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Hostiles Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Prisoner of War

by Casimir Harlow

Film Review

Director Scott Cooper reunites with his Out of the Furnace star Christian Bale for an expertly acted but somewhat undercooked reflection on the horrors of war.

Languid and elegiac, Cooper's Hostiles firmly lives up to its name, kicking the doors down with a terrifying opening attack, and frequently reminding us across the course that there's simply no limit to the horrors that humans can inflict upon one another, whether it be for land, greed or country. Christian Bale's battle-damaged soldier's journey to escort his dying arch-enemy, Wes Studi's (The Last of the Mohicans) POW war chief, back home is a violently eventful one, bumping into Rosamund Pike's recent widow along the way and learning - the hard way - that his sworn enemy may well be the least savage and dangerous thing he will face on this voyage. Cooper isn't interested in heroes and villains: everybody here is broken by war, and he's interested in observing each and every individual deal with the horrific things that they have seen, that they have done, and that they have had done to them, in their own unique way.
Combining Malickian pacing with the shock violence of S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk), Cooper doesn't quite have either Malick's feel for emotional substance, or Zahler's handle on building up multi-faceted characters before setting them off into hell, which is a shame given his pedigree. The man behind Jeff Bridges's Oscar winner Crazy Heart, who also worked his magic on Out of the Furnace, was expected to deliver something better. It is still an impressive study of 19th Century PTSD, and Bale reminds us that he is a force to be reckoned with, leaving Hostiles ripe with great moments - touching scenes and bouts of unforgiving violence - whilst rich with infectious melancholy and war-torn subtext, but nonetheless lacking a satisfying whole, somehow unable to deliver its characters to their narrative destination through any kind of organic, earned means. It's an engrossing but flawed western by a skilled writer/director and acclaimed actor.

Picture Quality

Hostiles
Although released on the UK on Blu-ray, if you want to pick up Hostiles on Ultra HD Blu-ray, you'll have to import it from the States, with Lionsgate delivering an excellent disc whose one potential flaw - the fact that the accompanying Blu-ray is Region A-locked is negated by their thankfully porting over the extra features onto the Ultra HD Blu-ray itself.

The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), as well as Dolby Vision, and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Hostiles on a Samsung UE55KS8000 Ultra HD TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

It's something of a relief to find this elegantly shot Western delivered in full fat 4K.

Shot on good old 35mm, the movie benefits from a 4K pipeline, with little if anything in the way of VFX and a full 4K Digital Intermediate, leaving it one of those still relatively rare native 4K presentations out there, and whilst there are plenty of 2K upscales that really looks stunning, it's still something of a relief - justified or not - to find this elegantly shot western, replete with impressive vistas, delivered in full fat 4K.

Whilst not quite a flawless image - there's a nagging hint of inconsistency to the grain levels - it's undoubtedly a thoroughly impressive one, making the most of the setting and beautiful scenery, whilst happy to lap up the period grime and dirt that adorns the clothes and faces of its characters, who've been battered by war for most of their adult lives. From facial hair to weathered weaves, every little nuance is picked up here, with the colour scheme given that added level of rich appreciation that only subtle but precise application of HDR and WCG can afford a palette, adding depth to the woody browns, vibrant greens and warm desert tones, and rounding things off with solid black levels that afford no signs of crush.

Sound Quality

Hostiles
A tremendous offering.

The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track may not offer up any kind of immersive HD-audio upgrade over the standard Blu-ray's identical track, but it's nonetheless a tremendous offering, supporting and supplanting the engaging film with a superbly crafted score that builds in intensity and detonates during the film's key moments of shock attack.

Dialogue remains firmly prioritised across the frontal array, given prioritisation where required, peaked by Comanche war cries during attack, whilst the effects lap up the thunderous gunshots that echo over the open landscapes, whilst also supporting the formation of a hearty atmospheric backdrop upon which the tension can be build, taking in footfalls through the woods or the bustle of a town or garrison, as well as the downpour of rain. It's the score that stands out though, as elegiac as the film itself, yet capable of transforming when required to delivered emotional weight and tense scenes of devastating combat.

Extras

Hostiles
Lionsgate thankfully port over the single solid, feature length Making-of Documentary extra onto the Ultra HD Blu-ray itself.

Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict

Hostiles Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Hostiles
An engrossing but flawed western by a skilled writer/director and acclaimed actor.

Lionsgate's US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Hostiles affords the moody Western excellent native 4K video and superbly atmospheric audio as well as a hefty, feature-length Making-of Documentary which has thankfully been ported over onto the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc itself (so you don't have to worry about the Region A-locked Blu-ray). It's an increasingly worrying trend that new films like this are only getting Blu-ray releases in the UK (see: Coco, Ferdinand, The Post, Annihilation, Pitch Perfect 3, Brawl in Cell Block 99, Hell or High Water), and fans of the film should seriously consider importing it.

Scores

Movie

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

10

Extras

.
.
.
7

Overall

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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