PictureIt is quite a shock going back to SD after so much HD material - but there really isn't anything wrong with this transfer. It will not knock you out with its quality, but for a documentary it certainly does a very good job.
The transfer is presented in the theatrical correct ratio of 1.85:1, and is pleasantly sharp when upscaled through a decent player. Colours are vibrant for a DVD transfer, and the image is clear and detailed.
However, as a documentary the film is never going to have the production values of a major Hollywood blockbuster. The limits from the source material are visible, and that includes some colour bleeding, and some grain in places. There is also some grain present in the transfer but this is not at the level which should be considered offputting.
For a documentary DVD, then, this is a very good transfer that probably does justice to the original print. Any problems visible here are more likely to be down to the source print than the transfer.
SoundThe two soundtracks offered are a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a normal stereo mix. To be honest, whilst the 5.1 track is adequate it really does nothing to overly impress.
The sound seems a little too muddy to me, and there is very little delineation amongst the speakers. Of course, as a documentary one would not expect a blinding surround sound experience, and indeed it may sound quite fake if they did provide one. However, to me the stereo mix sounds a lot clearer and pristine, with the vocals easier to hear and the soundtrack becoming clearer and less muddy.
This is certainly the first time where I have recommended a stereo mix over a DD 5.1 mix - but that is what I am doing here.
ExtrasThere are copious extras on this DVD. The first one is a four minute mini feature Raising money to fight cancer which features a woman who couldn't get treatment for her cancer as she had no insurance. This seems to be more like a deleted scene rather than an extra feature. This is followed by H.R. 676 (Sicko goes to Washington) which lasts eight and a half minutes and follows a speech by Michael on the bill H.R. 606
Then, we get a critical report from various news broadcasts Norway : A Utopia? in which Moore then responds to these criticisms by talking about how wonderful Norway is with their standard of living and healthcare. What is really bizarre about this is that he doesn't actually debunk the criticisms in the broadcasts at the beginning, and it also seems strange that this isn't in the film. Something doesn't seem quite right here.
Then General Electric in France shows us how wonderful it is working for GE in France compared with GE in America, and Religious Freedom shows us how Cuba welcomes democracy and freedom by allowing Catholics to worship. This is followed by Father Mike - an interview with a priest in America.
We are then presented with footage of the Sicko World Premiere which was held on skid row, exactly where a key scene of the movie was filmed. The second wave of extras commences with ”Alone without You” a rather excellent song by Tom Morello which is a lot better than any of the other tracks that he has recorded and is very listenable indeed. This is accompanied by the music video for the song.
We then have a few extra interviews with various people, including Marcia Angell, Elizabeth Warren, Aleida Guevera, and of all people Tony Benn. The package is rounded off with a theatrical trailer.
Although each extra here is insubstantial, they do provide the viewer with valuable extra insights and as such are worth watching.
VerdictSicko is certainly Moore's best film - but unfortunately the filmmaker still is working to an agenda, and will twist any fact to fit that agenda. Here, he tends to reign in his more publicity hungry stunts (at least until the end of the film) and the film is certainly better for it. Viewers would be advised to dig further into the arguments presented here, rather than blindly accepting Moore's version though.
The sound is very poor on this release, with the DD 5.1 option sounding muddy and indistinct - being totally outshone by the stereo option. The picture fares better, although it is still suffering from some inherent problems which seem to be source related.
The extras are divided into small segments, but total over 80 minutes - and provide some interesting extra insights.
Overall, with reservations, this film is recommended. It raises some disturbing questions about the American health care system, and although this may not affect us directly as humanitarians we should be knowledgeable about how bad things can get in the USA.
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