Ultra HD Digital Spotlight: The Hurt Locker

Ralph Potts puts the Digital Spotlight on The Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow’s Academy Award®-winning tour de force, with six Oscars® under its belt (2009, Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Writing [Original Screenplay], Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing), which is making its debut on Digital 4K Ultra HD (Remixed in Dolby Atmos mix) and on Demand February 4th, from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

My Thoughts:

“War is a drug. Nobody knows that better than Staff Sergeant William James, head of an elite squad of soldiers tasked with disarming bombs in the heat of combat. To do this nerve-shredding job, it’s not enough to be the best: you have to thrive in a zone where the margin of error is zero, think as diabolically as a bomb-maker, and somehow survive with your body and soul intact.” – Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Following the death of their well-respected Staff Sergeant in Iraq, U.S. Army Sergeant JT Stanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge find their E.O.D (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit saddled with a very different team leader. Staff Sergeant William James, an inveterate risk-taker, who seems to thrive on war, but there’s no denying his gift for defusing bombs. The Hurt Locker is director Kathryn Bigelow’s award-winning war drama/thriller set in Iraq in 2004.

The film is based on journalist Mark Boal’s wartime experiences with a bomb squad which he then adapted in its fact-based story containing fictional characters. A taut, modern day wartime drama The Hurt Locker presents the conflict in the Middle East from an inside/firsthand perspective of three very different soldiers serving together in an elite Explosive Ordnance Disposal team. It carefully depicts the chaos, tension and psychological weight of war. The attention to detail casts a genuineness on the story’s visceral elements while expertly drawing you in with ratcheting precision when called for.

The Hurt Locker is compelling and engrossing thanks to the total sum of its parts which includes apt direction, terrific production elements and strong performances from an ensemble cast.

Being a fan of The Hurt Locker I was all in when the studio reached out and offered me the opportunity to review it in 4K Ultra High Definition via Digital (including Dolby Vision HDR/Dolby Atmos sound) and on Demand, which is the only way to see it in the high resolution format.

Digital Release Date: February 4, 2020

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: 84
(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: 94
(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: 


The Hurt Locker comes to 4K Digital/On Demand from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

From what I can gather it appears as though The Hurt Locker was derived from its original master, finished on a 2K DI and upconverted to 4K for its Digital presentation.

It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like The Hurt Locker contains a mix of visual elements, some of which incorporate film grain and the use of optics that won’t consistently result in high gloss, tack-like sharpness. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.

I streamed The Hurt Locker in Ultra HD via iTunes from my AppleTV 4K and found the picture quality to be excellent. It’s available in Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos sound.

This wartime drama utilizes distinctive visuals to convey its time frame, mood, and thematic tone. The cinematography uses lighting schemes, film stock, digital captures and post-production touches to convey its story. This is evident and comes across in this rendering. Looking at the film’s memorable opening sequence the improvement in depth and definition is noticeable, especially during the many sunshine splashed daytime scenes that take place in Iraq. I could detect finer details present during interiors shots such as those in the barracks and abandoned buildings featured in the film. There are a few nighttime exterior shots which didn’t offer a marked improvement in dimension, but rendering was fine. Grain is preserved, appearing primarily organic with occasional instances where it takes on heavier emphasis. The color range in the film is narrow, with only the occasional use of primary colors like red and blue appearing onscreen.

I found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights, both bright and dark, however some of that is owed to the nature of the photography. Other than the investigation of the tank bombing in the third act (which looked great), the image didn’t make any visually compelling use of interstitial black levels offset by vivid bright elements. I didn’t feel it was lacking in anyway but, not necessarily next level. I believe that what we are seeing is a faithful rendering of the film’s elements, which when all is said and done, is all we can ask for.

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 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 HDR10 presentations for The Hurt Locker, I found the HDR elements to be the same, as the rendering of color and, dynamic highlights, didn’t appreciably standout when viewing the same select scenes.

The Hurt Locker isn’t a film that is going to show off all of the bells and whistles that 4K Ultra HD has to offer. The question now becomes, is the Ultra HD version worth the cost of purchase or rental? I would say that if you’re a fan and truly want to see The Hurt Locker in its finest form, the answer is, yes.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be a fairly entertaining listening experience that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix of atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done quite well and, creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. This is an active Atmos presentation that relies quite a bit on the height channels.

I noticed that the front overhead channels were used for adding depth to the soundstage while the rear overhead channels contained more discrete sound objects/effects. In addition to things like overhead pans where sounds move through the soundstage, there are several sequences that bring everything together. The Hurt Locker already had a solid multi-channel mix. This remix in Dolby Atmos was handled by Academy Award® winner Paul N.J. Ottosson (part of the team responsible for The Hurt Locker’s Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing wins). I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this Dolby Atmos presentation was, adding a complimentary element that elevated the experience of watching the film.

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

Bonus Features:

  • Making of Documentary – 12 minutes

Final Thoughts:

The Hurt Locker is among the best Iraqi-War dramas to come out of Hollywood and easily withstands the test of time. It’s Digital 4K rendering appears to faithfully reproduce the film’s elements while the new Dolby Atmos sound mix accents it already terrific sound. If you’re a fan this one is recommended viewing on the streaming platform/device of your choice.


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
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 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