Updated: May 11, 2020
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
The women of “Bombshell”: Megyn Kelly, left, played by Oscar-nominee Charlize Theron, Gretchen Carlson, played by Nicole Kidman, and Kayla Pospisil, played by Margot Robbie, who also received an Oscar nomination.
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2019; R for sexual material and language throughout; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: There’s only one, the seven-part feature “No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell”
Q: SEEING how it hasn’t been that long since Fox News’ dirty laundry was aired in real-time for everyone to see, why sit through this Hollywood account?
A: There are four reasons—Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie and John Lithgow. They don’t just play Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, Kayla Pospisil and Roger Ailes, Fox News’ disgraced chairman and CEO, they inhabit the roles. As the curtain is pulled back, you can’t help but be pulled in.
That said, “Bombshell” caught flak for sanitizing the characters—Kelly’s history of racial demagoguery, which cost her her post-Fox job at NBC, and Carlson’s homophobia get a pass—and there were some grumblings because the film’s net wasn’t wide enough.
Part of the criticism is justified: Kelly and Carlson come off as too likable. Both were complicit in Fox’s venality so long as their stars ascended; that changed, of course, when Ailes showed Carlson the door and she sued him for sexual harassment. As the dominoes fell, Kelly, who was in candidate Trump’s crosshairs after calling him out for his denigration of women, still tried to stay silent, until she couldn’t.
(1) The Fox studio control room during an episode of "The Kelly File." (2) Kelly breaks the fourth wall and introduces viewers to her staff. (3&4) Carlson meets with her attorneys to build a case of sexual harassment against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
Maybe screenwriter Charles Randolph (“The Big Short”) smoothed their edges so they would play better with viewers, but if he’d gone toe-to-toe with the empire, as some critics wanted, it would have diluted the film’s focus.
And you can’t point fingers at anyone because “Bombshell” hurts for dramatic arc. After all, it’s no secret how it ends.
That doesn’t matter. Theron (Oscar winner for “Monster,” nominee for “Bombshell”), Kidman (winner for “The Hours”), Robbie (nominations for “Bombshell” and “I, Tonya”) and Lithgow (ditto for “The World According to Garp” and “Terms of Endearment”) demand your attention. And credit Randolph and director Jay Roach (“Trumbo”) for getting it. Kelly breaks the fourth wall at the start by conducting a warts-and-all tour of the newsroom.
Allison Janney (Oscar winner for “I, Tonya”) as Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich, Connie Britton (TV’s “Nashville”) as his wife/apologist Beth and (Malcolm McDowell (“A Clockwork Orange”) as Fox boss Rupert Murdoch stand out in supporting roles, as does “SNL’s” Kate McKinnon as Jess Carr, a fictional member of “The O’Reilly Factor” production staff who’s a lesbian and closeted Democrat to boot, who shows Kayla the ropes.
You’ll also spot Fox sycophants Bill Shine (played by Mark Moses), Jeanine Pirro (Alanna Ubach), Kimberly Guilfoyle (Bree Condon), Bill O’Reilly (Kevin Dorff), Greta Van Susteren (Anne Ramsay), Ainsley Earhardt (Alice Eve), Neil Cavuto (P.J. Byrne), Sean Hannity (Spencer Garrett), Geraldo Rivera (Tony Plana) and even Rudy Giuliani (Richard Kind). If they play like caricatures, it’s because the shoes fit.
The most fully realized character, though, is a fictional one. You share Kayla’s enthusiasm and drive—she describes herself as an influencer in “the Jesus space”— and feel her humiliation when, in a truly wrenching scene, she’s forced to “twirl” and hike her dress for Ailes if she wants to get on-air. He tells her it’s “a visual medium.”
(1) Pospisil tells Carlson that she's leaving her staff to join the “The O’Reilly Factor” show. (2) Kelly takes a vacation with her husband and children after moderating the Republican presidential debate in which she called out Donald Trump for his misogyny. (4) Kelly tells viewers that Ailes demanded that his anchors wear short dresses and show plenty of leg.
Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (Oscar nominee for “The Hurt Locker”) gives “Bombshell” a quasi-documentary feel by using his zoom liberally and employing multiple 2.8K digital cameras that keep everyone engaged. With true colors and consistent detail, the Blu-ray transfer is solid, while the 4K takes the imagery to the next level. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning presents a more natural skin balance, controlled highlights, and slightly dark shading. The clarity differences between the 4K and Blu-ray are nearly identical since it was mastered in 2K.
As for the audio, the dialogue drives the story and everyone comes across clearly on the Dolby Digital six-channel soundtrack (disc & digital). There’s plenty of room for Theodore Shapiro’s (“Trumbo”) soundtrack and Regina Spektor’s “One Little Soldier.”
The only one is the seven-part feature “No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell.” With chapters devoted to the story’s creation and the film’s stars, ensemble and visual design, it more than covers the bases, though some do run a tad long. The most interesting by far is “Layer by Layer: Makeup, Hair & Clothing.” “Bombshell” won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, and the bet here is the voting wasn’t close. The prosthetics that Kazu Hiro designed for Theron and Lithgow are nothing short of exceptional.
In the concluding chapter, “Catalyst for Change: Parting Thoughts,” Roach and Randolph say that they hope “Bombshell” changes the conversation, especially among men. Here’s hoping it will, but Theron, in the opening “Convergence: Genesis of the Film,” lays out its most notable achievement.
“It was a great opportunity for a lot of talented women to come together and tell an important story.”
— Craig Shapiro and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1-2) Ailes (John Lithgow) humiliates Pospisil by asking her to “twirl” and lift her skirt. (3) Carlson is fired. (4) Ailes' wife Beth (Connie Britton), owner and publisher of two newspapers in Putnam County, N.Y., defends her husband after Carlson’s lawsuit is announced.
(1) Former Fox anchor Juliet Huddy (Jennifer Morrison) warns Kelly to watch her back, that Ailes has detectives who look into and follow his enemies. (2) Pospisil tells co-worker Jess Carr that she "gave in" to Ailes's demands. (3) Carlson signs a $20 million settlement. (4) Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (Malcolm McDowell) and his sons head to the Fox newsroom to announce the dismissal of Ailes.