Tom Cruise does what Tom did already with Top Gun only with NASCAR in Days of Thunder - make racing cars look really cool. Even with a smart cast including Robert Duvall, Nichole Kidman, Michael Rooker, and a then-not-crazy Randy Quaid and a script by Robert Towne this high-octane racing drama nearly sputters into boredom and repetition. Still… the race sequences are amazing! Paramount releases Days of Thunder to 4K UHD Blu-ray with overall impressive results - the new native 4K transfer with Dolby Vision impresses while the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is solid, but bonus features are rather slim, to say the least. If a pleasing visual experience is really all you need to make Days of Thunder a worthy purchase, this is for you. Recommended
Check out our original 1080p Blu-ray Review
I honestly don't quite know how to review Days of Thunder beyond calling it the guiltiest of guilty pleasures. There are times where I can't get enough of this movie and other times where I can't make it past the first shot of mullet-Cruise riding through the smoke to jump into a car he's never seen and school a bunch of old-timers how to drive stock cars. Thankfully this time around I had a fun ride with it.
That isn't to say I think Days of Thunder is a great movie; it can be an entertaining one if you don't expect anything from it. The story is silly - and watching so close together it's impossible not to notice the similarities to Top Gun. But who cares - the race footage is some of the best captured by an action maestro like Tony Scott. He puts you in the action with his camera rigs sometimes running right into the car in front of them. If the race footage wasn't so impressive this movie surely would have been forgotten as a bump in Tom Cruise's career. Instead, it's a fan favorite with an earnest following.
Personally I'd rather see a movie about this making of this movie with such a contentious shoot between Tony Scott, Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Paramount executives. Let alone an unfinished script! There are great moments where you can feel Robert Towne wrestling this story into submission and giving it drive - no pun intended - but there aren't enough scenes with Duvall's Harry training and teaching Cruise Cole Trickle (seriously who thought of that name?) like a lost son/protege. It's funny to me the movie that broke the relationship with Simpson/Bruckheimer and Paramount was the result of Tom Cruise test driving a race car with Paul Newman during a break from filming on The Color of Money. Tom wanted to race cars… so they made a movie, more or less banking simply on Tom's looks and name. It's not the worst example of over-extending your lead's star power - but it's perhaps one of the more infamous.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Days of Thunder speeds to 4K UHD from Paramount Pictures in a single-disc 4K UHD Blu-ray + Digital set. Housed in a black case with identical slipcover artwork, the disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options. Hans Zimmer's Isolated Score Track is found in the audio setup submenu.
One must take Tony Scott's penchant for visual style - color, camera angles, lighting etc. when watching Days of Thunder in 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR. Tony Scott liked his movies gritty as such film grain - albeit finely rendered - is a constant companion to this release. Never is there a shot where you can't see it so if you're not a visible grain fan - you may want to cover your eyes. However, if you like seeing a movie without the scourge of DNR - this is a well-defined image with impressive details front to back. From the opening shots of Duvall on the tractor to the in-your-face race sequences, every visible nook and cranny is on display.
Dolby Vision HDR does what it should do and provide a more dynamic image presence over the base HDR10. Flipping between rigs these subtleties mainly appear when Tony Scott uses his signature amber-hued daylighting at the beginning of the film when Tim is trying to recruit Harry from off his tractor - and then later in the next scene on the racetrack with Rowdy taking his first laps. This orange/red tone feels more evenly applied with Dolby Vision than HDR10 allowing for more color tones to seep into the image without skewing flesh tones or bright natural primaries. HDR10, I felt like these scenes made the cast look like they ran through an orange spray tan before filming.
Otherwise, both HDR grades do a fine job of highlighting bright primaries, providing deep inky blacks, with bright crisp whites. The shadowy sequences in the hospital greatly benefit here - why the hospital only has low green lights is a mystery - but it looks really good with this new transfer and the shading in colors from bright green to deep, deep black.
Considering Top Gun and War of the Worlds were both given fresh new Dolby Atmos audio tracks, it's a bit odd that their sibling Cruise film is left with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 - albeit a decent one at that. First and foremost this track is at its best during the race sequences. Whenever you have the revving and roaring of engines, it's guttural and beautiful giving plenty of punch - in your face - impact to the soundscape. Peak moments are impacts and rubbing fenders as cars scrape past each other on the track.
After that - well, this mix ticks off the boxes in fine form but that's about it. I don't have the original Blu-ray release for a disc-to-disc comparison, so I don't know if this is a new TrueHD 5.1 track or if they recycled the older one. In terms of the quieter dialog-driven dramatic moments - they get by. The scene where Cole confesses his lack of automotive knowledge to Harry in the bar, there really isn't that much of a dynamic surround presence considering it's a packed bar with people milling about. It keeps pretty front/center. But we didn't sign up for Days of Thunder for the dramatic acting - we're there for the racing and that's where this mix excels. Everywhere else more or less just gets the job done.
While this wasn't a big hit for Paramount in 1990 - it's remained a fan favorite with a very loyal following, so on that side of things, it's kind of a bummer that nothing really new or exciting was brought to the table for what will be this film's 30th anniversary in June. The only new extra is another Filmmaker Focus with Jerry Bruckheimer that lasts a little longer than six-and-a-half minutes. The only other bonus feature is the Hans Zimmer isolated score track that isn't listed as an extra but instead found in the Audio submenu - but I'm including here because it's good stuff.
Days of Thunder is not a great movie. It is a guilty pleasure - but even then I have to be in the right mood for it. Some days I love this goofy movie, others I can't make it through the first test lap. This time around I had a good time reconnecting with it and Tony Scott's signature action movie style. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise as a race driver - that's pretty much all you need to know. If you're a fan of Days of Thunder you should be pleased with the new native 4K transfer with Dolby Vision and HDR10 - it looks great! I would have loved a more immersive audio format personally, but the race sequences bring that desired intensity. Overall as a guilty pleasure, I'm calling this one Recommended.