Dunkirk 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Papers float down from the air with a clear visual of German military printed on nearly all sides of the page with arrows pointing to the center reading, “We Surround You.” Allied soldiers from Belgium, The British Empire, and France are the “You” that is surrounded. DUNKIRK uniquely tells a riveting story of the heroic sacrifice, devastating loss, and drive for survival during the evacuation of the allied soldiers from Dunkirk, France during World War II.
The allies are backed up against the coast of the English Channel. In long lines across the beach, men wait their turn to be evacuated by ship. As they wait, German fighter planes are picking off the men and dropping explosives. Once on a British Destroyer, safety is not certain. While still being attacked from above, rescue ships are being taken out from U-boats from under the water.
DUNKIRK has an interesting approach to the action. Told in three distinct stories, DUNKIRK follows a varying timeline through land, sea and air. The first follows a soldier (Fionn Whitehead) on land trying to be evacuated, or rather survive and escape, with others over the course of “One Week.” The second follows civilians at sea, a man (Oscar winner Mark Rylance) and two boys (Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan) heading across the Channel from Dover in a small boat hoping to rescue all who they can over the course of “One Day.” The third follows two fighter pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden) doing what they can in the air to keep the enemy from killing their fellow men and bombing their boats over the course of “One Hour.” All three stories eventually merge into one.
The unique approach in storytelling, masterfully intensifies the situation by giving different perspectives within the same moment of battle. DUNKIRK doesn’t offer the typical lead character to follow. Nor does the drama unfold in a traditional sense of a war film. Conversely, a more symbolic approach is taken where the few characters who are followed represent the many and their wide variety of individual experiences in the same terrifying situation. The dialogue is limited, allowing the action and creative editing to tell the story and immersing the viewer in an unexpected way.
Director and writer Christopher Nolan is no amateur to delivering clever, exciting thrillers. This time he sets his artistic talent on visually depicting the horrors of war and the resilience of the human spirit. With the help of an unrelenting score from long-time collaborator Hans Zimmer and the incredibly immersive cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema (HER, INTERSTELLAR), the tension never lets up in DUNKIRK. Editor Lee Smith pulls off an amazing achievement as the film regularly jumps from one story to the next in fluctuating timelines and speeds up the pace before the pulsating action from each collide into one.
During flight, I felt my head turning with fighter planes, either to avoid being shot or trying to line up the target myself. While in the water, I felt myself gripping my chair and shifting helplessly, hoping to catch a breath. On land, my chin instinctively tucked, hoping to avoid the incoming fire. Throughout the experience, I’d ask myself what I might do or wonder how I would hold up in a certain situation trying to survive.
Rated PG-13, DUNKIRK is affectively minimal in blood and violence from a mostly unseen enemy through a gripping and epic 106-minute runtime. It’s not just the visual element, which should be experienced in IMAX or 70mm format, the film manages to land a couple of quietly emotional blows as well. DUNKIRK is a powerful film with an original vision that left my heart pounding and my mind racing long after I left the theater.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I’m not sure a 4K video presentation can get any better than DUNKIRK. There have been some gems released on 4K over the last year, but DUNKIRK feels like it was made with the format in mind. Everything is incredibly clear and detailed and the dark, gray tones in the film have new life on 4K thanks to the HDR and color detail. The scene when the guys are trapped in the boat is one that stood out to me and when I compared that particular scene to the Blu-ray, there was a noticeable difference between the two. The 4K gave it an almost 3D like quality with the settings and closeups really coming to life. Like Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, this is how great the format can look when supervised by a director that understands the format.
Audio: I know people are bummed about the lack of a Dolby Atmos track, but the DTS track is more than sufficient.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no special features exclusive to the 4K, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
There are 16 short featurettes that collectively run just over an hour and 45 minutes. I understand why they were split up, but I think they work better as one long documentary on the film. When taken as a whole, they’re very impressive with how much depth they go into and how much detail they cover on the making of DUNKIRK. Even if you walked away from the film disappointed, it’s hard to watch this bonus disc and not come away with more respect and admiration for what Nolan was able to accomplish.