Special Forces Blu-ray Review
Special Forces comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a very good video presentation in 1080p High Definition, framed in the movie’s original limited theatrical run aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is generally excellent throughout, with firm clarity, good fine object detail, and no signs of any digital defects or anomalies; no edge enhancement or overt excessive DNR issues. The movie has a very over-saturated look, and the colour scheme is dominated by the dusty oranges and browns of the desert, with some minor relief coming in the form of snow-topped mountain vistas. There are some vibrant greens thrown into the mix and the colours and skin tones are always well-represented even if they have been tinkered with. Black levels are reasonably strong and make for solid shadowing, although the night sequences are almost non-existent, with just a few moments spent looking at the troops fighting with night-vision-goggles. Overall it’s a very good video presentation that simply does not quite have the spark, sheen, depth and 3D pop to make it demo quality, but it’s not far off, and comes as really quite impressive for a movie with such a small budget.
Along with the decent video presentation we also have an equally good DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which gets off to a great start with the opening montage and its accompanying track and doesn’t ever really let off. Perhaps the only disappointment is that the majority of the music for the rest of the movie is generic and derivative – heavy rock beats laid across the action sequences and the usual trademark clichéd ‘ethnic’ music to remind you that we’re dealing with Arabs (sigh) – but that does not make the track itself any less impressive in terms of its presentation.
Dialogue is presented clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from across the fronts and centre tracks, and the aforementioned score provides a fair amount of material for the surrounds and LFE channel to play with. The effects are generally very well presented too, perhaps not quite on a Michael Bay scale of things, but that’s largely because these sound effects are generally much more authentic: suppressed handguns don’t sound silent as a whisper (you can still hear the thap thap of the slide going back and forth) and you can tell the difference between the light machine guns, the assault rifles and the machine pistols, even down to the different makes, with bullets whizzing around and impacts sounding, particularly in the surrounding environment, sounding genuine. Certainly the action scenes provide the most immersive all-engulfing moments in the piece, although there are also some great environmental moments where the harsh weather gets the better of the team. All in all a very good accompaniment that, with a few tweaks and a bit of refinement could have easily been demo quality.
Whilst not packed-to-the-brim with extra features, considering the limited budget and promotion of the piece it’s nice that we don’t have another bare bones release, instead having a couple of interesting background offerings – including a whopping, feature-length Documentary – as well as some extra scenes.
Making-Of runs at a feature-length hour-and-a-half in length and charts the 3 month shoot across 3 continents, the multi-cultural crew, the locations and difficult weather conditions, talking about the fact that they prided themselves on using no CG, no special effects, no body doubles and no ADR dubbing (although the last element seems hard to believe). Shot like a video-documentary, with a narration over the whole project, we get to experience much of what it was like to put this film together, scouting the locations, shooting the key scenes and tackling the difficulties they encountered along the way. It’s a fantastic documentary, both for fans of the movie and fans of filmmaking in general. (In French with English subtitles)
Marius: Expert Training is a brief 3 minute montage of real-life French Special Forces soldier Marius barking at his troops and putting them through their paces. We get tiny interview snippets interspliced with a few behind the scenes shots from the film as well as some final footage. Could have been longer. (In French with English subtitles)
Here we get a total of 5 minutes of extra scenes: a brief moment with the sniper on the run from pursuing forces; the team scouting out an encampment; a longer segment back at the Special Forces training camp with Marius barking orders; a glimpse at what actually happened in the hidden room during the opening credits assault; a jovial final moment with the soldiers on the mountain; and explosive stealth assault on the camp they came across; and a further panoramic look at the group huddled atop the hindu kush. There’s nothing particularly special here: a few nice beats; but it probably wouldn’t have harmed the film to have included the more explosive moments in the final cut. (In French with English subtitles)
Forces Spéciales is actually a surprisingly entertaining actioner which takes the 2003 Bruce Willis military action movie Tears of the Sun and does it French-style, transplanting the events to Pakistan, and following a French Special Forces unit on a mission to rescue a journalist from overwhelming Taliban forces.
With characters that, perhaps because they are largely played by less well-known actors, genuinely feel well-developed and distinctive, and military supervision by real-life French Naval Special Forces – who also lend the production an air of credibility (and a fair few combat vehicles to boot!) – Forces Spéciales is an efficient, engaging little movie. It may not be particularly groundbreaking, treading familiar territory in many respects, but it has a few nice twists along the way that, at the end of the day, still leave it feeling fairly fresh.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get good video and excellent audio, as well as a solid selection of accompanying extras. Fans should consider this a worthy release, and newcomers who are interested in any against-the-odds actioner, from 300 to Black Hawk Down to the obvious comparison, Tears of the Sun, should pick it up immediately. It’s at least worth a rental, and if this sounds like your kind of movie then you probably won’t be disappointed by a blind buy. In fact you may well be pleasantly surprised.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £19.99
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