1917 Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap. Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of 1917 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

96

Details:

Studio and Year: Universal – 2019
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 118 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: George MacKay, Dean Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Music by: Thomas Newman
Written by: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: March 24, 2020

“Time is the Enemy”

Synopsis:

“April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.” – Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

My Take:

In 1917 at the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Lance CPL Schofield (MacKay) and Lance CPL Blake (Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. The high command has learned that the German Army has withdrawn in an attempt to draw the British out in the open in order to annihilate them. In a race against time, Corporals Blake and Schofield must cross deep into enemy territory and deliver the message that will stop the British advance that could result in the massacre of hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.

My wife and I took in 1917 in the theater. It’s a powerful and compelling film both in story and cinematic scope. It’s not complex in tone but, it carries an emotional wallop as its narrative is told from a personal perspective that draws you in right from the onset and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. The film depicts the trench warfare of the time with unnerving grit and tension that is underscored by the superb rendering of the primary characters in Schofield and Blake, played to near perfection by George MacKay and Dean Charles Chapman. There are a host of cameos that compliment the proceedings as well.

In addition to the story, characters and performances is the film’s technical achievements. Beginning with the cinematographer Roger Deakins’ Academy Award winning work behind the camera which, in and of itself, is an integral part of the telling of this event. The production elements are simply marvelous at every turn. 1917 is a two-hour film that seems to pass by in the blink of an eye, never allowing the viewer the moment to take a breath. 1917 won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. Watching it for the second time, I felt myself every bit as engaged as the first, perhaps even more so. I can’t think of higher praise for a cinematic experience. Well Done.

Replay Value: 5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for violence, some disturbing images and language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

1917 comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

For its presentation in Ultra HD, 1917 was derived from a 4.5K source, and rendered from a 4K DI.

1917 is a period-based film that has a specific visual aesthetic which comes through quite naturally in this Ultra HD rendering. With a discernible increase in detail and depth the image appears more vivid and lifelike when compared to the 1080p version, which is excellent in its own right. Shot in a 2.39:1 aspect, images are simply breathtaking. This is readily apparent in the opening single take sequence as the soldiers make their way from the field, to the meeting, then through the trenches. The film utilizes sepia, autumn schemed color and an overall cooler chromatic aesthetic that appears faithfully reproduced in Ultra HD.

The beautiful earth toned colors and various war-torn landscapes/structures set against the semi cloudy sunny sky looked amazing. The arrival at the forest followed by the final struggle to hand deliver the message from command on the front lines is every bit as captivating.

Close ups reveal oodles of fine detail and abounding textures in the interior of bunkers, dwellings and the wool uniforms featured in the story. Wide angle shots of the vistas and the contrasting cinematography, going from day to night, look great in Ultra HD. I found the application of high dynamic range to be spot on and quite complimentary. The film contains only a few sequences that take place in low/limited lighting, and the increased dimension in blacks and shadows is excellent.

The sequence that takes place in the ravaged/burning city, just after the encounter with the German sniper, is my favorite in the film, as the deep, rich, delineated black of night was offset by the brilliant flashes of flares, muzzle blasts and roaring flames. I found the natural rendering of light via its discernible stages and incremental highlights to be one of the presentation’s big pluses (the scene that takes place after the German Bunker cave in is a great example).

The difference between viewing 1917 in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t quite night and day, but it truly benefitted from the increase in resolution, and high dynamic range treatment. I was extremely pleased with this faithful presentation and hope to see more like it.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for 1917, I found the HDR renderings to be very close. Each presented similarly in terms of color rendering, but I did take a close look at contrast, and delineation, during scenes containing dark and bright elements. When I switched back and forth between the DV and HDR10 renderings, I felt that the DV presentation revealed slightly better interstitials in the darkest portions of the image. The difference isn’t especially noteworthy, but in the grand scheme, made for a more pleasing image. At the end of the day both looked excellent, leaving me completely satisfied with what I saw.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be an entertaining listening experience that made excellent use of the platform. The immersive mix compliments the already top-notch soundtrack and enhances the experience of watching the film. This is not what I would describe as an aggressive immersive mix however, the attention to detail here is noticeably on display. The first attention grabbing use of the overhead soundscape occurs just after Blake and Schofield complete their trek across the barrier before entering the German trenches, as two British fighter planes fly over their shoulders and off into the distance.

Select moments like this are littered throughout the presentation with audio objects placed above and at ear level being comprised of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. The same applies to the various sound elements mixed to the speakers at ear level which combine to effectively place the listening position in the middle of the film’s thematic sweet spot. There is much to enjoy in scenes that aren’t actively intense as smaller elements in the background are articulated and dimensionally full. This is done to excellent effect and creates an involving film experience that heightens the story’s building tension.

In general, this Dolby Atmos mix made for an entertaining and faithful surround sound experience that bested my recollection of the theatrical presentation.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

1917 comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

This is a reference quality video presentation that shines on Blu-ray. Images have a rich, dynamic quality that highlights its near flawless rendering of detail. The video has excellent dimension, smooth rendering and defining clarity. The visual design features a limited color scheme that boasts deep shades of gray, blue, sepia, white and black. These colors are not vivid in tonality but their depiction is stark and fully appreciable onscreen. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation.

Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages that only occasionally obscure the finest details. The various wide-angle shots, darkened interiors and brightly lit exterior sequences look terrific. Flesh tones are not overtly complex in tone but appear diverse in subtle structure and complexional makeup. This is a complimentary visual design that successfully combines live action and CGI. The end result is a rewarding and faithful video presentation.

The lossless 7.1 channel soundtrack features crystal clear dialog, robust dynamics and an engaging surround sound mix. I was impressed with the implementation of both spacial dimension, and directional effects, associated with the elements of action and drama. This worked hand in hand with a punchy low end and Thomas Newman’s music, which underscored the film’s thematic tone. I found this to be an involving audio presentation that complimented the video, resulting in an evocative viewing experience that enhanced the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: 1917 Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: 1917 Blu-ray
    • The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes – Academy Award® winner Sam Mendes discusses his personal connection to World War 1.
    • Allied Forces: Making 1917 – Learn how the one shot, 360-degree format was executed and the pivotal role Academy Award® winner Roger Deakins served in bringing Sam Mendes’ vision to life.
    • The Music of 1917 – Composer Thomas Newman and filmmakers discuss the important role of the Academy Award®-nominated score.
    • In The Trenches – Go behind the scenes with the cast of 1917.
    • Recreating History – Filmmakers offer a detailed look at the production design challenges of recreating the First World War.
    • Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Sam Mendes.
    • Feature Commentary with Director of Photography Roger Deakins.
  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

Winner of three Academy Awards 1917 is a powerful and compelling cinematic experience that strikes a chord on every level. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring top notch high definition/Ultra high definition video, terrific lossless sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos listening experience and a fan friendly assortment of supplements. In addition to being a terrific film, 1917 is a technical marvel that should be seen at the highest level that the home theater experience can provide. It comes highly recommended!

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems