Car Trouble

Allegiances shift, the central conflict jumps around, plots threads fall away, and in-between it all, races where the dialog exists to explain the event. Much of Days of Thunder is wildly disorganized.

It’s cliché to say this is Top Gun with cars, but only because that’s true. Synced together, Tom Cruise visits Michael Rooker’s home in Days of Thunder the same time he visits Tom Skerritt’s in Top Gun. In both instances, the wife greets Cruise at the door, and the ensuing chat leads to Cruise finding himself after tragedy. Later, that tragedy plays out again, with Cruise the conqueror. How comically similar.

Then again, every story is essentially the same. A battered hero must overcome a conflict, fight the villain, win, then get the girl. Days of Thunder doesn’t stray far – not at all actually – rather upping the absurdity. Cruise and Rooker’s egotism reaches a crescendo as they race wheelchairs down hospital hallways. Racing is in their blood, or maybe competitive idiocy overrides good sense. Probably the latter.

Days of Thunder is little more than harmless sports movie fluff

Days of Thunder leaves interesting threads sidelined. Cruise enters this insular NASCAR world as a rookie from California. An early montage pans past Confederate flags, but here’s this well dressed, west coast liberal trying to break in. The first act drops that storyline; Days of Thunder does that a lot. Each act plays like a story on its own, as if a new age serial meant to be played in chapters rather than a whole.

Generally, Days of Thunder is little more than harmless sports movie fluff. Without Top Gun’s overtly patriotic drive, this kinda/sorta remake filters down to a fable about general camaraderie and guys being guys. Time makes Cruise/Nicole Kidman’s awkward first meeting uncomfortable – it always was, but social progress further exposed the inherent sexism. Days of Thunder carries a masculine torch into battle, unafraid to single out stock car racing as male-dominated, and how ramming cars into one another celebrates toughness.

Rather than Cruise’s hilariously named Cole Trickle, Days of Thunder’s heart lies with Rooker. He’s forced to face a reality: This is dangerous and fragility isn’t a sign of weakness, but a reality few men admit to. Cruise’s win isn’t so much celebratory as it is a continuation of the status quo. Safety isn’t improved (thankfully NASCAR revised standards in recent times) and bull-headed drivers still act invulnerable. But hey, at least Days of Thunder looks fantastic, from its stunt driving to aerial perspectives.

Video

Of the three Tom Cruise-related catalog debuts released alongside Days of Thunder (Top Gun, War of the Worlds the others) on 4K UHD, this is the overall winner in visual punch. Resolution creates definite separation from the Blu-ray, pinpoint and precise. Images from above various tracks produce startling purity. In a crowd, it’s possible to make out specific fans even with distance. Close-up definition finds texture en masse.

There is a challenger: Grain. Although the thinnest grain structure in this batch, the encode struggles. In smoke, chroma noise turns into a consistent bother. Certain brighter colors, including flesh tones, exacerbate the issue. Hazier cinematography likewise suffers. That’s a shame because when compression works in sync, Days of Thunder is gorgeous.

Consider the color. Rather, no need to consider it – saturation spares nothing. Stock cars slathered in brightly colored logos, fans dressed in every primary; Days of Thunder splurges. A slight digital tinge does catch flesh tones and some moodier scenes focused on reserved palettes. That’s small in impact. Hues overall pour from this disc, giving this movie renewed life.

The Dolby Vision touch enhances contrast, deepening black levels, brightening whites. That’s nothing special, but the change is notable. Image density gains in weight and depth. Sharp reflections from metal step up intensity.

Audio

Oddly, only TrueHD this time, despite the other two simultaneous catalog releases featuring Atmos. Thankfully, the mix wastes nothing, piercingly loud from the outset to push engine sounds to their peak. On the track, dynamics hit extremes on both ends, giving action proper scale. Low-end quality isn’t in question. Neither is fidelity. Days of Thunder sounds new.

Flawless, discrete pans keep cars moving around the soundstage. Mixing stretches wide, stereos given equal prominence to the surrounds. More subtle moments in bars or garages use this sonic space too. Ambiance stays high.

Extras

Jerry Bruckheimer looks back at this project in a short six-minute retrospective. An isolated score is also available, the only bonuses since this is a UHD package only. No Blu-ray is offered.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Days of Thunder
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Days of Thunder repeats movie history to an exacting degree, and while an entertaining watch, the story is a listless jumble.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 46 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: