Ewan McGregor is captivating as Dan Torrance, so much so that you forget about his previous roles including his most known performance as a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel films. We’re never quite sure about how much power he has, or how much he is even aware of. But there are flashbacks to the past that hint at submerged shine energy that could be wielded if necessary.
Rebecca Ferguson is eerily convincing as Rose the Hat, the leader of a nomadic cult that harbors supernatural powers. She is a powerful yet vulnerable ancient vampiric creature that becomes aware of a new force that she sees as a threat — the young teenage girl Abra played by Kyliegh Curran.
Dick Hallorann (originally played by Scatman Crothers and now Carl Lumbly) returns as Danny’s mentor along with Wendy Torrance (played by Alex Essoe) and the young Danny Torrance (played by Roger Dale Floyd).
It was a bit odd watching the flashback scenes in the film that refer back to The Shining but with different actors, especially after recently watching the 4k Blu-ray edition of the remastered classic from Stanley Kubrick. The camera shots, although capturing different scenery, mimic those made 40 years ago by Oscar-winning cinematographer John Alcott. Even some of the editing is reminiscent of The Shining. If you’ve never seen The Shining, Doctor Sleep might seem like an incredible groundbreaking piece of filmmaking. Not that it isn’t great, but there is so much it owes to its predecessor.
Without giving away too much of the film, which is a must-see for anyone who loves a good thriller, here’s a review of the video and audio quality of Doctor Sleep.
The theatrical cut of Doctor Sleep is presented in 4k Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos audio. There is a Director’s Cut too, but it isn’t universally available in the higher resolution formats (read more about digital services below). The early digital release of Doctor Sleep was streamed through an Apple TV 4k and onto a 65″ Samsung 4k HDR TV. The TV was set to Theater Mode with Cinema Black enabled and smooth frame rate (known as the soap opera effect) turned off. This is cinema, not NASCAR.
The video quality in Digital 4k is, sorry to say, really mushy. Even in the closeups where you would expect the video image to be razor-sharp it just looks like it’s not quite there, at least not as sharp as many 4k Blu-rays are on 4k TVs. And, the color range does not seem to be as expanded as it could be – not that you would want excessive color saturation but a wider range of contrast would have been nice. You can, of course, adjust your TV settings to give the film more of these qualities. But calibrating your TV depending on movie or media just doesn’t seem right. It will be interesting to compare the 4k Blu-ray to see if Doctor Sleep picks up any sharpness.
Doctor Sleep was reviewed on a Samsung HW-K950 soundbar with subwoofer and Dolby Atmos. The soundtrack was inspired by and at times sounds just like The Shining, except with variations on the film’s compositions derived from the classical contemporary genre. The audio is a strong mix that grabs you from behind when you are not looking. There is a heartbeat motif that enhances the suspense of many of the scenes in the movie, but also serves to transition from one scene to another. The soundtrack is not overly layered with background effects, and maybe that’s why Atmos didn’t seem to add much immersion to the audio (or maybe the lack of overhead speakers had something to do with it). But the audio in Doctor Sleep is quite sharp, and delivers a wide dynamic range that should impress with 5.1 or 7.1 channel systems.
The Digital purchase of Doctor Sleep includes access to watch the Director’s Cut of Doctor Sleep that adds another 28 minutes to the theatrical version. Unfortunately for those who own a 4k Blu-ray player and 4k TV, the DC is only provided on the 1080p Blu-ray Disc. Director Mike Flanagan confirmed this mid-December via Twitter. But you can also see confirmation of this downfall on the 4k Blu-ray packaging that specifies the “Director’s Cut on Blu-ray.”
We had hoped the DC would at least be provided with a Digital UHD purchase of the film, but after buying on Apple iTunes and viewing on Apple TV 4k the DC was not offered in 4k. However, a follower of our Twitter account did post a photo proving the 4k/HDR Director’s Cut with the purchase of the Disc & Digital option on Vudu. This offer from Walmart’s Vudu gives customers both early access to the digital version of a film as well as a disc (Blu-ray or 4k Blu-ray) when released.
There are some scenes that probably weren’t necessary for the plot but still cool to watch. [SPOILERS AHEAD] For example, an early clip of Abra as a younger girl places her in a more historical context in which her parents start to discover her extraordinary talents and the existence of supernatural powers in their home. But the theatrical cut does introduce Abra at a young age when a magician performs at her birthday and she later decides to do her own magic tricks.
A scene that is cut shorter but shown in the DC is when Danny first encounters the rotting woman in the bathtub. In the theatrical version, the nudity is removed. But in the DC we get to see Mrs. Massey in her full birthday suit.
You can’t ask for more bonus material when you get a Director’s Cut with 28 additional minutes, can you? The digital purchase (with select retailers) also includes “From Shining to Sleep” — a 4-minute, 55-second discussion with Stephen King and Mike Flanagan. There is also the 13-minute, 56-second “The Making of Doctor Sleep” and 14-minute, 58-second “Return to the Overlook” bonus featurettes. The extras provide plenty of behind-the-scenes footage that explains the making of the film, some of which you might not want to see if you enjoy the “mystery” of filmmaking.
One reveal that’s interesting to learn about is how Flanagan wanted to bring some of the original elements from the novel “The Shining” that Kubrick changed for his movie adaptation. King says Flanagan’s decision [SPOILER AHEAD] to make it a sequel to Kubrick’s The Shining enriches Doctor Sleep and he thought it was great the film was able to return to the Overlook hotel.
This is a great film that you can literally watch twice (we suggest the theatrical version followed by the Director’s Cut) and still get something out of it. McGregor’s performance never gets old and neither does the incredible cinematography by Michael Fimognari. The music, created by The Newton Brothers, has a mesmerizing effect that is brilliantly interlaced with the visuals. Doctor Sleep one film that you might find yourself wanting to revisit in 6 months just to get another taste of the hypnotic environment Flanagan created in his translation of King’s 2013 novel.
Doctor Sleep Scores
5/5 (You get a Director’s Cut!)