HTF REVIEW: "Black Hawk Down"

Ronald Epstein

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Ronald Epstein


Black Hawk Down




Studio: Columbia
Year: 2001
Rated: R
Film Length: 144 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)



Leave no man behind
There's a memorable line in this movie that is
hard to forget. It is Norm Hooten (Eric Bana)
that says, "when that first bullet goes flying
past your head, politics go right out the window".

When I first saw Blackhawk Down theatrically,
I almost promised myself I would never watch it
again. It was the most realistic and disturbing
war film I have ever watched. It's a movie that
places you directly on the front line of combat and
for two hours, hits you hard with scene after scene
of carnage.

On October 3, 1993, U.S. soldiers entered Somalia
on an exercise that was supposed to take about
thirty minutes. It was simple -- it was routine.
Go in, take out Mohammed Farah Aidid and his men
and return to base. It involved Black Hawk and
Little Bird air cover supported by Humvee ground cover.
Things did not go as planned.

Director Ridley Scott recreates the harrowing
15-hour battle between besieged U.S. troops and
Somali fighters on the streets of Mogadishu in
which 18 Americans were killed and 73 injured,
along with thousands of Somali militia. A special
kind of man is required to fight in these conditions,
and the movie places us alongside these brave men
that you will ultimately be humbled by.
How is the transfer?
Amazing!
Mastered in high definition, Black Hawk Down
is one of the best looking DVDs available today.
Don't be fooled by the intentional amount of grain
that shows up in a small amount of scenes -- Ridley
Scott uses grain, blue and green filters and high
contrast to cleverly visualize his scenes. Through
it all, you will be simply amazed by the jaw-dropping
clarity of the picture that looks clean and crisp.

Many people have complained that on a bare-boned
release such as this, a DTS track was not offered.
These people have a legitimate complaint. We all
know that Columbia is intentionally holding back that
DTS track for a forthcoming Special Edition.
I can tell you that you will not be one bit
disappointed in this disc's 5.1 Dolby Digital track.
It is as good as many DTS tracks I have heard.
What you will experience is a highly aggressive
sound mix that never goes dull. Looking at my
list of notes that I write during my screenings,
I have scribble after scribble about many of the
dramatic sonic experiences I had with this film.
From the very moment the titles appear out of
blackness, the rears come alive with the sound of
sand swept wind and the rotary blades of the
incoming helicopters.
A DTS track usually fares better in directionality
over a Dolby Digital track. I was surprised to
hear such distinct channel separation with this
Dolby Digital mix. I could pinpoint the exact
location of a helicopter in the distance, as it
slowly rises from the rear right channel and
crosses over to the front channel. You can even
hear the sound of sand being swept in the wind.
LFE response is also quite good. My subwoofer
was rumbling to the sound of the helicopter engines
as well as some of the American and African music
that is played throughout the film.
Special Features

Columbia has released an essentially bare-boned
version of this DVD, promising to release a
Special Edition within the year. Of course, the
only people who know this are those in the
internet community.

Nonetheless, we are treated to a featurette,
Black Hawk Down On The Set which basically
has Director Ridley Scott and Producer Jerry
Bruckheimer talking about the historical facts
that this film was based upon. Principal cast
members talk about their characters and the
situation they are being thrown into. 15 cameras
and thousands of extras from around the globe
converged in Morocco for the filming of this movie.
The actors themselves went through a military
training program. Extensive footage of the
training process is shown as we see the actors
jogging in formation down a dimly lit street during
their stay at Fort Benning, Georgia. We see the
actors in the barber chair getting their heads
buzzed. There was a support network formed between
the actors due to the extreme amount exhaustion
involved in the boot camp training. Coming totally
unexpectedly, The United States military supplied
the Black Hawk helicopters and the real guys and
units that participated in the original extractions.
There are some terrific behind-the-camera shots
of the helicopters flying into the market,
creating a tornado of wind and sand out of complete
calmness. Quite a terrific documentary, though
my taste buds yearned for more in-depth coverage.
Talk about bare-boned! There is no trailer
for Black Hawk Down included. Instead
we get trailers for Spiderman and The
One.
A Cast and Crew Filmography is also
included.
Final Thoughts
Black Hawk Down is a brilliant film
with great cinematography and an accurate story
line. And while it is one of the most realistic
and disturbing war movies you will ever see, I
guarantee that everyone that sees it will leave
it with a certain amount of appreciation for the
men and women that give their lives during
wartime so that others may live.
It's a difficult choice whether to buy this
bare-boned DVD now, or wait for the Special Edition.
Those that opt to buy it now will not be at
all disappointed. The exceptional transfer and
highly aggressive Dolby Digital mix will make this
viewing one of the most intense theatrical
experiences in your recent memory....I promise.
Release Date: June 11, 2002
 

Ron-P

Senior HTF Member
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Jul 25, 2000
Messages
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Real Name
Ron
Thanks Ron.
I'm dying here. Bare bones and all, I have yet to see it, so I will be picking this one up on the street date.
Peace Out~
 

Sean Moon

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 25, 2001
Messages
2,041
Looks like I am going to have to pull an Almost Famous on this one. A DVD and movie so good that even though I know a special edition is coming I have to buy it twice. With a film this good, as with Almost Famous, I have no problem giving the filmakers my money twice to support their future endeavors.
 

