Engaging, absorbing and totally riveting
Season 1 Review
If you make it to the top... it means you've killed your enemies. And sometimes, your partners.Pablo Escobar has been the subject of many films and TV series’ throughout the years. His life, as a Columbian drug lord, is full of intrigue and excitement, given that he was the first of his kind and, as such, still holds a fascination. Narcos was produced by and first shown on the streaming service Netflix. The original intent was to be a two hour movie, but because Escobar’s life was so rich with differing elements, it was decided that two hours simply wasn’t enough; thus a ten episode miniseries was commissioned which has now been extended to a second season due to the reception of the first, the series having received universal acclaim. Escobar’s life is rich for the picking and, like the best, this series mixes truth with fiction for dramatic effect but always to the fulfilment of the story.The plot concentrates on Escobar’s first foray into the cocaine business, his subsequent rise to power, the corruption of the government and subsequent self-imposed imprisonment. All the while the American DEA tries to stem the tide of drugs entering Miami as they work with the Columbian authorities. Each episode is like a film unto itself, but when watched together it tells a fascinating story of how a poor man became one of the richest men in the world, and tried to use that power to further his own political career, first with money, then with extreme violence. With solid storytelling, stellar acting and wonderful editing, each episode builds on the last and the show has quickly become a hit. And it is easy to see why; it never puts a foot wrong, is engaging and absorbing and is totally riveting.
Picture QualityThe discs present a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio at a resolution of 1080p/24 and the transfer uses the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.
Shot digitally (and in native 5K) the 1080p image is stellar. Detail is pristine with skin texture and clothing weaves being right to the fore, while mid to long range shots hold keen edges throughout. The slums of the cities, the jungle sky lines and the overviews of the landscape shots are utterly breath-taking in their clarity. Colour is bright, bold and natural; all the primaries are well realised with lush greens and vivid reds, while blues grade wonderfully.
Brightness and contrast are set to give deep black levels, adding depth and punch to the image. Shadow detail is shown when required and when not the blacks are impenetrable with no signs of noise. At the other end of the scale whites never clip, white clothing is always visible as are tree branches against a bright sky. Digitally there are no compression issues, nor is there any edge enhancement, in fact there was only the slightest hint of banding very occasionally. An incredibly clean and clear image.
Blu-ray to 4K Stream ComparisonNarcos is available to stream on Netflix in 4K and comparing to this reference Blu-ray picture the differences are slight, but they are there. It is noticeable in the finite detailing given to close ups; so hair lines and pores in facial expressions have slightly more definition in the 4K stream; but is most prominently seen in landscape establishing shots, such as jungle flybys or overlooking the Columbian cities (such as in the opening shot) where the buildings protrude from the tree lines, or traffic moving on the busy streets, or lights against the darkness. The Blu-ray has the same detailing, but it is ever so slightly softer in its presentation and whilst this can be seen from normal viewing distances, once you start moving closer to the screen it becomes even more apparent. Colour saturation, brightness and contrast levels appear the same between the two formats; I just wonder what an HDR image would look like. But as it is, between the two, the 4K stream just pips the Blu-ray in terms of detailing, close though it might be.
Sound QualityJust the one track: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 but it is every bit as good in terms of environment as the picture is for detail. The surround speakers are used to fill out ambience as well as for effects, and this brings the track to life and places you in the centre of the action. Street noise, crowds, traffic, jungle sounds, aircraft as well as staples such as vehicles, gun fire and explosions are all positioned in the surround environment to give maximum impact to the visuals; the steering of the sound around the room is magnificent. Dialogue is clean, clear, sounds very natural and whilst is mostly from the frontal array is afforded some directionality when required. Bass is strong and deep but somewhat restrained only really bringing the sub to life during action sequences. The score, enigmatic as it is, makes full use of the surround speakers and is well layered into the mix so that nothing is left wanting.
ExtrasAudio Commentaries – Three episodes are given commentaries, Episode 1, with director Jose Padilha and star Wagner Moura, Episode 6, with showrunner Chris Brancato and Episode 10 with executive producer Eric Newman and director Andrés Baiz. All three commentaries contain good information about the production process, how the show came about, casting, location shooting and realism; none are really episode specific, rather they talk about the season as a whole.
The Colombian Collection – Brief 10 minute featurette containing interviews with cast and crew exhorting the values of shooting the whole series on location in Columbia and how that contributed to the project.
Establishing the Route – A lengthier 25 minute feature that discusses, with the same interviewees, how the series came about, why Netflix was chosen, how it was conceived for ‘binge-watching’ and the music for the show. A lot is covered in a short time.
The Language Barrier – Another 10 minute featurette, again with the same interviewees, about the bi-lingual nature of the series.
Deleted Scenes – Nine scenes in total that play as one 8 minute featurette, from various episodes running at the most 2 minutes, but normally less than one; the scenes are mostly character beats.
Blu-ray VerdictNarcos is a 10 episode miniseries, which is available to stream on Netflix, about the early life of one of the most notorious of all Columbian drug lords, Pablo Escobar; a man who became one of the richest men in the world due to his nefarious actions and who corrupted just about everyone around him. At the same time the Columbian police, with help from the American DEA, try to stem the tide of cocaine flooding into Miami. The show mixes truth with fiction for dramatic effect, always to the fulfilment of the story, and is utterly riveting.
This Blu-ray set from Arrow is nothing short of excellent. The picture is incredibly detailed, bright and colourful with wonderful blacks. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track is natural, wide and dynamic with a terrific surround environment and strong bass. It even has a very decent set of extra features that go into the background of the project with features and commentaries. Recommended.
You can buy Narcos on Blu-ray here
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