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Black Hawk Down Collector’s Edition (2001) – DVD Review

Black Hawk Down Cover


Written by: Ken Nolan, based on the book by Mark Bowden
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, William Fitchner, Jason Isaacs


  • Running audio commentary by director/producer Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer
  • Running audio commentary by author Bowden and screenwriter Nolan
  • Running audio commentary by Task Force Ranger Veterans
  • Filmographies
  • DVD-ROM Weblinks
  • “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down” docu
  • Deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Scott
  • “Designing Mogadishu” featurette
  • Production design archive
  • Storyboards & Ridleygrams with optional commentary by artist Sylvain Despretz
  • Jerry Bruckheimer’s Black Hawk Down photo album
  • Title design explorations with optional commentary by graphic artist Flavio (Kampah) Campagna
  • Photo Galleries
  • “The History Channel Presents: The True Story of Black Hawk Down”
  • PBS Presents: “Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu”
  • Mission Timeline
  • Target Building Insertion: multi-angle sequence with optional commentary by first assistant director Terry Needham
  • Question and Answer Forums taped segments from BAFTA, the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild and American Cinematheque
  • “Gortoz A Ran-J’Attends” music video performed by Denez Prigent and Lisa Gerrard
  • Theatrical poster concepts

Released by: Columbia Tristar
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]America’s Delta Force, Army Rangers and the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) were sent to Mogadishu, Somalia by the Clinton Administration as “Peacekeepers” to help restore order to a country being ravaged by Mohammed Farrah Aidid and his militia. He and the militia were starving the people and using food as a weapon to keep hold of his power. The U.S. military forces pretty much had their hands tied during the entire operation. They went out on an operation to try to capture some of Aidid’s top officers. It is supposed to be a short one hour operation, but it turns out to be much more than that. When a Black Hawk helicopter gets shot down, the capture operation becomes a rescue/evacuation operation. The Clinton Administration, fearing an escalation, refuses to provide air support for the men left on the ground overnight in the middle of hostile territory. The men have to rely on each other to get themselves out and ensure that no man got left behind.

This movie is a really nice tribute to the men who lost their lives during this operation. It shows how pointless these “peacekeeping” missions really are. The men and women of the U.S. Military were slowly becoming the world’s police force, but they were not allowed to do everything that was necessary to obtain their objectives. Every aspect of this mission was flawed from the beginning. The biggest example of this is that the Rangers are trained to use the cover of night to attack by surprise, and this mission had little more than a couple of hours warning and it was supposed to go down in broad daylight.

The cast was well chosen for their roles. Josh Hartnett proves in this film that he can be an actor when he’s given a proper script and story to work with. But it’s not all about his character either. It is a nicely balanced ensemble cast and each of them pulls their own weight. The cinematography is beautiful and you are given the feel of how desperate Somalia was at this time in history. More than anything, though, this movie really made me mad at how cocky our government can be (and usually is) about their deployment of our military forces around the world. It does no good to have a military presence somewhere if you are going to leave them high and dry when the political shit hits the fan. The men and women of the U.S. military aren’t stupid and can tell when they being used as political pawns; it really has a negative effect on the morale of everyone on the ground.

Josh Hartnett in Black Hawk Down

To paraphrase from my review of the single disc edition of this movie, this is the DVD treatment that this movie deserved. Starting on Disc One, all three of the commentary tracks are stunning. The first commentary track with Scott and Bruckheimer has their comments edited together to form one track, however both of these gentlemen are old pros at recording these types of commentary tracks.

The second commentary is with Bowden and Nolan, providing insight into the story of how it was both written as a novel and then adapted into a screenplay. The third and final commentary is with a small group of men who lived through the real events. Their perspective on this movie and the event is what puts this DVD firmly in the must own category. I don’t believe that there has been a commentary that is this insightful and poignant on a DVD ever.

Mark Bowden talks Black Hawk Down

Rounding out the first disc are the cast and crew filmographies and DVD-ROM weblinks. Both of these are pretty common fare on DVDs now, and these are no exception.

Disc Two starts out with a series of documentaries titled “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down”. You have the option to Play All (which, according to the menu, runs two hours, thirty-one minutes), or you can view each one of the six shorter documentaries individually. These documentaries are comprehensive and cover everything about this movie from writing the story and recreating the characters to costumes to combat sequences, and everything in between. In short, it is nothing short of extraordinary. It has to be one of the most comprehensive documentary series on a DVD since the Director’s Cut of Pearl Harbor.

After digesting the information that you have just received, you move on to the eight deleted and alternate scenes. These are available both with and without audio commentary from Ridley Scott. I suggest watching these with the optional commentary because Scott has such a firm grasp on his film and its subject matter that his comments are invaluable. And, unlike most deleted scenes segments, it’s not always clear why the alternate was chosen or why they were removed from the film in the first place.

Black Hawk Down Mission Timeline

Rounding out disc two are seven segments of bonus material that fall under the “Image and Design” menu. All but one of them are pretty common in their presentation, however they are not common in the content. Most of the time with multi-disc sets, by the time you are halfway through the second disc, you begin to hear the same material over and over again covered by different people and in slightly different ways. That is not the case here…at least not yet. More on that in a second. Now, about the Ridleygrams. These are sketches made by Scott on the location to better explain his ideas about how a shot should look. You have two options with these. You can view these with storyboard comparisons for visuals and with optional commentary or the music track from the movie.

Disc Three begins with two rather strong documentary series which were originally aired on The History Channel and PBS. On the downside, this is where you start to see some of the information repeat itself. But, I’m willing to cut them a little slack since they are both covering the same real life event and facts are facts. These should also not be missed. The Mission Timeline is an amazing look at the events that took place complete with animated maps and a small screen with clips from the movie playing to let you know how they all fit in. This is a nice perspective on what these men were faced with on a minute by minute basis.

The Target Building Insertion Sequence is a look at some of the more difficult and dangerous shots that they achieved using multiple cameras. This lets you switch back and forth between these cameras to see how they composited the shots together. There are two audio options here as well allowing you to listen to the raw audio footage that was captured on those days or to a commentary track by Terry Needham. The availability of all of the options is what makes this such a stunning addition to the disc.

The Q&A forums are really good. There seems to have been very little editing done with these video clips of some of the cast and crew giving various interview segments with audiences at BAFTA, the Motion Picture Editors Guild and American Cinematheque. Interestingly enough, these Q&A sessions still manage to avoid the repetition of information. Almost all of the information that is presented is new and fresh and you have never heard it before on this DVD. That alone makes this DVD a stupendous feat. The last couple of features are pretty common fare. I will say that the music video that is on this set is one that really should be seen at least once. Normally, I’m not a fan of music videos on DVDs, but this is one that you probably would not have seen on MTV or VH1 a thousand times already. The music is haunting.

If you have seen the movie or already own the single disc edition of this movie, you will definitely want to sell it back to get this one. This is the definitive DVD release of this movie. Own it.

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