PicturePresented in 2.40:1 Anamorphic widescreen the image is simply stunning to look at. There is a constant haze of yellows and greens used throughout the movie, giving everything a realistic African feel. What tiny flaws there are in the image, slight edge enhancement here and there with some visible print damage on the opening credits, doesn't stop this being reference quality video.
The print contains copious amounts of detail which can be enjoyed fully during the extreme close ups of faces with every line and pore visible. The use of highly de-saturated colours and slight grain only adds to the hand held camera work in conveying the realistic look and feel during those intense battle scenes. Black level is also good with plenty of shadow detail also present throughout.
This is a first class print and the transfer to DVD is simply stunning! This R3 Edition which is marked as a superbit title is identical to the R2 Japanese Version reviewed a month ago. There are no differences seen at all between the two, with both providing excellent transfers of highly difficult material.
SoundWell the main reason for reviewing this disc has to be the inclusion of a DTS soundtrack. There are only a handful of DVD discs from other regions which contain this Oscar winning soundtrack in the DTS format, we recently reviewed the Japanese R2 version which was light on extras but had excellent picture and sound. This R3 Disc offers an identical DTS soundmix to the Japanese disc, I could find no difference between the two.
Right from the opening scene at 1m04s there is a building low frequency bass tone underpinning an Arabic singer giving a haunting overture to the text introduction. This continues to then open up on some disturbing pictures of starving children, and the bass disappears for a moment and we are left with just the wind blowing in the rear channels. At 2m07s as this wind is blowing we can hear the soft sound of rotor blades building at the rear of the soundstage. Each turn of the blades gives the impression of louder and louder air movement with the bass line reappearing again and building slowly, until finally we are straight in the middle of the Black Hawk Helicopter. The room pressurises fully at this point with the air movement of the rotor blades hitting you in the chest at the same time the bass line of the music track is quite scary and certainly deep. Your heart is racing by this point as the angry crowd of the market place fills the entire room and the opening sounds of gun fire into the civilians by the militia hits home with fierce power. The grin on my face at this point was not about what was happening on screen, but at the sheer impact this opening was having on me in terms of sound quality. Switching back to chapter one at this point and engaging the Dolby Digital (448kbps) sound mix was disappointing to be honest. The intense feeling built by the DTS (768kbps) track is simply lost on the Dolby version, with the bass line suffering the most. You just don't have that grin on your face with the Dolby Track.
And it doesn't stop at that point, as this Award winning soundtrack proves it was worthy of its Oscar. At 35m14s the troops run to their aircraft and again the underpinning of the rotor blades is breathtaking on this DTS track, and this also conveys the sheer weight of the Super Six Black Hawks as they lift off from the air field (36m39s). But it's not all about heavy bass lines and realistic Rotor sounds as demonstrated at 38m26s. As the helicopters move in formation they head out to the coast line for some low flying, creeping up on the city. The soundtrack goes silent, gone are the sounds of the rotors, instead we get a kind of Calm before the storm effect, wind noises softly surrounding the sound stage with that faint bass line creeping in again, and you know it is about to explode into action, but this part just builds the feelings up ready for your heart to race again.
In fact I could spend all day quoting times and giving examples of where this DTS track just sounds utterly breathtaking. And you get no rest throughout with even the quiet moments such as those discussed above providing some subtle tension. The sheer weight conveyed by the soundtrack for the rotors is simply stunning, and entirely realistic. I have flown a few times in a big helicopter and the feel by the DTS track is bang on realistic. I have seen this movie on a R2 UK disc with Dolby Digital and I always wondered after hearing it why this movie won the best soundtrack award. Now after experiencing this 768kbps DTS mix at reference volumes I get it. Simply breathtaking and highly recommended.
ExtrasThis is the area where this Four disc set (3 x DVD, 1 soundtrack CD), hits the pay dirt big time. The extras will take you forever to get through, it took me two separate viewings and each is worthy of inclusion and your full attention.
Sadly there are no audio commentaries with the film on disc 1, but heading over to disc 2 the first documentary is a whopping 150 minutes long. “The essence of Combat: The Making of Black Hawk Down” is an in-depth look at the origins of the movie and takes us right through shooting and post production, ending with the finished article. Each area of production is followed in great detail from the actor's boot camp to the composer's seemingly organised chaos. Coming in close to the same running time as the main film it is best to put aside a few hours to view this. Next up are 8 deleted and alternative scenes each viewable with or without a commentary track. There is a feature on designing Mogadishu which looks at the various locations scouted and the final choice Morocco. They went to great lengths to get everything looking right. Rounding off disc 2 are Production designs, Storyboards with commentary, Ridley grams with commentary, Bruckheimer's photo gallery, Title designs with commentary and some photo galleries.
Moving onto disc 3 and we are greeted with an excellent History Channel programme “The True Story of Black Hawk Down”. This hour long documentary is jam packed with historical details of what really happened that day and the real men it happened to. The documentary is well produced with high production values. Following this up is the PBS documentary “Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu” which whilst interesting it is not nearly as professional in its production values or as honest in its objectives. It is certainly worthy of viewing. Next we have a mission time line feature, multi angle sequences with commentary, a music video, Poster campaigns and theatrical trailers and TV spots. Finally the set is rounded off by video clips from three live forums where the director, producer and stars are open to questions from movie fans attending special screenings. These are very interesting and give a little more insight into those behind the project.
Finally the Forth disc in the set is the original motion soundtrack CD. This is a welcome extra as I love the score to this film with its strange ethnic origins and western influenced hip hop beats. Nice stuff.
So there you have it, this is one packed out DVD boxset and is worthy of your money.
VerdictThe movie is stunningly realistic, intense and harrowing. The picture is reference quality and the DTS soundtrack is downright frightening. This R3 edition IS the definitive version of the movie and features some stunning extras as well as a free CD soundtrack for the movie. Highly, highly recommended.
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