News of the World – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Amazon Commissions Earned
Film Title: News of the World (2020)
Release Date: 2021
Runtime: 118 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10, HDR10+
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Amazon Commissions Earned
Release Date: 3/23/21
Director: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Tom Astor, Ray McKinnon, Mare Winingham, Elizabeth Marvel, Fred Hechinger, Michael Angelo Covino
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Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
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“News of the World” was a 2020 film, best categorized as an action/adventure drama, directed by Paul Greengrass. Greengrass is best known for directing such other films as “The Theory of Flight” (1998), “Bloody Sunday” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004), “United 93” (2006), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007), “Green Zone” (2010), “Captain Phillips” (2013), and “Jason Bourne” (2016).
The story, based on the 2016 novel (of the same title) written by Paulette Jiles, was adapted to a screenplay co-written by Paul Greengrass and Luke Davies. Davies is best known for writing the novel “Candy” (adapted into a film in 2006), writing the screenplay for the films “Life” (2015) and “Lion” (2016), as well as “Beautiful Boy” (2018) which he co-wrote the screenplay adaptation of. It is safe to say that Davies is no stranger to writing both novels (that are later adapted) as well as to adapting novels into screenplays. So, this adaptation is just one of many on his IMDb writing credits. It is also most certainly worth noting that Tom Hanks’s production company Playtone worked on this film, and Gary Goetzman (co-founder) served as a producer.
The story here takes place in 1870, just 5 years after the end of The Civil War, in mostly the state of Texas out in the plains. Our protagonist is a man named “Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd” (Tom Hanks), a veteran of The Civil War, who currently is traveling by horse and buggy from town to town to spread (read) the news via newspapers. Keep in mind that in 1870 not many people were fortunate enough to be literate or if they were might not have been able to get their hands on the latest news publications from around the world.
Captain Kidd’s journey so far it seems has usually only meant that his biggest highlights were the crowds of locals getting upset when he discusses the post-war news. However, one day while Kidd is riding along, he comes across this 10-year-old girl who doesn’t speak English. The girl, as we later learn to know as “Johanna” (Helena Zengel), was taken in by the Kiowa people and raised and that’s why she doesn’t speak English. She has become lost or such and it’s up to Kidd to help get her where she legally belongs.
Along the way, Captain Kidd and Johanna will get to know one another, despite their language barrier. He will begin to learn to care for the child and tends to her safety. They also will encounter some dangers on their journey, be it the wilderness or from human beings. Kidd will have to make a choice here that I won’t get into but it’s one that gets a tad bit emotional. This is a very unique story, with some unique characters, and it really serves as a nice period piece for the 1800s era. It’s a western, it has a little bit of action, but primarily this film is a drama.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
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“News of the World” makes its debut on 4K UHD Blu-ray in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio with HDR10 and HDR10+ forms of high dynamic range. This movie was shot digitally in 4.5K resolution using the Arri Alexa Lf and Arri Alexa Mini Lf cameras with Panavision Vintage 65 & Angenieux Optimo lenses. The movie then received a 4K DI (digital intermediate) master, meaning it was mastered in the native 4K resolution.
Next, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc itself here. This release is using a BD-100 (100 gigabytes) disc, 60.16 gigabytes total, and 48.3 gigabytes for the film itself in 2160p 4K. In a notable tech-spec comparison, the Blu-ray Disc version (included) is using a BD-50 (50 gigabytes) disc, 45.29 gigabytes total, and 35.2 gigabytes for the film itself in 1080p HD. It’s truly amazing how a video file just roughly 13 gigabytes larger could contain a 4K version of the film in such impressive video quality, as you will now soon hear me discuss. That I just had to mention upfront. That’s just astounding to me, after doing this for years, looking at those sets of tech specs for the 4K UHD Blu-ray in comparison to the Blu-ray.
Now, moving on with a bit further technical information for the geeks out there (like myself). The video encode starts out running a bitrate [in the HEVC] of around 40Mbps and then starts to run around 50Mbps on average or higher. I saw it hit as high as the upper 90Mbps range at times during some more complex scenes. Those bitrates are not at all too bad for a BD-66.
