Release Date(s)2018 (January 29, 2019)
Studio(s)Summit/Millennium/Relativity Media (Lionsgate)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C+
When a military coup usurps Russian President Zakarin, and a pair of submarines – the USS Tampa Bay and a Russian Akula – go missing under the polar ice cap, a Navy admiral (played by Common) sends the USS Arkansas to investigate. But Arkansas has a new commander, Joe Glass (Gerard Butler), who will have to work hard to build the trust of his crew. And he’d better work fast too because when the shooting starts, and they rescue the commander of the Russian sub (played by Michael Nyqvist in one of his final roles), things get even more dicey; they’ll soon have to infiltrate the Russian sub base of Polyarny to recover a SEAL team sent in to save Zakarin... and hopefully prevent World War III.
Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens, and Michael Trucco co-star in what is, essentially, a modern B-movie. The film is actually based on the 2012 novel Firing Point by Don Keith and George Wallace. If you’re a Tom Clancy fan you should be right at home here. The action is split between Butler and his men, who are trying to get to the bottom of things under the waves, and the SEAL team, which HALO jumps into Russia to ascertain what’s actually happening there. Meanwhile, there’s tension back at the Pentagon too, as the US President, military brass, and the CIA all try to figure out how best to handle the situation. The plot is straightforward, most of it you’ve seen before, and it’s just slightly campy. It’s fair to say that Hunter Killer will not be winning any awards. But the action is solid and there’s enough good in the performances, direction, and production design to deliver a mildly entertaining movie.
Hunter Killer was shot in the ARRIRAW codec at 3.4K on Arri Alexa Mini and XT cameras. It was finished as a Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Prevailing wisdom is that this is a native 2K DI, and there’s no good information available online to contradict that. But there is a definite increase in fine detailing in the live action material here. If I had to go out on a limb, I think this could be a 4K DI with live action upsampled from 3.4K and VFX upsampled from a 2K finish. But don’t quote me on that; assume native 2K just to be safe. Either way, the live action image definitely looks better than expected. The UHD presentation is graded for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available) and it really pops. Shadows are rock solid, brights are natural, instrumentation lights have a vibrant glow, and the coloring is greatly enhanced by the wide color gamut.
As good as the 4K image is, however, the English Dolby Atmos audio mix is even better; it’s actually quite close to reference quality. There’s very lively directional play and panning, both in subtle environmental sounds and bombastic action. Dialogue is clean and crisp. Staging is atmospheric, bass is firm and punchy, and the vertical channels kick in well during set-pieces, including the HALO jump, several firefights, and both surface and sub-surface naval combat. Additional audio options include Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Descriptive Audio, with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Lionsgate’s 4K disc and the included Blu-ray version of the film both offer the same extras, as follows:
- Audio Commentary with director Donovan Marsh
- Surface Tension: Declassifying Hunter Killer – Part One: The Crew (17:00)
- Surface Tension: Declassifying Hunter Killer – Part Two: Tactical Readiness (7:35)
That may not seem like a lot of content – and it’s not to be sure – but what you do get is actually pretty good. The commentary is thoughtful and offers come nice anecdotes on the process and challenges of making a reasonably accurate submarine film. And Surface Tension is surprisingly comprehensive for its short running time, featuring the input of most of the cast – including Butler, Oldman, and Nyqvist. If you watch it on the 4K disc, there’s no HDR but it does appear to be in upsampled 4K. A Digital copy code is also included on a paper insert.
Hunter Killer is no Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide, so don’t expect it to be. But it is good solid fun, and not nearly as campy as Geostorm or London Has Fallen. Pour a beer, go into this looking for a decent Saturday afternoon naval actioner, and keep your expectations modest. If you do, I think the film will deliver for you. In any case, the 4K experience is very solid indeed.
- Bill Hunt