Sully Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

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An emotionally charged 4K release

by Simon Crust Apr 24, 2017 at 4:33 PM

  • SRP: £23.99

    Film Review

    Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time

    Sully: The Miracle on the Hudson is director Clint Eastwood’s retelling of the remarkable events that unfolded on January the 15th 2009 when America West Airlines flight ‘Cactus 1549’ was forced to ditch in the Hudson River in New York after suffering catastrophic engine failure following a bird strike on the aircraft. The flight itself lasted for just over 200 seconds so the film concerns itself with who Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger was, what drove his actions and the subsequent investigation afterwards. There is, of course, some dramatic licence given to these events to create a (courtroom) drama that didn’t really happen; but in the context of the narrative it adds a further depth of emotion to an emotionally charged feature.
    Eastwood directs with a very strong hand, concentrating on Tom Hanks (in the titular role) and finding the ‘man behind the pilot’; how his instincts and calm and collected processes lead him to demonstrate skill and acuity in landing a stricken aircraft onto water, and consequently saving the lives of everyone on board. But whilst Sully, and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, where responsible for the safe landing, it was the flight attendants and first responders: ferry crews, Police scuba units, Red Cross and countless others that all pulled together and made sure that everyone escaped with their lives, in a monumental effort that took just 24 minutes – and Eastwood goes to great pains to make sure that this effort is rewarded.

    Picture Quality

    Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Picture Quality
    Sully: The Miracle on the Hudson was filmed digitally using Arri Alexa 65 cameras, with a resolution of 6.5K and finished using a 4K Digital Intermediate (DI), meaning we’re seeing the full native resolution on this Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Sully: The Miracle on the Hudson on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

    The benefits of a 4K DI are immediately obvious

    Oh boy, this is what we’re talking about! The benefits of a 4K DI are immediately obvious in a picture presentation that is flawless. There is absolute clarity to every scene whether you are looking at skin texture, cockpit dials, the New York skyline or Sully’s ring. Each and every edge is perfect in what is pure demo quality detail. Add to this the HDR and WCG and you have an image that screams quality. Blacks give a true sense of depth to the image and hold plenty of shadow detail when needed, while the whites are simply excellent. Colour grades perfectly from the blues of the ferries to the splashes of red on the uniforms; check out night time in Times Square with all the glossy billboards. Unlike something like Passengers, whose picture is equally demo worthy, but is in the sci-fi genre where there is nothing to compare against, Sully is ‘real’ and as such you can see how good the picture is against real life, and it is stand out. Frighteningly real! The 1080p Blu-ray image is also a reference point, but this UHD leaves it behind.

    Sound Quality

    Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Sound Quality
    Simon Crust reviewed the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on a 5.1 system – Much the same can be said for this demo quality surround track whose reliance on ambience and ‘reality’ make for an emotive, engaging and sometimes terrifying experience. This is especially true for the aircraft scenes – flybys, take offs and cruising are absolutely lifelike, with a bass level to match, adding weight and undercurrent to the planes as they fly. When it comes to the crash you are in a world of panic; i.e. in the cockpit with the pilots as they make their decisions – there is the dialogue, front and centre, calm and collected, the various instruments and warning cues, there is the flight of the craft through the air, there is the stricken and failing engines and behind it all the cries of the flight attendants as they instruct the passengers to “Brace brace brace! Heads down! Stay down!” Then you are in the water of the Hudson, with waves and wind everywhere while people shout and rescue ships encroach. Scarily real. Bass is subsonic, but tight, controlled and always real, filling out the engines so you feel you are next to them! Dialogue is clear and precise and never gets lost in the mix. The score is well layered and makes use of all the speakers. A tremendous surround track that emphasises realism over flashy gimmicks.

    The fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack is the equal of the 4K image

    Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup – As good as the 4K image is on this Ultra HD Blu-ray release, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is its equal. Sully boasts one of the most immersive object-based sound designs that we have heard, right up there with Deepwater Horizon – perhaps disaster films just lend themselves to these multi-layered mixes. The film uses its sound design in both a subtle and decidedly more aggressive manner depending on the scene. The film's numerous quieter sequences are augmented by a careful sound design that places dialogue front and centre whilst immersing the characters in carefully constructed audio environments, whether that's a hotel room, a street or a public hearing. There is a nice use of the overhead speakers to simply give a greater sense of space and atmosphere to these scenes. However the film saves the most impressive surround effects for the actual water landing, which we experience from a number of different perspectives. There's the landing from the pilots' perspective, from the passengers' perspective, from the flight controller's perspective and then finally when the cockpit voice recording is played at the end we experience it one final time.

    The scenes in the cockpit and the plane's cabin are the most visceral, completely immersing you in the experience, with the latter perhaps being the most affecting because we've all been in a plane and know how it sounds. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack perfectly replicates that with a three-dimensional sound field that makes for a terrifying and very emotional experience. We hear the creaking of the fuselage all around and above us, with the anguished cries of the passengers surrounding us and the instructions of the flight attendants, making us one of those terrified passengers. When we experience the same events from the pilots' perspective you can hear the passengers and flight attendants in the rear speakers, as they would sound from the cockpit. Aside from the clear and focused dialogue and the superb steering of effects, the low frequencies are also employed very effectively, adding greater impact to certain scenes. It's a masterful piece of sound design from beginning to end and an absolutely demo Dolby Atmos soundtrack as well.


    Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Extras
    The extra features are all found on the included Full HD Blu-ray:

    Sully Sullenberger: The Man Behind the Miracle
    – A twenty minute biography of Sullenberger himself, a unremarkable man who did a remarkable thing. Philip Terence narrates with contributions from Sully, his wife, Lorrie, daughter Kelly and co-pilot Jeff Skiles.

    Moment by Moment: Averting Disaster on the Hudson – Spend fifteen minutes with the real Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger, First Officer Jeff Skiles and air controller Patrick, who talk about their part in history, a sobering conversation in their own words.

    Neck Deep in the Hudson: Shooting Sully – A basic making of feature that runs twenty minutes but packs in quite a lot in with plenty of interviews with cast and crew (including director Clint Eastwood, producers Frank Marshall, Allyn Stewart and Kipp Nelson, screenwriter Todd Komarnicki, Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart and the real Captain Sully). Some good behind the scenes shots make for a watchable featurette.

    Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict

    Sully: Miracle on the Hudson Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict
    On 15 January 2009, America West Airlines flight 1549 was forced to ditch in the Hudson River in New York after suffering catastrophic engine failure; Sully: Miracle on the Hudson is director Clint Eastwood’s telling of that fateful flight, and the aftermath/investigation of Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. The flight was less than three minutes, so Eastwood concentrates on the man, the investigation and the rescue. Taking a few liberties with the truth, Eastwood, nevertheless draws a powerful and emotive picture that shows the betterment of man in a perilous situation. It has its flaws but remains an emotionally charged feature.

    One wonders what the outcome might have been without Captain Sully at the helm

    Warner’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray package is excellent; the picture, from a 4K DI, is reference all the way being bright, detailed and absolutely real. While the sound is a sonic triumph that is both engaging and frighteningly real. The extras are a little light, but do throw some light onto the making of the film. So if you're looking for a demo disc to show off your 4K display and Dolby Atmos sound system, then Sully is the disc for you and as an added bonus it's also a great film.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £23.99

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