Fans of Yellowstone - did you know series co-creator Taylor Sheridan wrote screenplays for three of the best thrillers of the last decade? Lionsgate combines his efforts for Sicario, Wind River, and Hell or High Water into a neat and convenient little package called the American Frontier Trilogy. Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple repackaging of the existing and plentiful discs but all three films on a single Blu-ray! As a result overall A/V quality has been sacrificed and there are no bonus features. These are terrific films, but there are far better Blu-rays and a couple of 4K discs readily available. Skip It
After a stint starring in Sons of Anarchy before getting shot and run over by a truck, Taylor Sheridan brilliantly segued behind the camera for a prolific and damned impressive career as a writer. In short order, he wrote Sicario and its sequel Sicario: Day of Soldado, Hell or High Water, and directed Wind River and Those Who Wish Me Dead, on top of Yellowstone and 1883 – and the credits keep mounting. All of this material has hit theater or television screens in less than seven years. While he still pops up in front of the camera here and there, it’s easy to suggest his best talents are with pen, paper, and a viewfinder. Given the popularity of his recent television work, it only made sense for Lionsgate to gather unto themselves the writer/director’s three earliest works Sicario, Wind River, and Hell or Highwater. Outside of Sheridan’s involvement and they were previously released by Lionsgate, these three films hold no connection to one another other than the simple fact they’re three fantastic flicks.
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, Sicario is quite simply one of the greatest thinking man’s action flicks. Tight and suspenseful from frame one, Emily Blunt commands the screen alongside action genre heavy hitters like Benicio Del Torro and Josh Brolin and it’s a masterfully crafted film.
Hell or High Water plays as a modern sheriff vs bandits western. We find Jeff Bridges as a rundown marshal on the tail of Chris Pine and his brother Ben Foster who rob banks and then launder the money through casinos. Another thoughtful and tight character study picture that redefines the modern western in the process.
Wind River is pure thriller gold featuring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen investigating a murder on a Native reservation in Wyoming. As a huge fan of the Walt Longmire novels, this film is right at home with those stories. Renner is fantastic as the lead with his own history and Olsen perfectly captures the fish-out-of-water agent in an alien world far from anything she’s known. Of the three films in this set, the story is the most unsettling but still well-acted, written, and directed.
We’ve already previously reviewed each of these films (in multiple formats):
Michael Palmer’s 2015 Sicario Blu-ray Review
Michael Palmer’s 2016 Sicario 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Shannon T. Nutt’s 2015 Hell or High Water Blu-ray Review
Shannon T. Nutt’s 2018 Hell or High Water 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
David Krauss’ 2017 Wind River Blu-ray Review
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Lionsgate assembles the American Frontier Trilogy of Taylor Sheridan's written and/or directed films Sicario, Wind River, and Hell or High Water. Not a repackaging of the already available Blu-ray discs, all three films have been smashed down onto a single BD-50 disc. The disc is housed in an eco-friendly case with a slipcover and digital copy code. The disc loads to a static image main menu with poster art of the three films allowing you to select which film to watch.
As one might expect with over 330 minutes of content stuffed into one disc, there is quite a bit of compression. At first glance, each of these films holds up fairly well. Bit rates are respectable during bright daylight sequences. The opening raid in Sicario was surprisingly crisp, clear, and filmic… until they moved inside the house. This happens pretty uniformly for all three films, once the location shifts to a darker location, the healthy high bitrates that hold well in the upper 30mbps crater into the low teens. Shadows and black levels or anything with limited light source lose color gradience and clarity. The image feels flattened without the image depth of the previous Blu-rays let alone the 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays with HDR. There are more compression artifacts on display with fine lines looking notably crunchier. Altogether, this wasn’t as horrible as I was expecting, but uniformly these films don’t really look much better than if you were streaming them on your phone. This is a damned shame because Wind River has yet to get a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc release and this kind of set would have been the perfect time for that.
Like the video transfers, the audio quality has been significantly dumbed down. Each film rolls in with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The worst affected is Sicario which sadly loses that beautiful Dolby Atmos mix and quite frankly is just a bad way to watch this movie. That brilliant score from the late Johann Johannsson just doesn’t rumble and the sounds of explosions and gunfire lose all that great impact. Likewise, Hell or High Water and Wind River lose their DTS-HD MA 5.1 tracks for neutered Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. While dialog exchanges still fire well enough, it’s the ambiance and atmosphere that’s missing most for these tracks. I don’t know how else to describe it other than sounding clunky by comparison. They're serviceable and watchable, but that's all.
Yeah, no special features here.
All three of these films deserve shelf space in any physical media collection. And while there is the connective tissue of Taylor Sheridan’s involvement, they’re unrelated stories and only come together in this set because of his involvement. Why it’s called American Frontier Trilogy when two films take place in modern-day Texas and the other in Wyoming is a little beyond me but there it is. If all this set was a repackaging of the original Blu-rays, that’d be something but instead, we get nearly six hours of excellent filmmaking crushed onto a single disc. Taking a cue from Echo Bridge, Lionsgate strips down the video transfer and audio to their barest form to squeeze these three films onto a single disc. Considering two of the films have gotten 4K discs, this would have been a perfect time to give Wind River the upgrade it deserves, but alas, this is just the cheapest and laziest possible release for three great movies. If you don’t own these, grab the 4K discs or at the very least the standard Blu-rays. As for this American Frontier Trilogy - Skip It