Martice

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 20, 2001
Messages
1,077
"LFE response is also quite good. My subwoofer was rumbling to the sound of the helicopter engines as well as some of the American and African music that is played throughout the film."

I hate to do this but it's just a matter of time before someone else asks this question. How does it compare to Saving Private Ryan in terms of LFE and overall sound?

By the way, this was one of your most unenthusiastic but positive reviews that I've read. You sounded pretty somber while at the same time you praised the film.

I will pick it up next Tuesday or the Tuesday after ( I can't remember) at a local shop here in the city that often sells their titles early.

Nice review.
 

BrianP

Supporting Actor
Joined
Dec 8, 1999
Messages
601
I am going to wait for a special edition before purchasing this movie. But I will definitely rent a copy when it is available next month.
 

Chuck Mayer

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Sean,
I might have to do it your way. I'd go nuts with this on the shelf, and not in my collection...even if the SE is one of my most desired titles.

The film alone deserves it.

Take care,
Chuck
 

Bryant Trew

Second Unit
Joined
Jun 3, 2001
Messages
346
When I first saw Blackhawk Down theatrically,
I almost promised myself I would never watch it
again. It was the most realistic and disturbing
war film I have ever watched. It's a movie that
places you directly on the front line of combat and
for two hours, hits you hard with scene after scene
of carnage.
I felt the exact same way. Great movie, but brutal on the senses.
 

T r o y

Supporting Actor
Joined
Jun 7, 1999
Messages
649
As good as your review is of this movie Ron, I'm still going to wait and buy the SE later this year as bad as it hurts to wait. It will definately be worth it!! Besides, I already saw it in the theater. Great Movie! And I can only imagine how that DTS track is going to sound on that SE ! Yeehaww!!
 

Steven L

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Nov 16, 1999
Messages
100
As much as I'd like to get it now, I'm going to wait for the SE. There's lots of other titles available in the meantime to keep me happy.
 

Rob Tomlin

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jan 8, 2000
Messages
4,506
I have yet to see this, but will probably purchase based on all the positive reviews.

I will probably buy the bare bones release, as I am not a huge fan of extras anyway.
 

Ron Reda

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2001
Messages
2,276
Ron, thanks for the review!

I will not double dip, I will not double dip... Sony's not getting me on this one! Although I've heard nothing but great things about this film and would really like to pick it up soon, I'm gonna wait for the SE. I'm not a big fan of extras either, but I enjoy having the DTS track as well as owning the "loaded" version for rainy days when I have no new DVDs to watch!
 

Oscar

Second Unit
Joined
Apr 1, 2002
Messages
419
Ron thanks to your review you just made my mind and soul tell me to buy the disc AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!
 

YANG

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 10, 1999
Messages
576
"Ron thanks to your review you just made my mind and soul tell me to buy the disc AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!"

So...OSCAR...you're not going to wait for the S.E?
 

YANG

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 10, 1999
Messages
576
If anyone of you guys can't take the violence or bloody scenes in this film,you might be interested with a trimmed down(edited-PG friendly) version DVD release of BLACK HAWK DOWN...which is only available in SINGAPORE.This edited version will only available for distribution in SINGAPORE,MALAYSIA and INDONESIA.
 

Dave H

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2000
Messages
5,780
I have a question for you techs out there.

As good as the video transfer is, will adding a DTS track on a 2.5 hour movie in any way RISK adding too many artifacts or denegration to what sounds like a great tranfer? Is it possible the DD version will have a slightly better transfer that the inevitable DTS version since this is a 2.5 hour movie?

I mean many say that Gladiator had a great transfer. And, I'm not arguing. But, would it have been better - even slightly - by not having a DTS track since it eats so many bits and that movie was over two hours?

For those who are more "video sensitive," I wonder if this is the release to get.
 

AndyDL

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 10, 2001
Messages
63
Buy both DVDs? I don't think so, Columbia! Sneaky little bastards.

I too will eagerly await the SE version but will definitely rent this version when it comes out.
Awesome review, Ron!
Andy
 

Jon_B

Screenwriter
Joined
Nov 27, 2000
Messages
1,025
Bare bones or loaded, I have yet to see this movie, so I will be checking it out when it is released. Thanks for the review Ron.

Jon
 

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