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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > War > Black Hawk Down (Blu-ray)

Black Hawk Down (Blu-ray)


Picture: A-     Sound: A-     Extras: B     Film: B+



Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001) was one of the few hits in the new War genre cycle that was building in the late 1990s.  Besides a strong script, great action that makes you feel like you are there without being phony or “videogame/amusement part ride” phony about it, it was a work worthy of the few War films before that were unflinching in their portrayal of events.


We have been such fans of the film that we did a rare comparison of no less than three versions of the film, including a Superbit import that played on U.S. machines:





My fellow critic nailed what makes the film work, so I do not need to repeat what he has said, but will say that it is no surprise that this holds up so well and has been over-imitated (usually for the worse) many times since.  The problem with the previous versions is that they would either have great sound and no audio commentaries or vice versa.  This new 50GB Blu-ray from Sony has both and offers most of the extras from the other sets.  So how does this play?


Now one of the best titles in Blu-ray, Black Hawk Down reminds me of Training Day and The Bourne Supremacy in the HD-DVD format (Day is not as good in Blu-ray) as a dark film even featuring some stylized/degraded shots as part of the visual driving of the narrative.  The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot in Super 35mm by Slawomir Idziak and the reproduction of that image here makes even the best aspects of the Superbit editions pale in comparison.  You can definitely see that any distortion is intended as picture reproduction is solid throughout.


As for the sound, including one of Hans Zimmer’s better scores of late, The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is here from the previous DVDs, but no DTS is here.  Instead of being disappointed however, there is an equally amazing PCM 5.1 mix with the same punch as the standard DTS from the Superbit editions that is as good as any soundtrack we have heard in this format to date.  The film was a 7.1/8-channel Sony Dynamic Digital Sound theatrical release and you can sure hear it here.  The combination delivers the “WOW” factor that Blu-ray is supposed to and as compared to the competent but ultimately forgettable S.W.A.T. (also reviewed on this site and another Blu-ray from Sony), Black Hawk Down just blows it away.


Extras include the three audio commentaries from before, the 150-minutes long Essence Of Combat piece dubbed a featurette but is more like a documentary and the disc has the exclusive Blu-Wizard feature that makes accessibility to the film smoother and easier than ever.  Obviously, the Korean Superbit DVD has more extras and maybe we’ll see some kind of expanded Blu-ray for this always-hot title, but this is easily one of the best Blu-ray releases to date and could go a few rounds with the best titles so far in the HD-DVD format.


Also interesting is how cast members Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Ioan Gruffudd and Orlando Bloom have become larger stars and actors with potential to go on to greater success like Brendan Sexton III (so good in Love, Ludlow, reviewed on the site too) helps to make this one of the best ensemble cast films of recent years.  Veterans like Jason Issacs, Tom Sizemore and Sam Shepard (who wrote a little dialogue) also help.  The resulting chemistry in Scott’s hands creates an important film that will only grow in reputation as audiences slowly catch up with what Scott accomplishes here.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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