Atomic Blonde - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Street Date:
- November 14th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- November 12th, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- 115 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the standard, day-and-date Blu-ray release, also written by M. Enois Duarte. Specifically, this review features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio and Final Thoughts sections while both reviews share The Movie Itself and Special Features.
For a full in-depth review of the Blu-ray SDR HERE.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
It's inevitable that Atomic Blonde will be compared to John Wick in the eyes of action fans everywhere, and the comparisons are objectively and undoubtedly justified. And this is in spite the fact that the source material for this espionage thriller about a deadly government assassin beat our favorite neo-noir hitman by at least a couple years. Then, there is also the fact both films share the same director, David Leitch. Only, he's given an uncredited role in the first John Wick while Atomic Blonde marks his solo feature-length directorial debut. So, again, the comparisons are warranted. The problem is those comparisons, unfortunately, can and probably do sound more like accusations and an unreasonable judgment of the film's quality. In this case, action fans, and moviegoers, in general, will be missing out on one of the best genre flicks of the year, adding to a growing list of features from around the world that mark 2017 as a great year for movies as a whole. Despite feeling familiar, Leitch's film transcends the similarities to deliver a white-knuckle thrill-ride that's just as visually stunning and memorable as it is riveting and exhilarating.
Situated in the angst-ridden streets of a drastically-changing 1989 Germany on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the story immediately opens with a chase and murder scene that essentially sets the tone and pace. At the heart of it is a MacGuffin involving a wristwatch and the secret list of active spies that has MI6 scrambling to recover it. The scene is aggressive and animated with a kinetic energy that feels sadly missing from many contemporary actioners but carried through for the rest of the movie's 115-minute runtime. Of course, a large portion of the film's potently dynamic stamina comes from the totally bitchin' soundtrack of 80s tunes. And the constant shift of those killer tracks from diegetic to non-diegetic sounds driving much of the hard-hitting action is one of the several aspects of the production's awesomeness. Sure, I may have some bias in this regard, but seeing the brutally realistic fight choreography and car chases perfectly matched to the rhythm of popular hits like New Order's "Blue Monday" and Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran" ignites those sequences to a level that'll leave the audience mesmerized while also tapping their feet.
To locate and retrieve the list, MI6 heads (Toby Jones and James Faulkner) dispatch their top-level operative Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) into the dangerous USSR-occupied den. And it's immediately apparent Ms. Theron is game for the role of an agent who's just as suave with her words and chic looks as she with her lethal fists. There's no denying the South African-born actress went through some rigorous training to make her fights against bigger, more brutish men as savagely authentic and graphic as possible. And Leitch, along with editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, allow Theron plenty of space on the screen to demonstrate the amount of time and work she put into it, such as the apartment sequence when she goes toe-to-toe with five cops. Or better yet, during a street demonstration as Lorraine tries to escort a defector codenamed Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), our badass heroine battles six or seven Stasi officers through several floors of an abandoned apartment complex. The near ten-minute long take — thanks to some creative editing — is a gripping, heart-racing feat of stunt choreography, a highlight of the production sure to leave viewers as exhaustive and weary as Lorraine, who simply wants an ice-cold bath and a drink of vodka.
Complicating matters for Lorraine is the wackily eccentric David Percival (James McAvoy), another British agent who's been in Berlin a wee-bit too long. McAvoy is excellent as an arrogant but debonair charmer with an agenda of his own, mucking up what should have been a simple operation into a cat-and-mouse game littered with double-crosses, wire-taps and murder. Sofia Boutella joins the cast as green-behind-the-ears French agent Delphine Lasalle, who ends up a lonely pawn in a larger game where we're never sure if Lorraine's personal interest is revenge for the death of the agent in the opening or something far bigger. And for some reason, John Goodman is also seen roaming about as a mysterious CIA agent. But while we try to solve the mystery and guess the ending, Leitch and cinematographer Jonathan Sela (John Wick, Transformers: The Last Knight) hypnotize with one of the most visually spellbinding action flicks ever, showering almost every scene with a flamboyant array of neon colors. Meanwhile, more obscure 80s tunes like Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Cities in Dust" and Marilyn Manson's rendition of Ministry's "Stigmata" turn quieter sequences into haunting portraits, adding to Atomic Blonde's list of sundry reasons to watch it.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings Atomic Blonde to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via UPHE.com and Movies Anywhere, it includes the SD and HD SDR while VUDU users UHD with Dolby Vision. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-vortex case with a glossy, embossed slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with a static image of the cover art and music playing in the background.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The deadly bodacious assassin stealthily invades Ultra HD with a righteous and totally demo-worthy HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision.
Perfectly capturing the style and atmosphere of the 1980s, much of the stylized cinematography is bathed in a wide array of brilliantly vibrant colors that pop out the screen, such as the gorgeously animated graffiti intertitles. Interestingly, Lorraine's hotel room is now seeped in the cool glow of electrifying aqua blue and vivid magentas. The same goes for scenes taking place inside the nightclubs lit by neon lights and permeating with a mix of purplish hot pinks, fluorescent blues and warm canary yellows, delivering one of the most dramatic differences from its HD SDR counterpart. Walking through the streets of Berlin in the day, the scenery is near monochromatic and dour, a deliberate creative choice of the filmmakers to reflect the cold political climate of the period. However, at night, those same streets come alive with richly-saturated primaries thanks to lights casting spirited yellows, neon lime greens and loud, dynamic reds.
The 4K presentation also comes with pitch-perfect contrast that is sure to push the peak luminance of one's display, especially during the interrogation scenes where the spotlight bouncing off the foreheads of the men or Lorraine's blouse almost near blooming. But aside from that, for the rest of the runtime, whites is simply dazzling and continuously crisp, giving the snow and Lorraine's other outfits a realistic pop. During the gloomy, dismal feeling of the daylight exteriors, the specular highlights offer a significant improvement, providing the edge of vehicles and buildings a lifelike shine. Also, the glow in the fluorescent lights are noticeably tighter and more compressed while revealing more details, such as the filaments of the incandescent bulbs in Delphine's apartment. Blacks are inky rich and opulent from beginning to end, giving some of the clothing an amazing silky sheen while Percival's Porsche has a stunning ebony polish that's true to life. There are also superb gradational differences between the various shades, allowing for clear diversity in the clothing and the gloomiest shadows, providing the 2.40:1 image with a three-dimensional cinematic appeal and excellent detailing in the darkest portions of the frame.
Shot on the Arri Alexa camera system capable of 3K resolution but later mastered in a 2K digital intermediated, overall definition also receives a nice uptick, consistently delivering razor-sharp details. The 2160p video exposes the grimy cracks in the buildings, the filthy trash littering the streets and every nook and cranny of Percival's stuffy, poorly-lit apartment. While practically counting the individual bricks of the street or buildings, viewers can also distinctly make out each hair in Percival's fur coat or the well-defined threading in the radical clothing worn by the rest of the cast. Facial complexions not only appear healthy and appropriate to the climate with a more natural, light-reddish tones, but they also reveal the tiniest blemish and imperfection in the male cast while our female heroines pretty much look flawless throughout. The only exception when battered and bruised Lorraine walks away from a brutally gnarly fight.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The espionage thriller erupts on the Berlin scene with the same totally tubular and choice DTS:X soundtrack featuring a bitchin' selection of radical tunes that'll turn the home theater into a kickin' house party!
As one would suspect, the winners here are the 80s songs and Tyler Bates's score blaring into all the speakers and the overheads when in non-diegetic mode. When switching back to a diegetic element, the music smoothly refocuses across the screen without missing a beat. The noise of the nightclub echoing all around, creating an immersive hemispheric quality, and the streets of Berlin are continuously busy with hustle and bustle of city life. The ceiling channels are silent for the most part when music is not playing, but occasionally, some random effect will bleed over the listening area, such as alarm sirens or the crowd marching through the streets. Most of the atmospherics are retained to the surrounds, but from time to time, they also move discretely overhead.
Much of the action is maintained across the front soundstage, which feels broad and expansive with lots of off-screen activity providing a great sense of space and presence from beginning to end. The mid-range exhibits superb distinction and clarity even during the loudest sequences, delivering every punch, crack, snap and crunch of metal on metal with awesome clarity and detail. Every whispered conversation and emotional line is well-prioritized and lucid in the center while also once in a while fluidly between all three channels to further add to design outstanding sense of space. A powerful and sometimes authoritative low-end sends a full-bodied rumble across the room, giving those aforementioned punches some weight, the explosions an exciting oomph and every gunshot a sharp thump.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Audio Commentary: Director David Leitch is joined by editor Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir for an enlightening conversation on the technical aspects of the production while also sharing a few anecdotes from the set and making comparisons to the original source material as well as their work on John Wick.
Anatomy of a Fight Scene (HD, 8 min): Done in picture-in-picture style, an in-depth look at the brutal fight sequence done as long take with commentary and lots of BTS footage revealing the choreography.
Blondes Have More Gun (HD, 7 min): Focused on Charlize Theron and the immense training she endured for the role while also commenting on the direction and various challenges encountered.
Welcome to Berlin (HD, 5 min): Discussion on the plot's setting, shooting locations and production design.
Spymaster (HD, 4 min): Praise for Leitch and his visual aspirations for the movie.
Story in Motion (HD): Pair of animated storyboards with optional director commentary.
Agent Broughton (2 min)
The Chase (2 min)
Deleted Scenes (HD, 7 min): Six scenes recovered from the cutting room floor.
Nice to Meet You
Not Afraid of Love
Watch for Sale
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Other than the UHD Blu-ray with Dolby Vision, there are no exclusive features on this release.
Immediately, in the opening minutes, Atomic Blonde sets the tone, pace and rhythm for the remainder of the film's 115-minute runtime, an aggressive and animated motion picture with a flamboyantly colorful and kinetic energy that feels sadly missing from many contemporary actioners. Starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy as questionable spies supposedly working on the same side, the action thriller is a white-knuckle cat-and-mouse game of high-stakes espionage with brutal, riveting action choreography, making the list of one of the best movies of 2017. The Ultra HD Blu-ray goes covert with a gorgeously vibrant, demo-worthy 4K presentation in Dolby Vision HDR and an awesomely satisfying DTS:X soundtrack that'll turn the home theater into kickin' house party. Porting over the same, disappointingly small set of supplements, the overall package is recommended for UHD junkies and action fans in general.
- Two-Disc UHD Combo Pack
- UHD-66 Dual-Layer Disc / BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- Region Free
- 2160p HEVC/H.265
- Dolby Vision
- English DTS:X
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
- French DTS 5.1
- Portuguese DTS 5.1
- Spanish DTS 5.1
- English SDH, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese
- Audio Commentary
- Storyboard Comparisons
- Deleted Scenes
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Exclusive HD Content
- Blu-ray Copy
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