First and foremost, as the film starts out dark, it’s worth noting initially that this comes with a perfectly solid black level and that’s even more emphasized visually by the addition of high dynamic range. Colors also seem to be very accurate, along with flesh tones here all throughout the presentation. The settings of this time period can make for a slightly dull look because of the environment (when) indoors and clothing of that era. It should be noted that I felt occasionally during some bright daytime scenes you are fully able to see the colors pop. This is pretty much, if not entirely, flawless to be from a digital source of 4.5K resolution and delivers an excellent amount of detail here in each and every single scene (shot), most especially in facial close-ups. The cinematography here, from DP (director of photography) Dariusz Wolski, is most definitely done justice visually here by this 4K presentation.
That all said, this delivers one truly impressive 4K presentation and the HDR adds a whole lot. I can’t say that this has a single problem visually, and I can say that it’s some of the best-looking digital source material that I’ve seen lately come to the 4K physical format. If you’re looking for more info on how this movie was shot, be sure to check out this very interesting video conversation with the director of photography over American Cinematographer. In conclusion for this section, “News of the World” on 4K UHD Blu-ray earns itself a perfect 5 rating for video quality.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
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“News of the World” makes its debut to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format in Dolby Atmos with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless surround sound core for those unable of decoding the Atmos mix. The film received an Atmos mix both during its theatrical run and on its digital release. As you may have noticed from my past reviews, I don’t like it when a film gets a better mix than we receive physically on disc and thankfully that’s not at all a problem here, as this film was done justice in terms of sound.
“News of the World” comes to 4K UHD Blu-ray with one unique, at times very intense, and overall impressive Dolby Atmos audio presentation. This certainly makes some excellent use of height channel speakers via the audio format. There’s a nice use of the rear channel speakers all throughout not only for the music but also for sound effects such as coyotes howling at night in the background around a campfire. In terms of LFE, (as mentioned) there certainly can be some intense scenes when things get climactic and during those, you will definitely be feeling a very hefty amount of bass via the subwoofer.
The dialogue here is almost entirely via the center channel speaker and is spot-on precise all throughout. There can be some background chatter 33 minutes, for example, that makes use of the rear channels and the front left & right speakers as well. You’ll feel like something as simple as background chit-chat is fully surrounding you. Meanwhile, in the scene as aforementioned, you’ll hear the music getting delivered from the height channels as it builds up during a casual dialogue exchange.
Sure, it’s nothing as intense as “Star Wars” or something but for the subject matter and when things really get intense later in the film you’ll start to understand why I say that this is a very impressive Atmos mix. It manages to not only do this film justice but it also can have some sequences that I’d definitely deem worthy of describing as “demo material” sequences, such as one simply involving rain. This mix makes great use of every bit of the Atmos format, with the addition of height channels, for a film such as this and does things you probably would not imagine. That said, I’m going to make a bold statement and say this earns itself a perfect 5 rating for audio quality.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
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- A Digital Copy of the film is included via a paper insert with redeem code, which is compatible with Movies Anywhere. This means you’ll get the film digitally in 4K on a variety of online video platforms including AppleTV (iTunes), Vudu, FandangoNow, and more. However, it will only be in a 5.1 surround sound configuration online digitally and does not include the Dolby Atmos mix found on the physical releases.
- A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included in this “combo pack” release, featuring a 1080p HD video presentation in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Atmos sound on a BD-50 disc.
Bonus materials are presented on both the 4K UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Disc. Tech specs for the extras on the 4K disc include 2160p 4K video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and on the Blu-ray include 1080p HD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo — as noted below with the “(4K/HD)” after each featurette.
- Feature Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Paul Greengrass
- Deleted Scenes (11 minutes, 16 seconds – 4K/HD) prove to be enjoyable and add a lot to the film. It’s a shame some of these scenes were cut, in my honest opinion. This is a must-watch after you’ve finished the film.
