After an unfortunate delay between format releases, Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread finally makes its awaited 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut. The film is still as engrossing as it was when reviewed a month ago. It continues to grip you and pull you into a world populated by strong and obsessive personalities. But does the 4K format bring anything to the table? Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding "yes." Featuring a measured application of HDR10, there is a not only a notable improvement in resolution and fine details, but the black levels and white balance appear to have been tweaked giving the film a natural appearance while keeping to the unique aesthetic of the cinematography. This disc sports the same excellent DTS:X mix and all of the bonus features have been included on the 4K disc as well. The Blu-ray -- reviewed HERE -- was already impressive, but if you waited for the 4K release, the wait was worth every interminable minute. Highly Recommended.
"I can not begin my day with confrontation. I haven't the time for confrontations."
As much as I try to get to every film in cinemas as I wholeheartedly believe that the theater is the best place to experience a film in the raw, I must admit that there is just not enough time in the day. You can't get to every single one. As I eagerly attempted to get caught up ahead of awards season, some films fell by the wayside. By the time I knew I was interested in it, Three Billboards had already come and gone in my local theaters. The Darkest Hour had such a short run that it left the day I planned to see it. As for Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread, I just didn't have the time to catch the 70mm showings I wanted to get to. After finishing this film I dearly wish I had been able to make it to the theater on some cold winter day. Once the closing titles appeared on my screen, I was ready and eager to watch it all over again. Had I seen it in the theater, I would have simply stayed in my seat.
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) leads a life of strict routine. As a master fashion designer who makes the most intricate gowns and dresses for the richest, most powerful women in the world, he commands things be done a certain way. His way. Together with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), they have crafted an empire of needle and thread. After finishing one of his most demanding creations, Reynolds takes a trip to the country for a little rest to recover his creative faculties. Upon dining at a simple sea-side restaurant, he spots an uncoordinated, but pretty young waitress called Alma (Vicky Krieps). After making an impression on him, Reynolds is instantly inspired, ready to create a dress specifically for her. As she moves in with him, she becomes a part of his day-to-day routine. But like a clock with an extra gear, Alma's presence threatens to upend a meticulously refined machine.
Phantom Thread is practically a physics lesson committed to celluloid. An object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Daniel Day-Lewis' Reynolds is that object. A Mountain of solid rock built by years of controlled routine and an obsessive personality. Vickey Krieps' Alma is that outside force, a small pebble looking to hit the right point on the cold and distant figure to create an avalanche and break through to the exposed human hiding inside while Lesley Manville's Cyril works to maintain the mountain fearing the day it is laid bare. It's this clash of personalities that makes Phantom Thread such an intense and fascinating film to watch. As you swirl about trying to understand motivations or figure out where things are going, Anderson keeps the piece just out of arms reach until the bitter end. In so doing, he's crafted an intricately plotted psychological thriller that will make fans of classic Hollywood swoon.
Watching Phantom Thread with my wife, we kept circling around to the idea that fifty or sixty years ago this film would have starred Claude Rains, Betty Davis, and Olivia de Havilland, or some combination of Hollywood powerhouse performers of that era. As I am extremely reluctant to go into any details about this film, I use these classic actors as my examples of expectations and how that sort of prescribed expectation can lead you astray. Claude Rains was always terrific as an obsessively-minded maniacal man. Betty Davis was well, Betty Davis and always reliable to play an underscoring of sinister intention to any character. Olivia de Havilland was always the kind girl. The put-upon who only wanted to do good but was always thwarted or pushed around. But what if de Havilland was actually the Betty Davis type character all along and the one you thought had the most sinister intentions was actually the innocent in all of this? Questioning these character and the role they play with each other is what makes Phantom Thread such an intense and exciting film to watch unfold. Picture elements and stylings of All About Eve, The Little Foxes, and Deception stitched together and you'll have an idea of what I'm talking about here.
If Phantom Thread is to be Daniel Day-Lewis' final bow in front of a camera, then I tip my had to the man for delivering yet another incredible and memorable character. It's a hell of a final performance to go out on. As he fully embodies the role of Reynolds, you can't help but feel a little melancholy at the idea that this will be the last time we see him - for awhile anyway. Like his character, I hope Day-Lewis just needs a little rest. Someone, someday will come along and woo him out of retirement with the right material. Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson can whip up something grand to pull him back into the show? Whether or not Daniel Day-Lewis is attached, I'm sure Paul Thomas Anderson will soon craft another classic film. As each of his films are unique little microcosms, I'm eager to see what world he wants to explore next.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Phantom Thread at (month) long last makes its 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray debut from Universal Pictures in a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set. Pressed onto a BD-66 disc, the discs are housed in a clear 2-disc case that is similar to those used by the Criterion Collection with identical slipcover and features reversible cover artwork that features the alternate poster art for the film that was displayed at some arthouse theaters. The disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. All of the bonus features found on the SDR Blu-ray can be viewed on the 4K disc. The Digital Copy redeems through Movies Anywhere. Vudu offers only an HDX copy while FandangoNow enjoys a 4K stream with HDR10.
As Phantom Thread was shot on film and finished on a 35mm negative, the 1.85:1 2160p transfer is simply stunning. The 1080p Blu-ray was already impressive with details of the lavish clothing and production design, but the added resolution really pulls everything out - in particular with skin and facial details and fabric textures. Film grain is still visible, perhaps a little bit more so, but I never found it distracting even during the darkest scenes of the film. The grain has a very refined appearance and never becomes too noisy or intrusive. The production used a lot of natural light during filming and there is an ever-present haziness to the image that gives it a vintage sort of feel in keeping with the time period of the film.
With HDR10 employed, an already great looking image undergoes a bit more refinement. Primaries - reds and blues especially - looked vivid and impressive. With a conservative HDR10 pass they get a little more pop and presence. Skin tones are also a bit healthier looking here than on the SDR Blu-ray, but they haven't been pushed towards being too tan. Everyone still enjoys that pale English skin pallet, but now we can see more textures and tones in the skin where some freckles or spots didn't really come through before, they enjoy a new prominence now.
The other big notable difference with the 4K UHD presentation is the white balance. The SDR Blu-ray featured bright glaring whites that I actually liked quite a bit, but in comparison to the HDR10 2160p, whites are still bright and vivid, but they feel a little more under control. There is a little more nuance with them so that the white walls and corridors of the Woodcock home enjoy a bit more character. As there are a number of intentional moments where whites can bloom - a fashion show is a notable moment - those haven't been interfered with and still saturate the image in a pleasing way. That dreamlike quality hasn't been diminished, only refined. Black levels are strong as ever and lend a great deal to the image's sense of three-dimensional depth. Even the opening shot of Alma sitting beside a fireplace offers up some improvements as the flickering orange firelight gives a subtler color gradience. I was already very impressed with the Blu-ray release of this film, but this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray upgrade was worth the wait.
The same DTS:X audio mix provided the SDR Blu-ray has been ported over for this release, and in short, that ain't a bad thing at all. Read my thoughts on the audio HERE.
In a nice turn, all of the bonus features from the Blu-ray have been brought over to the 4K UHD disc in 2160p. Sadly nothing new was included. While Phantom Thread is an amazing movie with splendid audio and visual elements, this assortment of bonus features really scrapes the toast (you'll get it when you see the movie!). While some of these features do offer some interesting behind the scenes stuff, the material about film stock tests is great, everything is so brief that one hopes there is a more expansive Criterion release waiting in the wings.
Camera Tests (UHD 8:42) I honestly wish there was more to this as it's the best feature of the bunch. Featuring an option P.T. Anderson commentary, we get a look at the different equipment and film stocks used to achieve the look and feel of specific moments.
For the Hungry Boy (UHD 4:51) This is a collection of Deleted Scenes material that isn't exactly missing from the movie, just extraneous stuff that wouldn't have made a difference one way or the other.
House of Woodcock Fashion Show (UHD 2:47)
Behind the Scenes Photographs (UHD 11:56)
Hats off to Paul Thomas Anderson for delivering a classic Hollywood drama/thriller where characters are thoroughly drawn and intricately detailed. This is the kind of classic filmmaking that would have fit in during the late 1940s or 1950s with gusto. Featuring terrific performances from Daniel Day-Lewis, Vickey Krieps, and Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread handily leapfrogged to becoming one of my favorite movies of 2017. It's one I'll be pulling out again and again if not to be swept up in the story, but to simply look at the striking visuals. Universal Pictures at long lasts brings the film to 4K UHD and the wait was worth it. The film is amazing and deserves to be seen in the best possible means and this 2160p HDR10 image transfer doesn't disappoint. From improved resolution and details to the stronger colors and refined whites, Phantom Thread is one hell of a beautiful looking film. The same DTS:X audio track has been carried over - and that isn't a bad thing at all. If you waited for this day to come before pulling the trigger on a purchase, you can rest easy knowing it was worth it. If you're 4K ready, this is release to buy. Even if you're not full 4K ready, the included SDR Blu-ray will keep you good company until you're ready for a new setup. Highly Recommended.