Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Black Hawk Down, a powerful war drama that tells the true story of 160 elite U.S. soldiers that were dropped into Somalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures – 2001
MPAA Rating: R/Unrated
Feature running time: 144/152 minutes
Disc Format: BD-100
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Eric Bana, Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Written by: Ken Nolan Based on the Book by Mark Bowden
Region Code: A,B,C
Release Date: May 7, 2019
“From acclaimed director Ridley Scott (The Martian) and renowned producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pearl Harbor) comes the gripping true story about bravery, camaraderie and the complex reality of war.” – Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
In 1993, an elite group of American Rangers and Delta Force soldiers are sent to Somalia on a critical mission to capture a violent warlord whose corrupt regime has led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. When the mission goes quickly and terribly wrong, the men find themselves outnumbered and literally fighting for their lives.
Black Hawk Down needs no introduction among cinephiles and is a landmark film that bristles with emotion, making it a powerful and gripping war drama that fires on all cylinders. I have seen it numerous times and, have owned it on home video since its release. It’s not one of those films that you reach for often because its subject matter can at times be difficult to watch but, once you dive in, you’re in.
Black Hawk Down relies heavily on its cast, setting and music score, all of which serve to empower its dramatic punch and none fall short of the task. The primary cast, comprised of Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, and Ewen McGregor are solid. The remaining members of the cast, from Sam Shepard, Jason Issacs, Ewen Bremner and a very young Tom Hardy, right down to George Harris’ small but, no less powerful turn as Atto, are every bit as vital to the proceedings. Director Ridley Scott handles every scene with just the right touch of emotional balance and thematic depth.
I sat and took it in with my wife. The two plus hour runtime went by very quickly, absorbing us with its gripping drama, engaging action and palpable subject. By the time the credits rolled we were emotionally drained and thoroughly satisfied by a rewarding film experience. Despite how long its been since I last saw Black Hawk Down it’s a film beset by memorable moments that won’t be forgotten.
The film contains intense graphic war violence and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
UHD Presentation: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- HDR: Dark Highlights:
- HDR: Bright Highlights:
- HDR: Expanded Color:
- Visual Impact:
Dolby Atmos Rating: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Level of immersion:
- Soundstage integration:
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- Effectiveness of Atmos platform:
- Entertainment factor:
Black Hawk Down comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.
Black Hawk Down (both the theatrical and extended cut) recently underwent a 4K re-mastering under the supervision of director Ridley Scott and, its presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray was derived from that process. It’s important to note that the ultimate goal for any release on home video is to present a film in the highest possible quality based upon its original elements. A film like Black Hawk Down has an aesthetic that incorporates film grain and the use of cinematography that won’t result in the type of high gloss, tack-like sharpness of many newer films shot today. This isn’t a problem and shouldn’t be seen as such.
This is a contemporary war drama and stylized film that strives to recreate the look and feel of director Ridley Scott’s vision. Epic in both narrative and scope, that vision comes through in this Ultra HD presentation. With a discernible increase in detail and dimension the image appears more vivid and lifelike when compared to the 1080p version, which is excellent in its own right. This rendering takes the faithful reproduction on Blu-ray to the next level. Black Hawk Down has never made for an overtly commanding visual experience on home video but, that was always a given determined by Slawomir Idziak’s terrific cinematography and the elements necessary to convey the film’s somber, dark tone.
I am happy to report that its primary foundation remains fully intact while revealing layers of seemingly new levels of detail, definition, color delineation, and emboldened contrast that elevate its thematic impact. The opening sequence with its dreary aesthetic, teal cast and gritty image captures the visceral nature of the subject matter. The image comes alive afterward as the sun-drenched landscapes deliver gorgeous vistas via the natural rendering of light and its discernible stages and incremental highlights.
On the flip side, dark elements mixed with bright highlights simply look terrific, revealing deep rich blacks and delineated shadows. When night falls, the battle sequences show off the presentation’s superb application of high dynamic range. The film’s plethora of close up camera angles reveal oodles of detail. At times the level of minutia is excellent, making even the finest nuance in facial features, clothing, sets, and props resolvable. Grain remains intact, with a filmic essence that underscores the thematic content. The color range in the film is limited but, the rendering of primary colors is gratifying and contrastingly vivid. I also found that fleshtones appeared gradational and quite natural.
I have always found Black Hawk Down to be quite impressive in 1080p. I found that the Ultra HD presentation allows its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Video enthusiasts are sure to appreciate it.
In listening to the Dolby Atmos soundtrack, I was pleased with how the mix was handled. The use of overhead sound objects elevates proportional correlation. When compared to the original 5.1 track the Atmos mix offers a noticeable improvement by opening up the soundstage, elevating the perception of low-level detail and seemingly offering broader dynamic range. Hans Zimmer’s music score invigorates the extended sound field as its presence underscores the storyline.
The film is loaded with atmospherics, off screen cues and discrete sound effects that when applied using the freedom of object-based placement adds an enriching layer to the soundtrack. This is noticeable beginning with the infamous “Irene” sequence, with noteworthy examples being found throughout (the nighttime battle sounds incredible). As good as the original lossless mix is, the Atmos mix adds a complimentary layer that brings the listening experience to new heights.
For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:
- Disc 1: Black Hawk Down (Theatrical and Extended cut) Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Disc 2: Black Hawk Down Blu-ray
- Disc 3: Bonus Disc Blu-ray
o Theatrical Version of the Film (Blu-ray)
o Audio Commentary by Director / Producer Ridley Scott & Producer Jerry Bruckheimer
o Audio Commentary by Author Mark Bowden & Screenwriter Ken Nolan
o Audio Commentary by Task Force Ranger Veterans
o “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down” Documentary
o The History Channel® Presents: “The True Story of Black Hawk Down”
o PBS Presents: “Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu”
o 8 Deleted & Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary
o “Designing Mogadishu” Featurette
o Production Design Archive
o Storyboards with Optional Commentary
o Ridleygrams with Optional Commentary
o Target Building Insertion: Multi-Angle Sequence with Optional Commentary
o Q&A Forums: BAFTA. Motion Picture Editor’s Guild & American Cinematheque
o Jerry Bruckheimer’s BHD Photo Album
o Title Design Explorations with Optional Commentary
o “Gortoz A Ran – J’Attends” Music Video performed by Denez Prigent & Lisa Gerrard
o Photo Galleries
o Theatrical Poster Concepts
o Trailer & TV Spots
- Digital Copy
Black Hawk Down needs no introduction among cinephiles and is a landmark film that bristles with emotion, making it a powerful and gripping war drama that fires on all cylinders. It’s making its debut on Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment that features beautifully restored Ultra HD video, a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and legacy bonus content. If you’re a fan and are equipped to take advantage of the audio/video upgrades, this release is highly recommended.
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Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems