Chernobyl tells the story of the nuclear meltdown of 1986 and follows the devastating aftermath that followed through the eyes of a few people and the citizens of the world. It's an intense and emotional rollercoaster, to say the least, with top-notch directing and acting on all accounts. This new 4K release comes with Dolby Vision and HDR10, a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix, and several very short bonus features. Highly Recommended!
HBO tackles the unfathomable tragedy of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 through five episodes that follow the initial nuclear meltdown and explosion, followed by the many weeks and months of the aftermath that contributed to the numerous deaths and sickness of many people due to radiation poisoning. Not only is that element covered in this amazing miniseries, but the main focal point is that of the Soviet government trying to keep things under wraps and convince the public that it wasn't as big a deal as it was while trying to blame anybody but themselves - which is just as relevant today in the United States of America and hits all too close to home.
The stakes are very high in this show, where even in the opening moments where the main protagonist Valery Legasov (Jared Harris), a Soviet chemist and expert in nuclear technology is assigned to lead a team of cleanup and figure out what went wrong - commits suicide some two years later because of this incident. From here, the whole story is told in the form of a flashback from that terrifying day and what followed after. The first couple of episodes deal with the meltdown itself, followed by people escaping and the utter confusion and loss of life that resulted as top officials around the world try to figure out what had just happened.
The latter half of the show reveals the Soviet government trying their best to hide the very real consequences and danger that this meltdown causes from the public along with towns far away from developing nuclear posing as a result of this catastrophe. Meanwhile, Valery, his American comrade, and a nuclear physicist named Ulana (Emily Watson), who tries to warn the people in charge that there is a rise in radiation all over the landscape.
These three characters are met with consistent roadblocks, mostly by the Russian government who are too scared to alert the public of any harmful effects and are quick to blame anyone but themselves for this horrific event. As the show runs, it's known that these top scientists were working on orders from the government to repeat what past scientists have done - mistakes and all. It's an in-depth look at the real atrocities and government handling of the situation with some fictional additions to keep the story moving forward. Again, parts of this show are still relevant and happening today with the pandemic as the former people in charge neglected and still neglect to inform the people of the gravity of the situation. It's not a pretty picture for anyone involved, specifically those who are affected in any way and those who try and help and inform people of the facts.
Chernobyl was created by Craig Mazin (writer of The Hangover and Scary Movie films) and was directed by Johan Renck (The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad), who both teamed up and made something completely out of their wheelhouse. The result was something remarkable and emotional on every level with pitch-perfect camerawork, and knockout performances from everyone involved. Chernobyl is one of the best miniseries from HBO for a long time.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Chernobyl explodes to 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital copy in the form of a four-disc set from HBO/Warner Bros. Two discs contain the 4K version while the other two contain the 1080p HD versions. All discs are housed in a hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve featuring minimal artwork of a photograph of someone in a hazmat suit set against a black backdrop. There are inserts for the digital copy and an episode list.
Chernobyl comes with a brand new 2160p 4K UHD transfer with a 2.00:1 aspect ratio. Although the 1080p Blu-ray version was released more than a year ago, this new 4K set has some wonderful upgrades in the detail and color palette due to its HDR10 and Dolby Vision enhancements.
The overall look of this HBO series is murky, decaying, and rather dull and spiritless with a ton of darker tones, a greenish-blue color palette, and low-lit sequences throughout. This isn't a bright and bold, full of color series, so don't expect the color spectrum of a Pixar movie here. That being said, this new 4K transfer with Dolby Vision really does upgrade the look of the show in many ways. The color palette is still dreary, but with some added richness. The colors take on new life and present a colder looking setting, revealing even more greens, blues, and browns that still give way to the excellent detail in props, and sets in the background. The very few flashes of warmer colors such as a red dress, red lipstick, and the giant mark on Gorbachev's forehead look a bit brighter here and stand out nicely in the otherwise cooler setting. Black levels are rich and bold as well with no crush, but with excellent shadows in each scene, which is key since a lot of this series is set in low-light.
The detail is amazing as well, revealing all of the textures in the costumes of the time period, facial features, including individual hairs, nasty-gory wounds, melting skin, wrinkles, and facial pores, even in the insipid color scheme. Wider shots never look soft either but instead is presented with vigor and dynamite detail, specifically in the big explosion sequences where tons of fire, nuclear activity, and debris is flying everywhere. Skin tones are a bit paler due to the colder filters that have been applied, but there are no major instances of any banding, aliasing, or video noise to speak of. Lastly, there is some excellent film grain that was added in digitally to give this period piece a nostalgic filmic look, which is presented wonderfully here.
This 4K release comes with the same lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix that the Blu-ray version has. It would have been nice to have a new Dolby Atmos track included given some of the scenes are begging for height atmospherics, but this 5.1 option is just fine.
The beginning of the series has some of the largest sound effects, being the big nuclear meltdown and explosions. These sounds are boisterous, robust, and very loud that is packed with the dynamic low end of bass. Each sound effect of debris exploding in the air and hitting other metal is well-balanced and powerful with great directionality. The nuanced noises of people screaming, yelling, and alarms going off are also quite haunting and perfect on the rear speakers. There are some sequences with helicopters flying overhead that bring a natural rotation blade effect that sounds good too. Other than that, most of the series is a dialogue-driven drama that makes expert use of the large room settings, hospitals, and quieter locations with the necessary reverb and ambient noises.
It all sounds fantastic, although a better Dolby Atmos track could have enhanced this track a little bit. The score always adds to the suspense and drama of each situation without taking anything away from the other audio elements and the dialogue is clean, clear, and easy to follow along with, void of any audio problems.
There are about 27 minutes of extras here, all of which are too quick for anything substantial or fun. The bonus features are included on both the 4K and Blu-ray Discs.
Chernobyl is a pitch-perfect miniseries from HBO that not only educates about one of the biggest disasters in the history of the world, but also tells a captivating and enthralling story about a few people trying to do the right thing by informing the public that they are in danger, but are met by the government with roadblocks. It's a tale as old as time that is still relevant today. This new 4K transfer with Dolby Vision and the same DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix are both excellent. The bonus features are too short to be anything real informative or fun though. Highly Recommended!