American Sniper appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.
At all times, sharpness seemed solid. The movie offered very good delineation, with nary a soft spot to be found. No signs of moiré effects or jagged edges materialized, and edge haloes failed to appear. I also didn’t see any print flaws.
When the movie started, I actually exclaimed “whoa – green!” We find other hues as well – mainly orange/amber – but the teal/green dominated. While predictable, the transfer executed those hues well. Blacks looked dark and tight, while shadows looked smooth and clear. Everything about the image satisfied.
This Blu-ray lets you hear the film with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack – if you own the equipment to play it. The track works on standard Blu-ray players but requires an Atmos-equipped receiver – as well as more speakers – to get the full effect. Maybe someday I’ll upgrade for Atmos, but that day isn’t today.
Happily, the Atmos mix played back as Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those of us with “antiquated” systems and it added strong involvement to the experience. With the level of bombast expected from a movie with many scenes of combat, the soundfield used the various speakers well.
Obviously, battles proved the most involving, as they engulfed the viewer with the sounds of the setting. That side of things worked best, but other sequences also seemed quite good; even quieter sections placed the viewer in the action and consistently satisfied. Surround usage was pleasing throughout the film, as the back speakers bolstered the various settings well.
Audio quality was also good. Speech appeared natural, and the lines never demonstrated intelligibility problems. Music was quite dynamic and lively, as the score showed excellent range and delineation. Effects were also bright and bold, with nice low-end to boot. Across the board, this was an excellent track that deserved a solid “A-”.
How does the 2016 “Commemorative” Blu-ray compare with the original 2015 Blu-ray? Both seemed identical – literally, as Disc One of this set simply repackaged the 2015 Blu-ray.
The “Commemorative Edition” takes the prior Blu-ray’s extras and adds new ones. From the original disc, One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper lasts 31 minutes, four seconds. It includes notes from director Clint Eastwood, producers Rob Lorenz, Andrew Lazar and Peter Morgan, screenwriter Jason Hall, Chris Kyle’s widow Taya, senior military technical advisor James D. Dever, and actors Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and Kevin Lacz.
The program looks at the project’s roots and development, story/character areas, cast and performances, how Eastwood came to the film, locations, training and realism, and related topics. Despite some fluffy moments, “Story” delivers a fairly good look at the production, especially in terms of how it got to the screen. This turns into a satisfying piece.
The Making of American Sniper runs 28 minutes, 35 seconds and features Cooper, Eastwood, Kyle, Hall, Lazar, Morgan, Lorenz, Miller, US Army veteran Chris Marvin, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America CEO/founder Paul Rieckhoff, and retired Marine Jacob Schick. “Making” touches on the same topics as “Story”, though it gives us some different notes about those areas. A lot of it repeats from “Story”, though, and with a much more promotional tone, it proves less effective than its predecessor.
The remaining extras are new to the “Commemorative Edition”. Navy SEALs: In War and Peace goes for 29 minutes, 51 seconds and features Taya Kyle, SEALs Bryan Yarbro, Marcus Luttrell, Clint Bruce, Chris Osman, Marcus Presson, Presson’s wife Gail, and Yarbro’s wife Fina. We learn about the history of the SEALs as well as training and related topics.
Occasional insights emerge, but much of the time this feels like an ad for the SEALs. I hoped for a more involving look at the SEALs but don’t find much meat in this one-dimensional piece.
With the 30-minute, 24-second Chris Kyle: The Man Behind the Legend, we hear from Taya Kyle, Presson, Luttrell, Bruce, Osman, Yarbro, co-author Jim DeFelice, friend Bill Waybourn, and brother Jeff Kyle. As expected, “Man” provides a basic biography of Kyle.
They didn’t call this the “Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” for nothing. Like “In War and Peace”, “Man” offers the occasional interesting/revealing fact, but not a lot of these tidbits appear. Instead, we find a show packed with praise for its subject. That lack of nuance makes “Man” fairly bland.
Finally, Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism fills 20 minutes, 42 seconds with info from Cooper, Miller, Hall, Eastwood, Lazar, Taya Kyle, USC School of Social Work’s Marilyn Flynn, USC Center for Innovation and Research’s Anthony Hassan, USC Institute for Creative Technologies’ Albert Rizzo, retired Marine Jacob Schick, and actor Jake McDorman.
“Home” looks at PTSD and its impact on veterans. The program offers a basic but reasonably informative overview of the challenges faced by soldiers.
Disc One opens with ads for San Andreas and Mad Max: Fury Road. The trailer for Sniper shows up on Disc Two.
With some well-executed war sequences, American Sniper often becomes an engrossing experience. However, when it attempts more character depth, it tends to sputter, as it doesn't pull off those elements well. The Blu-ray brings us excellent picture and audio as well as a decent array of supplements. Though the “Commemorative Edition” adds about 80 minutes of new bonus materials, these three programs fail to deliver enough substance to make the package worth a “double dip”.
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