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Friday, July 19, 2024

Oppenheimer (4K UHD Review)


The Film
The Video (Overall)
HDR Effect
The Audio
The Supplements


A biopic exploring the story of American physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was one of the primary developers of the atomic bomb during World War II.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

With the three-hour epic Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan tackles the big story of American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) who was largely involved in the development of the atom bomb at Los Alamos during World War II.

Recruited by General Leslie Groves (Matt Damon) to head the team of scientist to work on a superweapon based on the new area of science, nuclear physics, hoping to outpace Nazi Germany. Oppenheimer pools together a brilliant team of scientists from around the country – and the world – but battles both his team, the government, and himself as he struggles with his uncertainty over building a weapon of mass destruction, skeletons from his past, and disagreements with his peers.

Being very much rooted in the world of the Western Anglo-American empire, Nolan’s story takes the tack of “the bomb” was necessary to get Japan to surrender, an idea long debunked by multiple historians and even by fellow filmmaker Oliver Stone.

Putting that aside, Oppenheimer is a brilliant film from beginning to end that defies its three-hour runtime. Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema seamlessly weave different perspectives and formats, Oppenheimer’s “Fission” (in color) and Strauss’ “Fusion” (in black-and-white), some in 35mm and some in 65mm. There are also different timelines, past, present, and future, and some beautiful visual effects. The Trinity sequences with its devastating awe is something of amazing beauty that ironically reminded me of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life.

The performances, particularly from Murphy and Emily Blunt as his wife Kitty Oppenheimer, who chews up the scene during her testimony later in the film to renew Oppenheimer’s security clearance.

The film relies less on the story of the nuclear weapons race and more on the complicated personal life of the man himself, and it is this personal track and almost perfect filming style that makes the film so successful and easy to watch.

  • Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Josh Hartnett in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Tom Conti and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Emily Blunt in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Matt Damon in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • David Krumholtz and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Dane DeHaan in Oppenheimer (2023)
Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Oppenheimer 4K Ultra HD Combo (Universal)

The Video

Oppenheimer was shot on various Arri, IMAX, and Panavision cameras on both 35mm and 65mm film stock. Kodak created a new black and white 65mm film stock specifically for the black and white sequences in the film. The film is presented on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a varying aspect ratio of 1.78:1 & 2.40:1 in HEVC 2160p (4K UHD) in HDR10+ (HDR10 compatible).  The HDR10 metadata shows a MaxLL of 186 nits and MaxFALL of 147 nits. I viewed the film on my LG G3 OLED which only supports HDR10.

Right off the bat, I have to say the HDR grading is nothing to mention for this release. Comparing the 4K and Blu-ray discs shows barely if any difference in brightness, specular highlights, and contrast or even color gradients. I at first thought, while watching the 4K disc, that the trinity sequence showed the strongest HDR, but it is nearly identical on Blu-ray, with the biggest difference coming only from the finer detail and denser granularity presented in the 4K.

Putting HDR aside, Oppenheimer looks amazing, even without HDR making a difference. On the strengths of the wider contrast and color gamut available on the 65mm color sequences alone, this is standout disc. Even the 35mm sequences look clean, crisp, and nuanced with natural flesh tones and extended shadow details. Textural information is palpable, where we can see the pores and wrinkles on faces and stitch-work on clothing. The black and white sequences have stark contrast and wonderful detail as well with beautiful blacks and clean, bright whites. There is nothing to quibble about in the overall picture quality with this presentation.

The Audio

At this point in time, I think most people are aware of Christopher Nolan’s dislike of Atmos/DTS:X, so Oppenheimer “only” gets an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. You will not miss the object-oriented mix at all. This is aggressive in the best way for the material. It has atmospherics that pulsate through the surround channels, the dramatic score from Ludwig Göransson encapsulates, and, wow, the low end during the explosion sequences is booming. Like most of the audio mixes for Nolan’s films, the dialogue can sometimes barely stay above everything else going on. The guy must really love Robert Altman or something, but it is what it is. That is artistic choice and in this film the dialogue is hardly as buried as in Tenet.

The Supplements

The bonus features which are all offloaded onto a separate Blu-ray, are excellent. The ninety-minute documentary on Oppenheimer is an excellent deep-dive into history, putting the film into context, and the rest are solid interviews and looks at the technical aspects of the production.

Blu-ray Bonus Features Disc:

  • The Story of Our Time: The Making of Oppenheimer (1080p; 01:12:25)
  • Trailers (1080p; 00:14:11):
    • Teaser
    • Trailer 2
    • IMAX Exclusive Trailer
    • Opening Look
  • Innovations in Film: 65mm Black and White Film in Oppenheimer (1080p; 00:08:21)
  • Meet the Press Q&A Panel: Oppenheimer (1080i; 00:34:46)
  • To End All War: Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb (1080p; 01:27:18)

The Final Assessment

There is no question why Oppenheimer (alongside Barbie) shook up the box office despite its runtime and despite not being a comic book movie. This is great filmmaking on a great 4K (and Blu-ray) disc. Highly recommended.

Oppenheimer is out on 4K Ultra HD Combo November 21, 2023, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

  • Rating Certificate: R (for some sexuality, nudity and language)
  • Studios & Distributors: Universal Pictures | Atlas Entertainment | Gadget Films | Syncopy | Universal Pictures | Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Written By: Christopher Nolan | Kai Bird | Martin Sherwin
  • Run Time: 180 Mins.
  • Street Date: 21 November 2023
  • Aspect Ratio: Variable 1.78:1/2.40:1
  • Video Format: HEVC 2160p (4K UHD)
  • HDR Format: HDR10+ (HDR10 Compatible)
  • HDR10 Metadata:
    • MaxLL: 186 nits
    • MaxFALL: 147 nits
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Secondary Audio: Spanish DTS 5.1 | French DTS 5.1 | DVS (Blu-ray Only)
  • Subtitles: English SDH | Spanish | French

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A biopic exploring the story of American physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was one of the primary developers of the atomic bomb during World War II.Oppenheimer (4K UHD Review)