Test Disc #4 : Die Hard 4K Blu-ray

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Die Hard still ranks among the best ac­tion films ever. So how well does this 4K restora­tion fare?

An ac­tion clas­sic

Bruce Wil­lis’s John Mc­clane flies to Los An­ge­les to spend time with his wife (Bon­nie Bedelia), but the prover­bial hits the fan at the Nakatomi Corp’s Christ­mas party when a group of ter­ror­ists led by Hans Gru­ber (Alan Rick­man) storm the build­ing.

As a film, Die Hard coun­tered the ex­cess of the ’80s. You had a char­ac­ter that was more vul­ner­a­ble – an em­pa­thetic ac­tion hero. See­ing him up against it, out­manned and out­gunned, is what makes the film so en­joy­able. It’s the per­fect en­cap­su­la­tion of the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Wil­lis is com­pelling and the act­ing is good through­out, with plenty of other char­ac­ters and mini-sto­ries to keep your in­ter­est. Even in the shadow of mod­ern­day ac­tion films, it’s a for­mi­da­ble piece of cin­ema. There’s hu­mour, clas­sic lines of di­a­logue and one of the great screen vil­lains. A lean piece of cin­ema that moves at a brisk pace, it’s that rare ac­tion film that man­ages to bal­ance smarts and ex­cite­ment.

Pic­ture per­fect?

This is a new 4K scan of the orig­i­nal film neg­a­tive and the gains are no­tice­able. It’s a softer, brighter im­age that’s more ex­act­ing in de­tail. HDR and WCG im­plan­ta­tion has in­creased the range of tones, mak­ing for strong, well de­fined colours.

Brighter colours pop bet­ter, while darker ar­eas of the im­age have a new so­lid­ity and def­i­ni­tion to them. Tex­tures of sur­faces, ob­jects and the ques­tion­able ’80s fash­ion are more ac­cu­rately re­vealed. The film grain gives the pre­sen­ta­tion a tex­tured and cine­matic feel. Skin tones are more pro­nounced, while blacks are solidly ren­dered. Whites grab your at­ten­tion more and clar­ity is bet­ter too. You can make out more de­tail and, in some in­stances, colour from faces and sur­faces. It’s a nicely tex­tured cine­matic im­age.

A stan­dard sound mix

Die Hard comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Mas­ter Au­dio track and it’s a sat­is­fy­ing pre­sen­ta­tion. It’s well de­fined and dy­nam­i­cally ca­pa­ble, but the movie de­serves an au­dio up­grade. De­tail is fine, though ef­fects sound their age. There’s a vig­or­ous sense of en­ergy on dis­play dur­ing ac­tion scenes, with ex­plo­sions that are big and im­pact­ful but the track lacks ac­tiv­ity in the bass and there’s not much use of the sur­round chan­nels ei­ther. This is more of a show­case for your fronts and cen­tre chan­nel, which of­fer de­cent clar­ity, and ba­sic place­ment of ef­fects. Michael Ka­men’s score echoes Beethoven’s Ode To Joy and is a near-con­stant and force­ful pres­ence across the front ar­ray. Di­a­logue is clear and dis­tinct. An en­joy­able lis­ten, then, but an At­mos or DTS:X track could have been great.

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