Sound & Vision - - UHD BLU-RAY - Thomas J. Nor­ton


Less than three weeks af­ter the Ger­mans in­vaded France in May 1940, the British Ex­pe­di­tionary Force found them­selves backed up against the English Chan­nel. The evac­u­a­tion that fol­lowed sought to res­cue over 300,000 British and French troops us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of British war­ships and hun­dreds of “lit­tle boats.”

No one ex­pected this ef­fort, dubbed Op­er­a­tion Dy­namo, to suc­ceed. But it did, and the re­mark­able events from late May to early June 1940 are bril­liantly re-cre­ated in Dunkirk, one of the best films of 2017. Di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan’s approach, to blend three dif­fer­ent time lines for the ac­tion on the beach, in the air, and at sea is a bit con­fus­ing at first, par­tic­u­larly when the scene shifts abruptly from day to night and back. The ac­tual evac­u­a­tion took nine days. If you just go with the flow, how­ever, it isn’t dif­fi­cult to fol­low. I could also quib­ble a bit about a few tech­ni­cal details here and there. But that’s be­side the point; Dunkirk is truer to ac­tual events than are most his­tor­i­cal films.

The movie was shot with large-for­mat cam­eras (in­clud­ing Panav­i­sion and IMAX) on film (not dig­i­tally). As in the the­ater, the as­pect ra­tio on this video re­lease al­ter­nates be­tween 2.2:1 and 1.78:1—though it’s mostly in the lat­ter. The 4K im­age is nearly im­pec­ca­ble though just a hair short of ref­er­ence qual­ity. The col­ors are of­ten sub­tle and in­ten­tion­ally sub­dued, apart from oc­ca­sion­ally too-rosy flesh­tones (as viewed on two dif­fer­ent dis­plays and both the HD and Ul­tra HD ver­sions), and the 4K res­o­lu­tion was hard to fault. The blacks are rich, and while the HDR isn’t par­tic­u­larly dra­matic, it was used ef­fec­tively on bright high­lights, par­tic­u­larly in the dark­est scenes.

The DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio 5.1 sound will knock you off your chair. Be care­ful in the open­ing sequence; the film be­gins so qui­etly that you’ll be tempted to turn up the vol­ume— un­til the first gun­shots tear through your speak­ers and hit you in the gut. The roar of air­craft en­gines, the crack of their guns, and Hans Zim­mer’s re­lent­less score also ratchet up the ten­sion from beginning to end.

The ref­er­ence-qual­ity ex­tras are all in su­perb HD on a sep­a­rate Blu-ray. While they can be watched as a se­lec­tion of out­stand­ing mak­ing-of shorts cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from the spe­cial ef­fects to the score, they’re best when viewed in a sin­gle sit­ting. But be sure you have the time; they run a to­tal of nearly two hours— longer than the film it­self!

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