The Plot: FROM FILMMAKER CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy) comes the epic action thriller Dunkirk, starring Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. The story unfolds on land, sea and air, as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk with enemy troops closing in. RAF Spitfires engage the enemy in the skies above the Channel, trying to protect the defenceless men below. Meanwhile, hundreds of small boats manned by military officers and civilians are mounting a desperate rescue effort, risking their lives in a race against time to save even a fraction of their army (Disc sleeve).
With three interwoven timelines, edge-of-your-seat action set-pieces, and grand cinematography, Dunkirk is simultaneously one of the most classical and experimental blockbusters I've ever seen. In the classical sense, Nolan and his collaborators have produced a picture that lives and breathes on visual storytelling. There's dialogue of course -- with the closing remarks wrapping up the film's emotions and themes beautifully -- but you could watch this story with the sound off and understand everything. Further, in an era where too many studio action sequences are bloated with weightless CGI and unclear geography, Nolan and crew stage sequences to tighten the screws of every single set-piece, making each moment more terrifying than the last. In these terms, Dunkirk offers up one of the most thrilling cinema experiences in years. In fact, its techniques are so spectacular and so dependent on the Big Screen, I feel sorry for anyone who tries to watch this on the smaller screen for the first time; even with a 100" projection setup, smaller details are harder to see (Michael S. Palmer, High-Def Digest).
The video: Dunkirk torpedoes its way onto Blu-ray with a reference quality AVC MPEG4 transfer that also matches the shifting 1.78:1 and 2.20:1 aspect ratios of the film's IMAX presentation. Dunkirk's IMAX 15/70 and 65mm source material make for a striking home entertainment experience. In this case, we have one the sharpest, clearest, brightest, Blu-rays the format's ever seen and one that almost manages to keep up with its 4K counterpart on both a 100" Optoma UHZ65 projection setup and a 65" VIZIO M-Series television.
In addition to exemplary sharpness, this transfer wonderfully recreates the film's muted color palette of green, gray, blue, and black. Black levels are also quite strong while maintaining shadow details - look at the sequence where the men are trapped in the sinking boat and swimming out on the inky black waters for proof.
Overall, this Dunkirk Blu-ray offers reference quality picture that will be a delight for any home theater enthusiast to own (H-DD) (5).
The audio: Dunkirk explodes onto Blu-ray with an ultra-dynamic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that will be a revelation for audiophiles who also like Hans Zimmer scores (H-DD). Whilst many are crying out for a Dolby Atmos track, Dunkirk - as with almost all of the titles available in the Nolan collection - shows just what can still be done by a top notch DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, delivering the perfectly engineered soundtrack with precision and consummate power. It's intense and oppressive, drawing you into the maelstrom for a chaotic, claustrophobic ride.
From the ticking-clock horror movie style opening sequence onwards the film's score grabs hold of you and never lets up, blowing your eardrums during the first raid, making you feel the bolts rattle in the desperately noisy Spitfires, with their thunderous guns pounding shells across your living room. The LFE input is incessant, raising your heartbeat and doing its level best to put you in the thick of the horror of war. Dialogue is the least important element, but is still delivered with clarity, but it's the perfect blend of effects and score - at times one and the same - that bring this film to life, and bring the soundstage to life, delivering one of the better tracks of the year and the best soundtrack of any of Nolan's films (AVForums) (5).