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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: May 14th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2014

American Sniper 10th Anniversary - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Overview -

4k UHD Review By: Matthew Hartman
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, iconic actor and director Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper targets its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release with a single-disc edition from Warner Brothers. Politics and story accuracy aside, Eastwood composed a viscerally exciting but human war drama centered around Bradley Cooper’s excellent performance. With a strong HDR upgrade, exceptional Atmos audio, and a fine selection of extra features make for a Highly Recommended disc.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
4K Ultra HD + Digital HD
Video Resolution/Codec:
2160p/HEVC / H.265 HDR10
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.40:1
Audio Formats:
English: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles/Captions:
Optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles for the main feature
Release Date:
May 14th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Talk about a tough film to wade into! Since I’ve mentioned before that I generally dislike biopics I also love Clint Eastwood movies, so American Sniper is something of a challenge. As the story of American Sniper and the veracity of its real-life subject Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and his memoir have been dissected, discussed, and debated ad nauseam, I’m going to forgo jumping into that particular line of fire. Instead, I’m going to look at this film strictly as a film. Removing debate about certain facts of the source memoir or the typical Hollywood over-simplifying process to make a two-hour film more exciting, I feel like I can actually enjoy and appreciate what Eastwood did with this story. 

For those who somehow managed to live under a rock for ten-plus years, American Sniper is the story of legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper). As one of the most lethal snipers in American combat history, Kyle proudly serves his country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Leaving behind his new wife Taya (Sienna Miller), we watch as Kyle’s exploits behind the scope grow, but through four tours of duty, he’s confounded again and again by a despot known as “The Butcher” (Mido Hamada) and targeted by and an Iraqi sniper and former-Olympian known as Mustafa (Sammy Shiek). While a hero in combat, Chris struggles to find reason and purpose at home with his wife and young family. His salvation wouldn’t be found on the battlefield but among those like him who made it home alive. 

American Sniper was one of those projects that was either going to be a hit or be doomed to fail. Passed from one director and writing team to the next, it seemed like it was never going to get made. David O’Russell who already made an exciting Gulf War epic with 1999’s Three Kings felt like a natural choice as he’d already worked with star and producer Bradley Cooper. When O’Russell dropped out, Steven Spielberg stepped in - also a natural choice given his output. But when budget issues cropped up and Spielberg dropped out, one of the most notoriously efficient on-time and under-budget filmmakers stepped in, Clint Eastwood. It became a massive hit.

Having already made his share of war pictures with the back-to-back productions of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, Eastwood delivered one hell of a film. On top of expertly crafted action/suspense sequences, Clint never lost sight of the character’s humanity. From Chris’ first confirmed kill to his tumultuous home life between tours, Cooper brilliantly manages that emotional toll. Eastwood deftly celebrates the man, his service, and his personal journey without turning him into the next Rambo shoot-’em-up cartoon character. Like the recent Civil War, I felt this film was unfairly pushed into being some sort of political dog whistle. Sure, the film has its own brand of politics and as a biopic based on a source material with some questionable accounts for accuracy, folks can get lost in the minutia and fail to appreciate what this film does so well. 

As for Cooper, American Sniper is the film that made me truly appreciate his contributions as an actor. He was good before this film, but after I felt he had become a great actor capable of actually embodying a role. His earliest films he seemed stuck playing the handsome asshole you love to hate. Gradually he worked his way out of that hole expanding into better, juicer roles. Now he’s a powerhouse performer building up his own directorial exploits. Sienna Miller as Taya is equally impressive as the emotional counterpoint. While her screentime may be limited, she's not reduced to a shrieking shew either. Chucky also delivers an effective performance as the newborn baby. 

In the long catalog of Eastwood films, American Sniper isn’t my favorite, but it’s very good. Within the confines of his late-in-life output, it’s an impressive effort - especially when you consider he was well into his 80s when he made it. Ten years later the man is 93 years old and has another (potentially final) film on the horizon. Of his loose “American Hero” series of films based on real-life events and people, this one comes in second in my book. I liked Sully the best overall and Richard Jewel was a very good third spot.  The three of those films easily outshine the unfortunately unimpressive 15:17 to Paris. Often tossed around as some kind of political beachball talking point, I genuinely feel American Sniper earns a spot as one of Eastwood’s best efforts behind the camera. 4/5

For another take on the film here's our 2015 American Sniper Blu-ray Review


Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray 
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a single-disc 4K + Digital release. Pressed on a BD-100 disc, the disc is housed in a standard black case with an identical slipcover. The disc loads to a static image main menu with standard navigation options. 

[UPDATE 5/15] Review has been updated to include 4K-sourced images and video sample. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Making its first 4K disc run, American Sniper fires off an often stunning 2160p HDR10 transfer. The film was shot digitally, captured at 2.5K, so regardless if a new master was conformed for this disc, it will still be something of an upscale - but a very good one at that. With a healthy bitrate, you can see and appreciate the improvements in fine details and lines. The improvements are most appreciable in close-ups, especially the shots of Cooper behind the sniper scope and the creases around his eyes and beard scruff or the flakes and weathering of his rifle. Those improvements are a little less appreciable as the camera moves back from the action, but I suspect those with large screens and projectors will be quite happy. Fake babies and all, it looks great.

The HDR10 grade has also been judiciously applied. On Blu-ray, this was already an excellent-looking film and the HDR simply refines the film's best features. Black levels and shadows are exquisite with bright clean whites and deep inky blacks while maintaining that cool semi-desaturated appearance for the war sequences. The healthy primary-filled scenes of home life are lovely with skin tones appearing naturally human without being too pinked or peached. Overall I’m not going to call this one a night-and-day improvement, but a sufficient one to say the film certainly looks better even if it's incrementally.

Audio Review

Ranking:

Curiously Warner Bros has stripped this disc back to a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono mix. Just kidding! Of course, Warner Bros. recycles their excellent Atmos track for this disc, and why wouldn’t they? As one of the first Atmos tracks on disc, it was a beast in its day and is still an incredible demo-worthy track today. From the first rumbles of that tank on the streets to the Texas rodeo to the trenches of SEAL training, this mix rocks. It’s not that it’s loud with plenty of LFE rumble rattling your floorboards (it has plenty of that), it’s about how the film uses silence too. When those sniper shots fire, you get that explosive jolt with a bullet zipping through the soundscape. Sometimes it’s from the side to the front. Sometimes from the heights down and back. Sometimes from the rear to the front and it’s exhilarating. There’s a good reason that of its six Oscar nominations, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman took home statues for Best Achievement in Sound Editing. Dialog remains clean and clear without issue. It might be an older Atmos mix, but it remains a demo-worthy presentation.

Special Features

Ranking:

Of the extra features, the selection is a mix of old and new, (at least new to me since I didn’t pick up later special editions on Blu-ray). The first true new item of note is a featurette dedicated to Clint Eastwood’s films about extraordinary heroes (albeit mostly focused on American Sniper) called Clint Eastwood: A Cinematic Legacy - The Heart of a Hero. It’s a nice bit with some new interviews and behind-the-scenes shots of Eastwood at work on different films, but it also reuses a lot of interviews from other featurettes. There’s also an excellent featurette dedicated to soldiers who came home from war and had to cope with PTSD. On top of some solid making-on and retrospective pieces, we have just under three hours of quality worthwhile extras to dive into. 

  • One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper (HD 31:02)
  • Chris Kyle: The Man Behind the Legend (HD 30:21)
  • Clint Eastwood: A Cinematic Legacy - The Heart of a Hero (HD 15:12)
  • Navy SEALs: In War and Peace (HD 29:49)
  • Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism (HD 20:40)
  • The Making of American Sniper (HD 28:30)
  • Guardian (HD 4:30)

American Sniper certainly was a divisive oft-discussed film when it was released, and largely for the wrong reasons. While it can be anyone’s political talking point fodder, the fact that Clint Eastwood crafted an incredibly human story gets lost in that malarkey mixture. Bradley Cooper delivers an amazing performance in this wartime saga of heroism under fire in combat and salvation back home. Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, American Sniper gains a rank to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a largely excellent HDR10 transfer. The same great Atmos track returns and the disc features a nice assortment of informative extra features. 4.5/5 - Highly Recommended

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