Ridley Scott recreates a hellish vision of a US military campaign in Somalia that went badly wrong in "Black Hawk Down". The sheer amount of material on the two-disc DVD veers into overkill, but there are some definite highlights.
Picture The stylistic heavy saturation processed picture transfers to DVD with an impressive raw authority.
Sound An uncompromising 5.1 mix takes the speakers hostage and envelops you in close quarter combat effects that stun with ferocity and power.
DISC ONE SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary One Director Ridley Scott is joined by producer Jerry Bruckheimer for a dull commentary that's not nearly as interesting as Ridley's efforts on the "Gladiator" or "Hannibal" DVDs. Ridley always offers plenty of practical detail in his commentaries, and there's no shortage of it here. He also discusses the problems in compressing the story into a manageable length, and reducing 100 important characters down to 39, which is "37 more than is ideal". Bruckheimer chips in with comments on the real background to the story and the politics behind it all.
Audio Commentary Two Mark Bowden, author of the "Black Hawk Down" book, combines his thoughts on the movie with screenwriter Ken Nolan for a commentary track that's more interesting than the above effort. Bowden discusses the events that inspired him to write the book, while Nolan reveals he called up the studio once he'd read the book and said "I'll do anything, I'll wash Bruckheimer's car", if he could get to work on the script. Nolan had never even been on a film set before and his wide-eyed enthusiasm is still intact for the commentary, where he offers an enthusiastic account of the making of the movie, peppered with good impersonations of Ridley Scott.
Audio Commentary Three Here's the commentary track to go for if you want minimum bull. Five veterans of the campaign offer their perspective of what was clearly a frightening experience. The consensus is that the movie should give the audience a good feel for the lawlessness into which these soldiers were plunged. Amongst the serious chat, there are wry observations into what it was really like to be involved in this conflict. Comments like "See a burning tyre, go there because it means that something is going on", and "the national pastime was putting up roadblocks and shooting one another", sum up the situation well.
Additional Disc One Features Also included on disc one are cast and crew filmographies.
DISC TWO SPECIAL FEATURES
Getting it Right This 23-minute featurette covers the genesis of the film, from the coverage of the actual war situation to trying to create a movie from it. Cast and crew interviews offer thoughts on what they were trying to achieve.
Crash Course Watch half an hour of military advisor Harry Humphries putting the cast through a skilled training session, including weapons drills, room-clearing exercises, and other activities that you'd normally only see in a Chuck Norris "Delta Force" movie.
Battlefield Morocco It's another 30-minute featurette, and while the level of detail is good, the material in all these features could be edited into a killer hour-long documentary. There's a whole pile of behind-the-scenes location shooting, plus cast interviews on acting out the battle scenes.
Hymn to the Fallen This 17-minute featurette could be done in three to five minutes. It covers the recording of the Hans Zimmer score and includes footage of an orchestra being conducted in a frighteningly bad way.
Digital Warriors Here's a 23-minute look at the CGI effects of the movie, which are undoubtedly impressive in their realism. The breakdown of how the effects were achieved and where they were used is quite interesting, but this material could have been effectively combined with the location footage in 'Battlefield Morocco' and the 'Designing Mogadishu' featurette further on.
After Action Report In this 25-minute segment the worthiness of the whole project starts to become just a touch self-important as we get the final thoughts of the cast and crew on the film. Pertinent comments are to be found, but you have to wade through a lot of chatty flab to find them.
Designing Mogadishu Find out how the design team recreated Mogadishu in Morocco in a 13-minute featurette that has yet more behind-the-scenes footage to watch.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes There are seven deleted scenes along with an alternative ending. Ridley offers commentary for these and reveals that the original ending was dropped because he felt that it violated his first sin of filmmaking, "Thou shalt not bore". It's only a pity it wasn't applied to the extra materials on the DVD.
Additional Extra Features Also on the DVD are two storyboard galleries, 12 photo galleries, a production design archive, opening title explorations, and a Jerry Bruckheimer photo gallery featurette.
There's a wealth of material on this DVD release, but tighter editing would have separated out the self-congratulatory flab. If you're a fan of the movie, and confident with the fast-forward button you'll be able to find the good bits.
Ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Technical Features: Scene selection, animated menus, multiple languages and subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.
This DVD was reviewed on a JVC XV-S57 DVD player.