BLU-RAY REVIEW: WIDOWS 4K ULTRA HD
British director Steve McQueen has created an outstanding crime/thriller in the form of 2018’s Widows, which was recently released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and DVD. Not only does Widows feature an excellent cast, who bring the characters to life, but combined with a fascinating storyline, it grips your attention and rewards repeat viewings.
Widows is the story of four wives who lose their husbands in a failed heist. The ‘widows’ are aware of how their husbands earned their living but were neither involved, nor privy to the details.
The explosion that claimed their husband’s lives also incinerated two million in cash, stolen from gangster Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). Despite the fact the perpetrators are now dead, Jamal still wants his money back.
He gives Veronic Rawlins (Viola Davis and wife of Harry Rawlins, who is played by Liam Neeson) 30 days to come up with the two million dollars that Harry and his crew stole from him. In a notebook left to her by Harry, Veronica discovers details of the next heist Harry was planning.
After meeting with the widows, Veronica gives the women an ultimatum; either help her pull off the heist, or she will make sure she’s not the only one to face Jamal’s wrath. The women must learn all of the skills they need to pull off the heist in thirty days.
The story unfolds against the Chicago’s seedy side, with local candidates gangster wannabe politician Jamal Manning and Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) running for the office of mayor. Of course, things are never as easy as they seem and you’re often wondering who the real criminals are.
Based upon an English television series from the early '80s, Widows has a plot that could have easily fallen into the realm of ridiculous. However, it avoids this with a strong cast, who in turn offer excellent performances and a fascinating story-line with a backstory that gives the characters meaning and motivation.
Widows explores both the motivations and background of not only the widows, but the men who are running for office, as they cross paths during the film. It’s refreshing to watch these women pull off the heist on their terms.
It’s just as interesting to watch these women grow and become empowered rather than victims. This aspect is most evident as we watch Alice Gunner (Elizabeth Debicki), grow from beaten housewife to becoming a strong and independent woman.
There’s a lot more happening in the story-line of Widows than what appears on face value. Not just a heist flick, the film explores what motivates the characters and poses questions about who the real crooks are in a world run by corrupt officials.
Widows come to 4K Ultra HD with an excellent 4K transfer.
The overall colour palette remains largely neutral, only occasionally offering up cooler tones for a more stylised look in some of the film’s seedier environments and the occasional flashback.
As much of the film takes place at night, the overall colour palette is often heavily influenced by room lighting which can give the overall colour tone a warmer look.
Despite this, even on the odd occasion where colour grading is used to enhance the storytelling, flesh tones are incredibly accurate. Likewise, when colour is used, it often pops.
Again, as much of the film takes place at night, Widows isn’t the brightest transfer. To get the best visually that Widows has to offer, watch it in a room devoid of any lighting, save for bias lighting if viewed on a television. Black levels are excellent and at times inky. They do, however, often border on black crush with the odd occasion where detail is crushed.
The excellent black levels found within the transfer often give the image a sense of dimensionality, with this being most evident in the film’s day-time scenes.
Resolution varies, at times the image can look intentionally soft, yet at other times it can appear sharp and incredibly detailed. Widows does have a fine level of film grain, which can detract ever so slightly from the overall sharpness of the transfer, but it never becomes intrusive.
The only noticeable artefact was at 9.38 as Violo Davis’ character looks into a mirror; there is some ringing around the edge of her face.
HDR usage is limited and mainly confined to the explosions that take place early in the film.
Just like the video transfer, Widows features a top-notch Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
As a crime-thriller, don’t expect all of your speakers to be used as aggressively as they would with an action flick. They’re there and used to support what’s taking place on screen, but often they fade into the background, which is precisely what you want them to do with a film like this.
Much of the time the soundstage is primarily limited to the front, however, at times it conveys a sense of depth and width. It’s also a highly detailed and nuanced soundtrack.
As with the surrounds, the height speakers aren’t used aggressively, however, on the odd occasion, they are more active and used to good effect, such as Tom Mulligan’s (Robert Duvall) speech toward the film’s opening.
On the few occasions that the action kicks in, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack ignites all of the speakers at its disposal creating both a large and immersive sound-field. During these moments you’re also reminded how dynamic this soundtrack can be.
The film’s dynamics are underpinned with excellent bass taking the form of gunshots and explosions, mostly in the beginning of the track. Gunshots were taught and packed a wallop.
Dialogue is handled well, coming across both loudly and clearly for the duration of the film.
Volume levels are good, with my Denon AVC-X8500H sitting at -15 below reference for the film. I never felt the need to inflate my usual listening levels to accommodate. While listening levels are going to be ultimately determined by your setup and room, you shouldn’t need to nudge the volume control much past the ‘norm’ for an engaging home theatre experience with this film.
PICTURE QUALITY -
SOUND QUALITY -
MOVIE RATING -
- Review Format: 4K ULTRA HD (HDR10)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
- Audio: Dolby Atmos/ Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
- Genre: Crime/Thriller
- Available Formats: DVD, Bluray, 4K ULTRAHD
- Run Time: 130 Minutes
- Rating: MA 15+
- Label: 20th Century Fox
- Director: Steve McQueen
- Release Date: Available Now
Review System: Sony VPL-VW270ES 4K Projector, Panasonic UB9000 4K Blu-ray player, Denon AVC-X8500H AV Receiver, VAF i91 front and centre speakers, VAF i90 rear speakers and Sonique in-ceiling speakers (5.2.2 speaker configuration).
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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