BlackkKlansman Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews this fact-based drama that tells the incredible true story of Ron Stallwortth, an African-American police officer who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan.

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

Film:

Extras:

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

88

Details:

Studio and Year: Universal – 2018
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 135 minutes
Genre: Drama/Biopic

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Corey Hawkins, Laura Harrier, Paul Walter Hauser, Ryan Eggold, Alec Baldwin,
Directed by: Spike Lee
Music by: Terence Blanchard
Written by: Charile Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: November 6, 2018

“Infiltrate Hate”



My Take:

“In the early 1970s Ron Stallworth (Washington) becomes the first African-American detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a difference, he bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. He recruits a seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman (Driver), into the undercover investigation. Together, they team up to take down the extremist organization aiming to garner mainstream appeal.” – Universal

Based on the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, BlackkKlansman offers an unflinching, true-life examination of race relations in 1970s America that resonates in today’s tumultuous world. Prior to seeing the film, I hadn’t heard of this story although, I am sure that there are many fascinating true-life stories that aren’t well known. As with most films based on subject matter taken from real people/events I was keenly interested in the story.

The narrative set up is excellent, building upon the foundation of detective Ron Stallworth, who in the mid-1970s, becomes the first black detective in the history of the Colorado Springs Police Department. The conscientious young officer comes across a classified ad in the local paper asking for all those interested in joining the Ku Klux Klan to contact a P.O. box. He responds with interest, using his real name while posing as a white man. He figures he’ll receive a few brochures in the mail, maybe even a magazine, and learn more about a growing terrorist threat in his community.

From this the storyline springboards following Ron’s investigation as he, along with his white partner, who poses as “Ron” while interacting with the Klansman, infiltrate the local chapter of “The Organization” exposing their dealings, members and thwarting their plans. Director Spike Lee capably handles the film’s biting social commentary which provides a searing snapshot of racism during the period while interjecting thought provoking questions regarding its place in America today. I loved the performances by John David Washington, Adam Driver, and Topher Grace. The supporting cast of players are equally deserving of recognition as everyone contributed to the film’s thematic impact.

BlackkKlansman is most definitely a character study but, not just of a man, as its reach is broader, intentionally so, which reminds us to stop and give pause to consider how far we’ve come and where we are going. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and found it to be one that didn’t leave questions about its meaning unanswered.

Replay Value: 4 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.

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): 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
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UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 90
(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: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
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  • Entertainment factor: 

 

BlackkKlansman 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, BlackkKlansman was derived from film-based sources and rendered from a 4K DI. BlackkKlansman 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 solid in its own right. Primary colors are pleasingly rich while whites appear gradational and delineated. The film contains a host of sequences that take place in low lit interiors, and the increased dimension in blacks and shadows is appreciable. Close ups reveal oodles of fine detail and abounding textures. Wide angle shots of the rural areas featured in the film look great in Ultra HD.

I found the application of high dynamic range to be spot on and quite complimentary. The rendering of natural and artificial light via its discernible stages and incremental highlights is one of the presentation’s big pluses. The film utilizes sepia and, an overall a warm chromatic aesthetic that is faithfully reproduced. I found instances where the image softened, depending on the camera angle, however this appears to be innate, as it is present in both the Ultra HD, and 1080p renderings.

The difference between viewing BlackkKlansman in high definition and Ultra HD isn’t night and day, but it assuredly benefitted from the increase in resolution, wide color gamut and subtle high dynamic range treatment. Overall, I was pleased with this presentation.

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.*

In comparing specific scenes from both the HDR-10 and Dolby Vision renderings I found the handling of HDR to be the same. As I eluded to earlier this film’s elements aren’t lent to the type that would show off the format’s strengths in this regard.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the less aggressive variety but, considering the source material that’s not a complete surprise. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics and, occasional discrete effects. This is done well when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements without drawing attention away from the thematic details of what is transpiring onscreen. While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention-grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

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

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
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  • Compression: 

 

Audio: 90
(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

 

BlackkKlansman 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 an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. The various wide-angle shots of the shooting locations look terrific. Other than some innate softening, I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. BlackkKlansman looks great on Blu-ray.

This is primarily a dialog driven film however there are elements in the film that require use of the entire system so its ability to clearly render them is essential. Dialog is reproduced with transparent realism and lucid texture as it is appropriately balanced within the front soundstage. The surround mix utilizes the entire platform to recreate the many acoustic sounds associated with the environments portrayed onscreen. The rear channels contain a mixture of spatial ambience/musical extension as well as directional panning cues that effectively support the front soundstage. When called for there is a solid low end associated with the sequences involving gunfire and, later in the film an explosion. This is a complimentary audio presentation that mates well with the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1 BlackkKlansman Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: BlackkKlansman Blu-ray
  • A Spike Lee Joint – Cast/crew roundtable
  • BlackkKlansman Extended Trailer featuring Prince’s “Mary Don’t You Weep”
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Based on the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, BlackkKlansman is an evocative and well-executed expose that features a terrific cast ensemble and apt direction from Spike Lee. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Combo Pack from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring excellent Ultra HD video, crystal clear high definition audio/video, and a disappointing supplemental package. BlackkKlansman is a relevant and entertaining film that genre fans shouldn’t miss.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
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
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems