Dunkirk - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Dunkirk


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Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:



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Movie

Christopher Nolan has his own fan club, but also has his own hate club as well. The polarizing directing isn’t going to be as divisive as say, Darren Aronofsky, but he does things a certain way that either endears the man to you, or makes you want to boycott his films (there seems to be very little middle ground). His Batman movies have become a thing of legend, and I tend to REALLY enjoy most of his films (although I may grumble and whine a bit about his Batman films being better crime movies than they are actual Batman related movies, but I digress), except for a select few. Nolan is one of the rare few that pretty much EXCLUSIVELY shoots his movies on film ONLY (Interstellar being one of the rare few to buck that trend) and this gives his movies a very organic and lifelike appearance. A move that has really endeared me to his visual style, even if I don’t always enjoy a movie of his to the fullest.

Dunkirk is one of the only war film made by the man and it garnered HUGE critical acclaim at the box office for its nontraditional look at one of the most tragic events in World War history. I ignored as much of the clamor for the film as I could as I wasn’t able to view it theatrically, and even went so far as to ignore the trailer that Warner sent to me for the film’s home video press release so that I could go in as blind as possible, which made the whole experience just a little bit better (in my humble opinion). It’s a mixture of traditional storytelling, with an overarching story that is more about seeing what happened that fateful week through the eyes of three different (and distinct) perspectives. Much like viewing a painting through the eyes of different people, the film adapts and changes to those specific view points, coalescing into a more cohesive point of view as they all come together on the beaches of Dunkirk at the end of the film.

It’s almost hard to give a synopsis of the plot, as there really isn’t a traditional three act arc to go through. What I can tell you is that the characters are inconsequential, at least from a narrative perspective. Sure we have Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branaugh and Mark Rylance (Mark gets the brunt of the dialog for a single character), but there faces are almost lost midst a sea of unknown actors, and their lack of any real focus allows you to stand far back and watch the pieces being moved across the chessboard instead of being distracted by the “name brand” actors on screen. There is dialog, and it moves the plot along just a little, but mainly it is there to show the heart and soul of these brave men and women on the beaches and in the sea as they desperately try to survive.
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It’s near the middle of the war, and Dunkirk beach has become a death zone for the allied forces. Almost 400,000 men have been pushed back to the French beach as their enemies drive them back to the sea. A British effort to save 30,000 men of theirs on the beach expands into a full out rescue effort by the Navy, AND the effort of civilian boatmen to get over 300,000 men off that beach to be able to fight another day. The best way to describe Dunkirk is to say that it is like the storming of D-day in Saving Private Ryan, but in reverse, and stretched out to a full feature length film.

Each aspect of the movie is given an intensity and fire that is intoxicating and filling to the core. The first involves 2 grunt soldiers who will do whatever it takes to get off the beaches, even if it involves stealing, lying, and sneaking their way onto a boat to get off the death trap. The second involves a group of sea rescues as we follow a civilian boat helmed by Mark Rylance’s character (and his two sons) as they strive to pick up the drowning and marooned sailors that are downed out in the ocean. The third comes from the point of view of the air force pilots who are patrolling the air space in an effort to shoot down the Nazi planes who are bombarding their forces while they wait for the RAF to come to their aide.

There are no real IMPORTANT characters, at least in the way we normally think about important characters on screen, but the movie steps back from the chaos and allows us a birds eye view of the spectacle. Letting us see the characters being moved around like chess pieces and watching each of the three perspectives comes closer and closer together. While I loved the nontraditional narrative structure that Nolan employed here, I do admit that I can see how this film couldn’t have gone on for much longer than the 1 hour and 46 minute run time that it did. That sort of storytelling has its limits, and the audience’s patience would have been stretched a bit too far, and all the goodwill that the movie has striven to make palatable would have dissipated. Even then, the film has garnered some critical attention for being “boring” to a select few people, and I can actually understand why. Those who don’t appreciate this method of telling a visual story without any real main characters may find the experience just a bit frustrating. But given the proper outlook, I feel most people will enjoy the visual narrative.




Rating:

Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language




Video: :5stars:
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Not to be outdone by an amazing Blu-ray encode, the benefits of the 65mm film and IMAX cameras makes no less of a splash in the 4K UHD format as it does the lesser 1080p imagery. The Blu-ray is pure demo material and eye candy with its razor sharp images and amazing use of textural details, but the Blu-ray expands on that even further if you have a capable display to handle the contrast levels (the brighter your HDR display, the better for this one). The film is shot with HDR only (no Dolby Vision on this one outside of some streaming services), and the result is stellar. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t going to make the Blu-ray look like garbage in comparison, but that is mainly due to the fact that the Blu-ray is just THAT good to begin. BUUUUUUUUUUT, don’t go thinking that the 4K UHD isn’t worth the upgrade, because it makes a very solid leap up from the already amazing looking Blu-ray. The contrast levels on this one is just magnificent, and the IMAX shots are so wonderfully textured and so finely detailed that you feel like you could just reach out and put your hand THROUGH the screen, stepping into their chaotic world. Colors are still a bit drained and lean towards earthy browns and teal/green tinted hues, but the fine detailing is amazing, and those sunny shots from inside the cabin of the fishing boats gives it an amber hue at times that is quite refreshing. The 2.20:1 shots tend to be a bit darker and less detailed than the 1.78:1 IMAX shots, but that’s to be expected as most IMAX shot scenes in MOST movies will show the same differential. Personally the HDR doesn’t shine as much on this particular movie, mainly due to the fact that the desaturated color timing of the movie doesn’t lend itself towards bright colors “popping” off the screen. A move which isn’t exactly the fault of the film itself. At the end of the day, this is still one of the mostly finely detailed and exquisitely textured 4K UHD films I have ever seen, and rivals the big boys like Passengers as being 100% demo material.






Audio: :4.5stars:
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Right off the bat you’re probably wondering, “why is there no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X!”. Well, Nolan is a persnickety director, and he makes it a habit to be fully involved in the sound mixing of his film, and he made a conscious decision to stick with 5.1 here (much like he did with Insterstellar), and as such it is a director approved mix that has been given a loving treatment from his majesty, King Christopher Nolan (wink and a nod here). While I personally would have preferred an Atmos mix, this 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is NOTHING to sneeze at. In fact it’s one of the best 5.1 mixes I’ve heard to date and is a sonic assault on the ears. This track is LOUD and just full of LFE from start to finish. I honestly think that LFE was more of a main character than most of the people on screen, with a thunderous roar to the intense and anxiety filled score thanks to Hans Zimmer, and a pulsating energy that just drips from every pore. Explosions will make your pant legs flap and your neighbors REALLY ticked off at you, while the thick and heavy rumble of sea faring engines throb in the background. Vocals are crisp and clear, with the only real complaint stemming from the fact that some of the accents were a bit hard to hear with the action going on around them. It’s a fantastic 5.1 experience with the only reason that I’m knocking off a half star being that a 7.1 would have just a tad more immersion than the 5.1 has to offer. Otherwise this is a picture perfect track that just exudes energy and intensity.





Extras: :4stars:
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• Creation
- Creation: Revisiting the Miracle
- Creation: Dunkerque
- Creation: Expanding the Frame
- Creation: The In-Camera Approach
• Land
- Land: Rebuilding the Mole
- Land: The Army On the Beach
- Land: Uniform Approach
• Air
- Air: Taking to the Air
- Air: Inside the Cockpit
• Sea
- Sea: Assembling the Naval Fleet
- Sea: Launching the Moonstone
- Sea: Taking to the Sea
- Sea: Sinking the Ships
- Sea: The Little Ships
• Conclusion
- Conclusion: Turning Up the Tension
- Conclusion: The Dunkirk Spirit










Final Score: :4.5stars:


Dunkirk is a fascinating film that foregoes a traditional narrative for a much more visual approach to storytelling. I’m not sure how it will hold up over time, but as a first time view I was completely enthralled with the approach (even as I had to agree that the non traditional storytelling did seem a bit odd at times (which may explain the 1 hour and 46 minutes run time instead of Nolan’s typical near 2.5 hours for his films) but overall I really enjoyed the film. The 4K UHD and the Blu-ray alike are destined to be demo films for years to come, as they both exhibit some of the finest attention to nuanced details in both the audio and video departments to date (even though some may be a bit disappointed at Nolan’s use of 5.1 in a 7.1 and above norm. Well worth picking up if you’re a fan of dramas and war films in the slightest, and a must own for any self respecting home theater enthusiast. Would I get the 4K UHD over the Blu-ray even though the Blu-ray is so amazing? Yes, yes I would, this is a 5 star transfer no matter how good 1080p is, and is well worth the extra dollar or so to get the absolute best.





Technical Specifications:

Starring: Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Fionn Whitehead
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan
Aspect Ratio: 2.20:1/1.78:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, German DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish (Latin AND Castilian), Portuguese DD 5.1, and English DVS 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: Own Dunkirk on 4K Ultra HD, and Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on December 19, or Own It Early on Digital HD on December 12!






Recommendation: Great Watch

 

tripplej

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Thanks for the review. The movie is worth having that is for sure. :)
 

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I've got this one coming today and I can't wait. Despite me loving Chris Nolan's work, I was not able to see this in the theater like I wanted. I would have loved to have seen this in the 70mm IMAX presentation, but life just gets in the way.

Really looking forward to sitting down with this one. Then the Dark Knight trilogy, then Inception, The Prestige, and I'll probably watch Interstellar again after that. :)
 

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Great review Mike! Can't wait to watch this... while the 5.1 is a HUGE disappointment from a purist's perspective, I'm willing to bet that an Atmos up mixer will have this film sounding great on a 7.1.4 system.
 

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Watched this one last night and absolutely loved it! Gripping from start to finish. I was so enthralled with the movie I often forgot to admire the gorgeous imagery. Absolutely glad that I got this title!
 

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I'm curious, did you listen in native 5.1 or use a processor to upconvert?
 

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Todd Anderson

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Michael Scott

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*sigh, I know when I've been snubbed *sob*
 

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I'll FED EX tissues ASAP
 

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lol yes I listened in 5.1. Generally, I don't upconvert the audio. I don't have an atmos set up, so even if I did upconvert, it would only be to 7.1.

I also watched tiny bits and pieces of Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises just to get a feel for how those transfers were. Gave me a little teaser for what I was in for when I pop each one of them in.

I haven't received The Dark Knight yet, so I will probably watch Inception tonight, then The Prestige in the next day or two, then hopefully by then I will have the complete TDK trilogy to watch.
 

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Thanks for the review. Since the LFE is loud. How safe is it at reference level or close to reference as far as sub damage? I hear there is a lot of distortion on the track.
 

Michael Scott

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I didn't detect distortion, but I wasn't going for Reference levels... I pushed it at -8 of reference and it was fine... a bit hot and SOME clipping, but I didn't try to go full reference as the bass is cooked HOOOOOT and any louder would have been uncomfortable
 

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I didn't detect distortion, but I wasn't going for Reference levels... I pushed it at -8 of reference and it was fine... a bit hot and SOME clipping, but I didn't try to go full reference as the bass is cooked HOOOOOT and any louder would have been uncomfortable
I may have to turn off Dynamic EQ then.
 

Michael Scott

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oh, and a little tease considering this is a Nolan binge week. I have all three of the 4K UHD "Dark Knight Trilogy" films in the mail today, so those will go up probably next week
 

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oh, and a little tease considering this is a Nolan binge week. I have all three of the 4K UHD "Dark Knight Trilogy" films in the mail today, so those will go up probably next week
Cool looking forward :)
 

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I picked up my copy and will be watching it tonight. Looking forward to it!
 
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Michael Scott

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if pushed to really high levels you can hear some clipping in the LFE channel.
 

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Absolutely loved the movie! IMO Sir Christopher Nolan made another masterpiece. Audio, video, and story were all top notch. I didn’t notice any clipping and I watched at -10 which is pretty loud on my setup. The bass was absolutely insane throughout the movie. On a side note my Marantz did outstanding upmixing to 7.2.4 and the overhead channels were putting in some serious work during the dogfight scenes. I’m looking forward to multiple viewings and will be using this as my demo movie from now on.
 

Todd Anderson

Editor / Reviewer/ Senior Admin
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My oldest daughter gave me Dunkirk 4k for Christmas (SMART KID! :-))

Here’s my take:

1) Great flick!
2) I didn’t like the video presentation switching from 16:9 to 2.40:1... much like his other movies, I’d much prefer straight 2.40:1.... the flipping (even with super minimal use of 2.40:1) is an annoyance with a fixed PJ screen.
3) I liked a lot about the audio. I found dialog hard to understand at times... we watched using neural:x engaged and the film didn’t fill out as well as I would have hoped (across all channels)... bass and special FX were really SWEET!
 

Jack

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337
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Thank you for the review Michael, I have ordered the movie and should have it tomorrow. Based on your advise as well as Todd's, I ordered this version over the regular blu ray even though at this moment I do not have a 4k display...as you guys mention, the new set may be coming very soon.
 

Asere

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Watched it and had to disengage DEQ because the sub was overwhelming at times. Great movie though!
 

Talley

Active Member
Joined
Dec 24, 2017
Messages
127
First movie I watched with dual subs... audio was amazing. I'm still rocking a 5.2 system so I'm OK with the audio like this.

I'm not on any fancy of a video system but I thought this video looked amazing. Great thing is... I know my video quality will only get better from here on out :)

For the movie... it was a great break in a normal war movie. To me it would of been completely boring like an old western... slow paced... but the way it was put together kept me wanting more and more. Great movIE!
 

Michael Scott

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Arizona
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Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
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Cheap Thrills Mains
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Cheap Thrills Center
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Volt 6 Overheads
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2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
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Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
glad you enjoyed it Talley!
 
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