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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Black Hawk Down (Superbit) (2001)

"No one gets left behind."
- Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison (Sam Shepard)

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: October 28, 2004

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard
Other Stars: Ron Eldard, Jeremy Piven
Director: Ridley Scott

MPAA Rating: R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence and for language
Run Time: 02h:24m:12s
Release Date: June 15, 2004
UPC: 043396067158
Genre: war

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Watching Black Hawk Down in 2004, it's easy to mistake the Somalia setting for one of the current hotspots burning out of control in Iraq. And it's even easier to draw parallels between our humanitarian mission 11 years ago and the military quagmire we face today. Forget such physical similarities as the desert backdrop, the underdeveloped nation, and the enemy's barbaric actions. What really hits home is the mission gone awry, poor contingency planning, desperate rebels who resent American involvement in their affairs, and senseless casualties on both sides. Although director Ridley Scott chronicles a specific incident in American military history, his riveting film will remain topical and relevant as long as our country continues to brazenly police the globe.

Like Iraq, we sent troops to Somalia in 1993 to depose a hated despot—General Muhammad Farrah Aidid, a corrupt warlord who manipulated African famine to subdue and weaken the Somali people. And, like Iraq, we arrived with a naïve sense of altruism, overestimating our success rate and underestimating resistance. As one Somali rebel tells a captured American in the film, "Do you really think that if you get General Aidid, we will put down our weapons and adopt American democracy?" Obviously, we did and still do. Today, Saddam Hussein sits in prison, yet Iraqi rebels refuse to lay down their arms and embrace democratic beliefs—and a change of heart seems far from imminent.

Black Hawk Down could have been (and maybe should have been) a primer studied by military personnel before we invaded Iraq. Hindsight is always 20/20, but fewer clear-cut instances of life imitating art or history repeating itself exist. Yet astounding similarities aside, Scott's film stands on its own as a stinging indictment of America's savior mentality, and a powerful and disturbing depiction of the chaos, fear, and confusion that defines modern war. Split-second decisions and reactions cost or save lives, but amid the commotion and danger, an inspiring sense of brotherhood prevails. "Leave no man behind" is hardly an empty mantra—the men of the U.S. Rangers and Delta Force adhere to it with every fiber of their being, and it imbues them with enviable courage and fortitude.

The film shows how a 30-minute mission evolves into a 24-hour ordeal when rebels shoot down a Black Hawk helicopter in a hostile section of Mogadishu during a U.S. attempt to apprehend two top-level advisors to General Aidid. Outnumbered by swarms of Somali rebels and angry city residents who descend on the wreckage like locusts, a smattering of U.S. soldiers try to rescue their wounded, recover their dead, and escape the encroaching stampede. Chief among them is Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann (Josh Hartnett), an idealist who wants to "make a difference," and one of the few who believes in America's Somali agenda. An array of excellent actors portray his comrades, including Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Ron Eldard, and Jeremy Piven. Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison (Sam Shepard) oversees the mission and watches in horror when disaster strikes.

Natural, intense performances enhance the film, but the real star of Black Hawk Down is Ridley Scott. Like an intrepid journalist on the ground with the troops, he avoids any flashy technique and lets the story tell itself. The result is unflinching realism with only a handful of the cinematic distractions that often sabotage the war movies of other, less disciplined directors. As the forces prepare for the mission, Scott weaves an atmosphere of impending doom that mushrooms into confusion and fear when plans go awry. He then thrusts viewers into the third-world grime of Mogadishu and the chaos of combat—we follow right behind the soldiers as they dodge hostile fire and dart for cover, experience the stomach-churning dread as the barbaric mob approaches, and anxiously await a rescue that seems forever delayed. When the mission finally ends, the audience feels as drained and shell-shocked as the soldiers.

Scott resists sentimentality, yet still transmits a strong sense of the fraternal ties binding the troops. And it's that underlying emotion, along with the political issues of global meddling and nation-building that make Black Hawk Down much more than a typical battleground saga, and one of the finest war films in recent memory.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Black Hawk Down is a perfect candidate for a Superbit upgrade, and the spotless transfer takes advantage of the format's enhancements. Clarity is flat-out superb, with vivid details like glistening sweat, stubbly beards, and grainy sand making viewers feel as if they're fighting alongside the soldiers. The graphic violence also possesses newfound immediacy and realism, and though the color palette is limited, hues are rich and vibrant. Fleshtones remain natural and stable throughout, and both shadow detail and contrast earn high marks. This is another exceptional Superbit effort from Columbia.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: In addition to the standard DD 5.1 track available on other editions of Black Hawk Down, this Superbit release boasts a welcome DTS track that might just nudge the film's hardcore fans to upgrade. Both options offer amazing audio, but DTS is the clear choice for sonic connoisseurs. This may not be the most active DTS track I've heard, but details shine across the board. The whirring of helicopter blades, the pop and crackle of gunfire, rumbling explosions, footsteps on the dusty pavement—all are brilliantly rendered and add tremendous atmosphere to the film. Directionality is distinct and immersive, with 'copters, bullets, and a host of ambient sounds spread across all five speakers. Subtle bass frequencies heighten dramatic impact but never distract, and dialogue is always easily comprehendible, even when it's a minor component in a scene.

The DD 5.1 track is also rich and full, but doesn't approach the same crisp, nuanced levels. It still provides excellent audio, but on a less dynamic scale.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Typical of the Superbit line, no extras are included, as disc space is designated solely for audio and visual quality.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Black Hawk Down searingly depicts a rough episode in American military history and draws spooky parallels to the current Iraqi debacle. Raw, intense, yet marked by subtle, often powerful emotion, this stirring Ridley Scott film will undoubtedly become a modern war classic. The Superbit image and audio transfers put viewers in the thick of the action and make this acclaimed movie more engrossing than ever. Highly recommended.


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