicon, played to perfection by an able cast. Isaac is arguably the biggest scene stealer as a switched-on insurance investigator, but then again Isaac is great in anything. Basaraba also acquits himself admirably as the burly, outspoken Uncle Mitch, while Fleshler and Hassell are well-suited to the quirky mobster caricatures they portray. Interestingly, though Damon receives top billing, Nicky emerges as Suburbicon's true protagonist, as the story is more or less told through his eyes, and young Jupe is thankfully up to the task. Additionally, Moore convincingly pulls off the double duty as both Rose and Margaret, while Damon successfully commits to his role, playing an inversion of the benevolent working class father figure. There is not much depth at play here, as the actors simply play types as opposed to fully fleshed-out characters, but that seems wholly deliberate. Josh Brolin was originally cast as a baseball coach, but his scenes were cut in post-production despite Clooney believing them to be among the funniest scenes in the movie.

    Perhaps if Clooney simply used the Coen Brothers' Suburbicon script in its original form, without adding the disjointed side story, this might have been a successful genre exercise about the vicious downward spiral for various characters after they participate in what seems like the perfect crime. As completed and released, though, Suburbicon is a true cinematic oddity which stumbles in its execution but is not entirely without merit. Indeed, it's not especially funny and the social commentary is ham-fisted, but it's also a strangely compelling Coen Brothers tribute which sometimes feels like the real thing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Despite appalling box office returns, Roadshow chose to release George Clooney's Suburbicon on both DVD and Blu-ray, as opposed to DVD-only. To save on costs, Roadshow place the 104-minute feature on a single-layer BD-25, with the movie only sharing space with a few previews. As a result, the AVC-encoded, 1080p presentation - framed at 2.40:1 as per its original aspect ratio - carries an average video bitrate of 23 Mbps, which is serviceable but unspectacular. Luckily, Robert Elswit's digital photography is inherently eye-catching and polished, and therefore the resulting transfer is still very good despite some noticeable compression - in fact, this is among the best of Roadshow's compressed transfers of recent movies. Admittedly, your mileage will vary depending on screen size - the disc looks borderline flawless on my 55" 4K screen, but could look tighter on my 65" 4K television - but this is still an extremely good transfer.

    The strengths of the presentation are apparent from the outset. Suburbicon unsurprisingly fares best during well-lit daylight scenes, such as the funeral, with the transfer bringing out a tremendous amount of fine detail. Also, see any close-ups of any of the actors throughout the movie; ample skin textures are resolved, as virtually every pore and wrinkle is discernible. Highlights, too, are surprisingly terrific for a 1080p transfer, with costumes and sets looking richly detailed even in wide shots. Additionally, the transfer is sharp as a tack, with object delineation bordering on 4K-level refinement, which is another testament to the superb cinematography. A fine layer of source noise (taking on the appearance of film grain) coats the image, with Roadshow thankfully refraining from any noise reduction techniques, or any form of unnecessary digital manipulation. As a result, the transfer looks organic and true to its origins. Despite the restricted bitrate, the source noise is excellently resolved - it's always fine and subtle, as opposed to blocky or distracting. Furthermore, due to the grain-like noise and the exceptional cinematography, the Blu-ray never looks too smooth or smeary. It's never soft, either - there are certainly no soft-looking digital effects shots throughout. With the cinematography primarily capturing the practical sets and locations, Suburbicon looks frequently superb; suitably stylised yet tangible and realistic.

    Inherent to Standard Dynamic Range 1080p, the visuals do take on a slightly flat appearance at times, with occasionally mediocre contrast and colours that look slightly washed out at times. Indeed, even though the colours look nice and richly saturated for the most part, the picture lack the "pop" that's afforded by High Dynamic Range, while shadow detail is good but never quite great - see the line-up scene at the 30-minute mark, for instance, or the car ride home right after the line-up. In addition, I noticed some minor black crush during a dialogue scene at the 69-minute mark - parts of Isaac's left side are crushed, denying any textures on parts of his costume and face. There are other shots featuring minor crush, such as Nicky under the bed at the 79-minute mark, but it's not severe enough to spoil the transfer as a whole. On a more positive note, blacks are suitably deep when appropriate, particularly considering the format's limitations. The presentation could stand to be a touch tighter, but I was unable to detect any outright compression artefacts such as macroblocking, banding or aliasing. And I was on the lookout for them due to my knowledge of the bitrate. Indeed, the encode has been performed admirably, plain and simple, and it does justice to the source.

    Whatever Suburbicon's shortcomings as a motion picture, it is a visually sumptuous movie which looks terrific on Blu-ray. Paramount initially planned a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release in the United States, but the idea was killed when the movie sunk at the box office. And that's a shame, because the movie would no doubt look stunning in 4K, with added HDR to enhance the visuals and improve shadow detail. But then again, I doubt I'll be revisiting Suburbicon much, and I cannot say how inclined I would be to purchase such a disc. And that's precisely why we never got one. Likewise, it would have been nice if the movie was at least placed on a dual-layered BD-50 with a higher bitrate plus extras, but one cannot blame Roadshow for wanting to cut costs, and I cannot imagine the video looking much better than it does now.

    English subtitles (for the hearing impaired) are included. The track is professionally authored, and I could spot no issues with it.

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

Audio

    Roadshow's Blu-ray provides two audio options: a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, which is only 16-bit as opposed to 24-bit, and a lossy audio descriptive track, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0. Despite the 16-bit encoding, there's nary a flaw with the superb DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which is the primary focus of this audio review. Thanks to competent encoding, the audio mix is crisp and clear throughout, exhibiting noticeable separation and pleasing surround activity when the occasion calls for it. No doubt some audiophiles will bemoan the lack of an object-based mix, but there is no indication that it was ever mixed as such, and therefore the 5.1 track is sufficient. Since Suburbicon is primarily dialogue-driven, the track is front-centric for the most part, with the dialogue coming through the front speakers clearly. Prioritisation is never an issue, as all of the dialogue is perfectly comprehensible amid sound effects and music. Environmental ambience is quite subtle and not always noticeable, but we do get crickets chirping all around during scenes set at night.

    There is some minor subwoofer activity, in addition to low-frequency effects towards the end of the movie during a car accident and subsequent explosion. The flames certainly have impact. In addition, Desplat's score has impact when appropriate, never sounding tinny or compressed. On that note, all the music comes through with pristine clarity and precision, engaging the surround channels to create an effectively immersive soundscape. Without any drop-outs, sync issues, pops or clicks, this is a fine audio track which nicely complements the pleasing 1080p video.

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

Extras

    Absolutely nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

    Compared to the Region A-locked Blu-ray from Paramount released in the United States, the Roadshow disc misses out on:

    How disappointing. There is no information about the video bitrate, but the U.S disc is a BD-50 as opposed to Roadshow's BD-25, so the video bitrate might be higher. No debate about this one: Paramount's Region A disc is the winner. Apparently, the U.K. release - which is a HMV exclusive - also comes with the same extras. So there really is no reason to buy the local release.

Summary

    Suburbicon should be a better movie considering the talent involved. It's a disjointed hodgepodge of neo-noir murder mystery and racial commentary, lacking the spark of magic to truly make it work. Nevertheless, it is entertaining at least.

    Roadshow's Blu-ray presents the movie in satisfying high definition, with a borderline great 1080p video presentation and a very good 5.1 audio track. However, the lack of special features is disappointing. This one is definitely a try before you buy situation; I can't really recommend the movie due to its flaws, and I can't really recommend the disc since it's so barebones.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, March 04, 2019
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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