We Were Soldiers (HD-DVD) Studio: Paramount Home Video Rated: R (sustained sequences of graphic war violence and language) Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: VC-1 Audio: English 5.1 EX Dolby Digital Plus, English 6.1 DTS, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH Time: 138 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date: 2002 DVD Release Date: August 1, 2005 Movie Review Note: As I move into more HD-DVD reviews, I am cutting back on the length of my comments on the movie itself to deal more with the technical aspects of this new format. This will be done specifically on the catalog titles provided by Paramount. When they begin releasing titles day and date, I will spend more of the review on the merits (or lack thereof) of the title. Lt. Col Harold “Hal” Moore is a good family man with five children who balances the needs of a wartime country with that of his family. When he is assigned to take a new platoon to Vietnam, he must get the relatively new troops trained quickly. Right before they are to move out, Moore’s platoon is cut by one third and it is renumbered the Seventh Cavalry-the same number as that of Custer’s at his last stand. Still, he takes his 400 husbands and fathers into a battle that, at its conclusion some three days later, will be considered one of the most brutal ever. Moore and his crew wind up fighting nearly 4000 North Vietnamese troops, but at a great cost to him and the platoon. We Were Soldiers is a more personal account on how tough it is to leave your family behind to go off to war. The movie spends a good amount of its time in a subplot with the wives of the soldiers and how they react to the soldier’s deaths. Madeline Stowe, who plays Moore’s wife (and what the hell happened to her lips!) takes it upon herself to deliver the death notices instead of the poor cab driver whose has been assigned the grisly task. As I have said in my past reviews of some other war pictures, there is not a lot that interests me in the genre anymore, and this one just further reinforces it. While it is technically a very well done picture (great cinematography, stunts and battle scenes), it doesn’t offer anything new or interesting. We all know war is hell, but We Were Soldiers just shows us Mel Gibson knows it too. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. Thus, the HD-DVD discs are being displayed in 1080i for evaluation purposes. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units. The image is correctly framed at 2.35:1. Color fidelity is excellent (bordering on over saturation) with an accurate range of colors, especially showing differences in the flesh tones and environmental differences. The HD image shows off the individual color splashes in the company patches. Out of the HD DVD reviews I’ve done so far, this has been the least impressive picture, as it doesn’t look much better than an upconverted 720p image. While it shows good detail, it still seems to smudge the finer details that usually jump out at me, such as foliage, hair and clothing details. The picture also shows a higher level of graininess than some of the other HD releases, but it is free of film dirt. Black levels are good and show good shadow details. I did not notice any edge enhancement. Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection I watched this disc with the 5.1 EX Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) track engaged. While I don’t have a back center channel in my set up, this soundtrack did an excellent job of imaging the back channels to produce a convincing and immersive sound field even without the extra speaker. Coupled with the front channels, the result is an excellent surround presentation that plants you in the middle of the action. Helicopter and battle effects go flying above your head and at you; you may even find yourself ducking for cover at times. Sound fidelity is accurate and convincing, and bass effects are deep and powerful. Mortar rounds and missile blasts will rock your seats. There are very good spatial effects as the gunfire and missile rounds really seem to have a sense of depth. Helicopters feel like they are going to land right on you, so get the LZ cleared quickly. I did some spot comparisons between the DD+ track and the DTS track to find the DD+ a much more satisfying and exciting experience. The DTS track is much quieter than its counterpart and it lack the depth and presence of the DD+. Panning effects are similar on both tracks, but bass is deeper and richer on the DD+. The DD+ track is exceptional and I highly recommend you watch the feature with this one. Bonus Material: With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant. These are the same extras from the SD DVD. Commentary by Director/ Writer Randall Wallace:Wallace gives a fair commentary commenting on the history of the story and characters and talking about on set happenings. ”Getting it Right” – Behind the Scenes of We Were Soldiers (28:00) (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+): The cast and crew discuss they’re real life counterparts and the production of the picture. 10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (21:22) (MPEG2, 16x9, DD+) Theatrical Trailer (VC-1, 1.85:1, DD+) Other notes on this HD-DVD edition: - The A and B buttons that can be utilized on some HD-DVD titles do not appear to have any function on this title. - I use the on-screen display function extensively when doing reviews for time markers and audio and video formatting. This disc would disable several remote functions until I turned off the on-screen display. I have not noticed this issue on the HD discs from Warner’s or Universal. Conclusions: While the feature itself leaves something to be desired, this HD-DVD has one of the best DD+ soundtracks I’ve heard yet.