- “Partners: Tom Hanks & Helena Zengel” (7 minutes, 1 second – 4K/HD) focuses on the film’s stars, includes on-set footage and interviews with Paul Greengrass (co-writer/director), Tom Hanks (Captain Kidd), Helena Zengel (Johanna), Elizabeth Marvel (Mrs. Gannett), Thomas Francis Murphy (Mr. Farley), and Fred Hechinger (John Calley).
- “Western Action” (7 minutes, 37 seconds – 4K/HD) gives you a whole lot of behind-the-scenes footage on-set as well as interviews with Paul Greengrass (co-writer/director), Tom Hanks (Captain Kidd), Jeff Dashnaw (2nd unit director, New Mexico), Clay M. Lilley (head animal wrangler), and Keith Walters (property master).
- “Paul Greengrass Makes News of the World“ (10 minutes, 59 seconds – 4K/HD) gives you some behind-the-scenes footage (on-set) and interviews with Paul Greengrass (co-writer/director), Tom Hanks (Captain Kidd), Gary Goetzman p.g.a. (producer), Gregory Goodman p.g.a. (producer), Helena Zengel (Johanna), Hilton Clay Peres (location manager), Michael Angelo Covina (Almay), Diego Dominguez (assistant location manager), Elizabeth Marvel (Mrs. Gannett), Fred Hechinger (John Calley), Mark Bridges (costume designer), David Crank (production designer), Elizabeth Keenan (set decorator), Gail Mutrux p.g.a. (producer), and James Newton Howard (composer).
- “The Kiowa“ (3 minutes, 57 seconds – 4K/HD) focuses on the Kiowa tribe. This includes behind-the-scenes footage (on-set) and interviews with Paul Greengrass (co-writer/director), Tom Hanks (Captain Kidd), Gary Goetzman p.g.a. (producer), Dorothy Whitehorse Delaune (Kiowa Elder), and Helena Zengel (Johanna).
The bonus materials here feature an audio commentary from the co-writer/director, deleted scenes, and four featurettes — all in 4K (on the 4K disc), and in HD on the Blu-ray. Speaking of which, this includes a Blu-ray Disc and a digital copy of the film. This film’s extras are definitely enough to leave you both informed and entertained after you’ve watched the film. The featurettes (not including the audio commentary) total up to around 40 minutes in length.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
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“News of the World” was a 2020 film that showed us once again that director Paul Greengrass is excellent at his craft and that actor Tom Hanks continues to be an absolute master at his craft. The supporting performance here given by the younger actress Helena Zengel is pretty remarkable itself and helps make this film all that it is. This film is unique, as I’ve mentioned, and it proves to be an enjoyable and somewhat emotional experience.
The movie has now been nominated for a total of four Academy Awards in the categories of Best Sound, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, and Best Achievement in Cinematography.
Speaking of cinematography, in terms of the video presentation in 4K, this comes from a 4.5K digital source and a 4K master, so it looks really impressive. The black level is solid, the colors are a tad bit obviously subdued to fit the time period, and the whole presentation is just great and that is many thanks to the addition of high dynamic range. There’s nothing to complain about here visually, as this is using a BD-66 disc quite effectively and efficiently. That said, it earns a perfect rating for video quality.
In terms of the audio presentation, the Dolby Atmos mix is extremely impressive, for this type of subject matter, and it proves to actually be perfect. That was not honestly something that I was expecting from this movie, going in, but it ended up surprising me with numerous instances of sequences in the Atmos format using the addition of the height channels to deliver some definite “demo material” throughout. This audio presentation earns a perfect rating.
Finally, the extras are all in 4K, on the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc, and in HD on the included Blu-ray as well as on the 4K digital copy via iTunes extras. And there are roughly 40 minutes of bonus content total included here. Plus, you get an audio commentary from the film’s director/co-writer Paul Greengrass as well. It’s certainly enough to leave those who enjoyed the film entertained after they’ve watched it the first time. This 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of “News of the World” comes as highly recommended.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials