Darkest Hour

WSR Score5
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Universal Studios Home Entertainment
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Some thematic material
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-50)
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Color With B/W Sequences
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Joe Wright
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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In "Darkest Hour," as Hitler's army nears the United Kingdom, it is up to Winston Churchill (Oldman) to decide between negotiating peace or fighting against impossible odds. The critically acclaimed movie received six Academy AwardŽ nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gary Oldman), Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel, AFC, ASC), Best Costume Design (Jacqueline Durran), Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Ivana Primorac and Kazuhiro Tsuji), and Best Production Design (Sarah Greenwood). (Gary Reber)

Special features include commentary with Director Joe Wright, the featurettes "Into The Darkest Hour" (HD 08:16) and "Gary Oldman: Becoming Churchill" (HD 04:19), upfront previews, and a Movies Anywhere digital copy.

The 1.85:1 1080p AVC picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, upconverted to 2160p with greater resolution and luminance, was photographed digitally using Arri Alexa Mini and Arri Alexa SXT Plus camera system and sourced from a 2K master Digital Intermediate format. Other than the grainy newsreel war photos, the imagery is pristine. The color palette is wonderfully warm with rich hues that often appear subdued in light of the setting. Of course, the overcast British skies are a contributing factor to the subdueness. Yet there are spot instances of vividness, such as King George VI's intense blue suit worn at lunch with Churchill. Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel is a master of lighting and visual capture. The lighting enhances the range of contrast from deep blacks and shades of shadows to bright highlights, resulting in a visually engaging picture. Colors are filtered to varying degrees, yet fleshtones retain a naturalness throughout. Resolution is superb, with the finest detail effectively resolved, yet there is a softness to the detail, which, along with the production design, enhances the realism. Fine detail is revealed in facial features, skin pores, hair, clothing and all manner of object texture, such as building exteriors and interiors and grounds, as well as Churchill's puffs of cigar smoke. There are numerous WOW! segments such as 16:50 to 19:16, 33:47 to 35:38, 01:02:39 to 01:05:36, 01:15:48 to 01:17:18, and 01:53:10 to 01:58:30. This is such a magnificent picture that crafts an impressive visual experience that is reference quality throughout. Perhaps Universal Studios plans a 4K Ultra HD edition as a further refinement, which would be most welcomed, as the Dolby Atmos soundrack already accompanies this Blu-ray edition. (Gary Reber)

The Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack is absolutely a treasure as it projects a feeling for the period that perfectly complements the incredible imagery. Dialogue is the focus and is such as presented, with excellent spatial integration. The parliament chamber is alive with hundreds of voices shouting and interacting as speeches are delivered, all of which extends to the four surrounds. Atmospherics are incredibly articulate, providing an impressive sense of realism. That goes for Foley sound effects as well. Sound effects such as bombs and thumps sound dynamic, with support from deep bass extension among all channels and .1 LFE energy. Dario Marianelli's orchestral score is wonderfully crafted with a wide and deep soundstage that extends to the surrounds. Surround energy at times aggressively surfaces, for an effective enveloping spread throughout the soundfield. The Immersive Sound element is comprised of low-level voices in the parliament chamber, low-level car door closings, footsteps over the marble floor, reporter noises on the street, Big Ben's bells, Churchill's reverberant voice addressing parliament, low-level footsteps on the wood floor, ambient noise in the interior of a military aircraft, a plane panned front to back overhead, low-level dropped bombs, Churchill's footsteps in a metal tunnel, low-level underground bunker chatter, a Nazi plane dropping bombs, low-level ambient echos in the underground, movement underground and the sound of the train moving on the tracks, low-level walking in the halls of parliament, and Churchill addressing a paper-waving cheering parliament. Nearly all the extended height energy is very low-level, except for two or three instances, and not really apparent without listening discretely. Unfortunately, there is no extension of the orchestral score, which would have enhanced the immersive effect. While the Immersive Sound element is weaker than it ever should have been, still, the ear level soundfield is quite effective and well executed. (Gary Reber)