Hacksaw Ridge Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
After a decade in exile, Mel Gibson comes out of the wilderness to deliver Hacksaw Ridge a powerful and expertly directed tale worthy of its Oscar nod.Crafting an original war movie is something of a challenge, but the true story of WWII vet Desmond Doss is the stuff of legend - too unbelievable to pass for fiction: a soldier trying to get onto a battlefield without a weapon. An almost ludicrous concept, Gibson lends weight to this bona fide conscientious objector through a painstaking portrait of what brought him to this place, and of what he is going to have to do to stay true to his beliefs. Andrew Garfield doubles-down on his terrific, tortured performance in Scorsese's flawed but worthy Silence (which makes a good companion-piece to this) rising to the challenge of playing a very different character, whose actions - and very beliefs - often go beyond what words could convey. Of course, despite the anti-war messages, Gibson, to a certain extent, has his cake and eats it too, depicting some exquisite scenes of violence, gore, and bloody, mutilated death which punctuate a series of expertly staged skirmishes and battles on the blood-soaked ridge of the title, but it's arguably a necessary evil.Yes, slo-mo is commonplace, but Gibson uses it well, and commands the screen - and, in turn, your attention - with the velocity and visceral impact of the attacks, each one a concussive wave that builds on its predecessor, until you're as overwhelmed as the men on the battlefield. Whilst his directorial hand on the build-up shows steady pacing and warm observation, and whilst he managed to wring some excellent performances out of an eclectic cast, it's Gibson's eye for military horror that stands out here. Although he has made some thoroughly enjoyable smaller features during his exile (Get the Gringo is great fun, and highly recommended), and there was undoubtedly some trepidation about his full return to the limelight, Hacksaw Ridge is one hell of a way to come out of the shadows, and, even though it didn't get beyond its Best Director/Best Picture nominations, it deservedly won in two other categories. making it an impressive achievement that will hopefully only lead to more outstanding directorial work from him, which can only be a good thing.
Picture QualityHacksaw Ridge braves US 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an excellent HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p transfer framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The UHD Blu-ray was reviewed on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Shot digitally, the 3.4K source format was unfortunately another victim to the limitations of a 2K Digital Intermediate for the necessary effects work, although the results are still very impressive, besting the already demo-quality 1080p Blu-ray counterpart in all of the right areas, whether in terms of an uptick in detail, sharper resolution, or even more clarity. Skin textures and clothing weaves feel even more nuanced, with finer observations on close-ups; background detail is retained even on mid- and long-shots; and pause-and-flick-between comparisons leave it a slight but still noticeable upgrade.
An oftentimes demo Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation
Of course, and for many this will be totally unsurprising, it's in the use of the High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) that Ultra HD Blu-rays generally really distinguish themselves, visually, from their standard Blu-ray counterparts, and Hacksaw Ridge is quite a different beast here, with tweaked colour timing that leaves vibrant flashes of explosive flames bursting out across the screen, and a finer differentiation in terms of contrast, providing deeper, richer black levels and more gradation through to the peak whites. Blood tones are also more vivid, and overall this is certainly a more refined, vibrant upgrade on the standard Blu-ray equivalent, making for an oftentimes demo Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the Dolby TrueHD soundtrack on a 5.1-channel setup – Hacksaw Ridge also boasts a stomping Dolby Atmos track running off an excellent Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core. It's even more definitively demo quality, delivering dialogue clearly and coherently across the frontal array, whilst the sweeping, rousing score is passionately promoted as a backdrop to the proceedings, giving the rears plenty to do, even when full-blown warfare isn't kicking off. And, come the second half of the movie, that's very rarely the case, with the effects track arguably the most impressive element, as mortars detonate in your living room, machine gun fire tears through your walls and the bloody chaos erupts right before your eyes. Dynamic, precise and powerful, Hacksaw Ridge astounds even without the benefit of the Atmos upgrade.
Another reference Dolby Atmos audio presentation to match the reference video
Steve Withers reviewed the Dolby Atmos soundtrack on a 7.2.4-channel setup – At one point in the accompanying making of documentary that is included on the disc, Mel Gibson mentions that veterans watching the film were most affected by the sound of bullets zipping over their heads rather than the horrors presented on screen. The precision and three dimensional nature of the Dolby Atmos soundtrack took them right back to being in combat and that's how you'll feel after watching Hacksaw Ridge in multi-dimensional audio. It's a beautifully designed soundtrack even before the film reaches Okinawa but the second half of the film is a sonic assault that makes full use of the object-based format to immerse you in the horror of war. The steering of effects is superb, with mortar rounds falling down from above you, and the LFE channel provides added depth to the gunfire and explosions. Despite all this chaos dialogue remains clear and the marvellous score is mixed in with great effect. Hacksaw Ridge won the Academy Award for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, which it justly deserved, and this Dolby Atmos soundtrack perfectly delivers the sound mixers' artistic intentions.
ExtrasIn what may come as a relief for those who are still region locked but importing the 4K release anyway, Lionsgate has thankfully bucked the trend by choosing to port all of the extras onto the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc itself (there is no region coding on UHD discs) so fans will be able to enjoy all of the extras on the accompanying Region A-locked Blu-ray without having to worry about buying the UK release as well.
The extras themselves are fairly impressive
More importantly, the actual extras themselves are fairly impressive, headlined by a feature-length, 70 minute Documentary, The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge, which takes a comprehensive look at the production, featuring interviews from all the main contributors - with Gibson himself front and centre - providing details into the story and the shoot, as well as some nice anecdotes about the real-life individuals the film portrays. There's also a brief Veteran's Day Greeting with Mel Gibson, a 5-minute salvo of Deleted Scenes, and the film's Theatrical Trailer.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictHacksaw Ridge is one hell of a way for Gibson to come out of the shadows
Gibson adds to his near-flawless directorial resume with a powerful comeback movie that also delivers on US Ultra HD Blu-ray, with demo video and Dolby Atmos-enhanced audio, as well as a welcome selection of decent extras which, thankfully, have been ported over to the actual Ultra HD Blu-ray disc (which, as with all Ultra HD BDs, has no region coding), so Region B-locked fans looking to import shouldn't be too worried about missing out on anything from the accompanying Region A-locked Blu-ray. Recommended.
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