Directed by: Tony Scott
Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Robert Duvall
Days of Thunder was the second teaming of arguably the most important icons of 80’s cinema: producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, directory Tony Scott, and actor Tom Cruise. Days of Thunder was this teams attempt to recreate the anthemic action, melodrama, and iconography of their first teaming of Top Gun. This time the action centerpiece is stock car racing rather than fighter jets.
To be blunt, the story of days of Thunder has been done beat for beat over and over again, to a literal degree. The story has been done with more detail and nuance since Days of Thunder in films such as RUSH and even Ford V. Ferrari. There’s a heart, a sense of fun, and a sense of beautiful extravagant filmmaking in Days of Thunder that just isn’t done in modern filmmaking. every camera move feels precise and meant to further the style, look, and substance of the film.
So knowing the story is fairly formulaic a successful film really sits on the shoulders of the filmmakers to craft exciting action and the actors to create characters that audiences would love and connect with. With that in mind Days of Thunder ends up being a tight no frills script with bullet point character development and a rapid fire story arc. Now that’s not an insult, it is in fact what this film needed to be. The creators wanted a rollercoaster ride with nothing in the way of the action and melodrama.
so it’s a given the film will be beautiful, but the filmmakers also cast the film brilliantly. Along with Cruise Robert Duvall, Nicole Kidman, Michael Rooker, Randy Quaid, and Cary Elwes. Duvall brought on a sage sort of experience to the film while the rest of the cast brought their character acting styles to their characters to create a really unique ensemble that could be identified quickly with little exposition.
The film was made in 1990, and it truly represents an end to an era of film that stands out in beautiful cinematography, lavish camera moves, sepia bathed magic hour shots that would eventually go on to define filmmakers like Michael bay. Sure the story is really simple compared to character driven films like Ford V. Ferrari, but the film does bring us iconic scenes and moments that we just don’t hold onto in those newer more complex films. days of Thunder is just cotton candy at art, basic entertainment, but it’s not as dumb as what passes for basic entertainment in modern film. It’s beautiful, very well acted, and high energy. Now, that said, the film is more clumsy in a few places than the original. there are a few minor editing goofs and line goofs, but if you’re into the film you may not notice. Music has been a big part of Cruise’s 80’s era films, and honestly the music isn’t as strong in Days of Thunder as it was in previous films and for modern audiences it may feel heavy handed. They how films rolled in the 80’s though! Overall thirty years later it’s still great fun and an important marker to the end of an era of truly beatiful to look at and fun to experience films.
The new 4k presentation presented in HDR10 and Dolby Vision brings on some great color and a solid resolution bump. With that said the film doesn’t bring on the 4k crispiness that 4k enthusiasts often look for. Darker elements just aren’t as dark compared to brighter ones as I would have liked. That said the sepia is beautiful throughout the film and I never felt the film was dim in any way, which often happens with HDR. It’s alsways plenty bright, and scenes set early in the day really bring on the spectral highlights. The 4k is definitely a step up from the 1080p blu but it’s not necessarily a demo worthy presentation.
Their are a variety of audio options but we aren’t unfortunately given a Dolby Atmos mix here. The Dolby HD mix from the blu-ray is brought over to this 4k and it sounds, well ok. Dialogue is crisp and clean and music and score have nice presence but there’s just no sub woofer use. every scene where these badass cars are revving all at the same time I found myself just wishing for the sub to kick in with that rumble. The immersion is bare bones too, with just some movements during action. The film sounds fine, but it offers no upgrade over the previous blu-ray.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging feels very slick and modern, and definitely upgraded over the previous blu-ray, but nowhere near as nice as the Paramount Presents blu-ray that is being released at the same time as this 4k. The bonus feature on this 4k is the same as the one on the Paramount Presents version. So why couldn’t we get a “Paramount Presents 4k” version? The packaging on the Paramount Presents version looks like it will be fantastic. So the slipcover art on the 4k is actually cool but it’s the exact same as the interior artwork. Why not give us a riff on the original art on the inside case?
The only extra on the 4k is a filmmaker spotlight that honestly feels pretty brief considering the creators behind this film. There is a digital copy, but no blu-ray. Obviously the blu isn’t included in the package because of the Paramount Presents version. I’m ok with that, it’s time to buy 4k’s for 4k’s. Where are the cast and crew commentaries? Bonuses are lacking here.
Days of Thunder doesn’t exist in the same space as the team’s previous film Top Gun, but as a capper to the 80’s style of filmmaking it still offers a lot of fun and action. The racing sequences are still some of the best of their kind, no cgi thank you.