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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/25/03

Black Hawk Down
Deluxe Edition - 2002 (2003) - Columbia TriStar

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition Film Rating: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A+/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One - Black Hawk Down
144 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at ??), Digipak packaging, audio commentary with director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, audio commentary with author Mark Bowden and screenwriter Ken Nolan, audio commentary with Task Force Ranger veterans, filmographies, animated film themed menu screens with sound and music, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English, French & Spanish (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Chinese & Thai, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - Production Supplements
Single-sided, dual-layered, The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down documentary (150 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), 8 deleted and alternate scenes with optional director's commentary, Designing Mogadishu featurette (15 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), production design archive, storyboards with optional director's commentary, "Ridleygrams" with optional director's commentary, Jerry Bruckheimer's photo album, title design explorations with optional commentary, photo galleries, animated film themed menu screens with sound and music, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish, Portuguese and Korean

Disc Three - Historical Supplements
Single-sided, dual-layered, The True Story of Black Hawk Down History Channel documentary (100 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu documentary (60 mins, 4x3, DD 2.0), mission timeline, Target Building Insertion multi-angle sequence with optional director's commentary, Q&A featurettes with production team members at BAFTA, Motion Picture Editor's Guild and American Cinematheque, Denez Prigent & Lisa Gerrard's Gortoz a Ran - J'Attends music video, theatrical poster concept gallery, theatrical trailers and TV spots, animated film themed menu screens with sound and music, languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: Spanish and Korean

In October of 1993, CNN gave us all a window seat on one of the (then) most disturbing moments of recent history. As we sat transfixed in our homes, the bodies of American military soldiers were dragged through the streets by an angry group of men, women and children. Author Mark Bowden saw these events too, and wanted to know more about what lead up to them. The story he uncovered became the basis of a bestselling, non-fiction page-turner... and eventually this film as well.

Black Hawk Down is the story of the ambush of U.S. military soldiers in Mogadishu. It doesn't try to point figures, or even turn American soldiers into heroes. It simply tells the truth (although sometimes with Hollywood flourish) about the events of October, 1993. It seems that several teams of soldiers were attempting to capture a militia warlord, who had been stealing shipments of food aid from the U.N. - food meant to ease widespread starvation deaths and political unrest in the region. But through a series of tactical mishaps during the raid, a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, leading to an unfortunate change of mission and a horrifying night of bullets, blood and grief.

Groundbreaking director Ridley Scott joined uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring the story of this remarkable day to life on screen, and it's thrilling to watch. The film moves with break-neck speed from start to finish. Because it's thankfully not a preachy "America Rocks" type of film, it doesn't get bogged down with politics. This is all about a group of men who were doing their jobs... and ended up fighting for their lives.

This three-disc special edition DVD features a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen transfer, replete with great color and sharp detail. Scott is a painter of light and motion, and this is one of his most beautiful films in a long time. Backing up the video is a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound field that pulls you right into the film and never lets go with amazingly active surround sound.

But the extras on this release are what really make it a must own set. To start, you'll find no less than three full-length audio commentary tracks on Disc One. The first is with Scott and Bruckheimer, discussing the film in-depth. Recorded separately, each talks about what brought them to the film, what they were attempting by making the film and the effect the filming had on the public, considering the historical event was still so fresh in people's minds. The next track features author Mark Bowden and screenwriter Ken Nolan. They talk about the story like old chums, bringing up the differences between the script and the reality, and what subtle changes were necessary in order to convey the story cinematically. Finally, and perhaps the most interesting of the three, there's a commentary with several of the original Task Force Ranger veterans involved in the real events. They dissect the film between fact and fiction, and share their own stories and memories about the events. It's really amazing stuff.

On the second disc, which mainly looks at the production of the film, there's a two and a half hour documentary - The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down - covering just about every aspect of the production of the film you could fathom. Some of this is more interesting than the film itself. Disc Two also houses a nice selection of deleted scenes, "Ridleygrams" (Scott's own hand drawn storyboards) and photo galleries (among other things). The second disc alone is packed with great material, and we still have one more disc to go.

The third and final disc tries to bring the true events into perspective. Two documentaries originally produced for television appear here. The first is The History Channel's The True Story of Black Hawk Down, which recreates the events through background information from Bowden, interviews with the soldiers and re-enactments. Then, we get the PBS documentary Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu, which has a more news story approach but is just as fascinating. Disc Three also features a text based Mission Timeline of the events, and a multi-angle sequence showing you how Scott shot a complicated scene involving the soldiers dropping from a helicopter. On top of all this, three question and answer sessions (recorded at various special screenings of the film), trailers, TV spots, poster concepts and a music video round out the bonus material on this last disc.

The Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition is, without a doubt, one of the most comprehensive explorations of the making of a film, and the real life events that inspired it, to find its way to DVD in a long time. In fact, it's easily the best DVD release of the year thus far. Any way you categorize it, the Black Hawk Down: Deluxe Edition demands the attention of every self-respecting movie fan.

Todd Doogan
[email protected]

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