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Ultra HD : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: November 7th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2001

Black Hawk Down - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Limited Edition SteelBook

Overview -

“It’s just war” - Ridley Scott’s kinetic examination of soldiers under fire, Black Hawk Down returns to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for a brand new three-disc SteelBook release. Now offered with Dolby Vision HDR and a slightly higher bitrate, an already excellent A/V presentation gets a little better for this outing. Maybe not enough for a double dip, but for those still needing it in the collection - Highly Recommended

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. 

BLACK HAWK DOWN stars an exceptional cast including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor and Eric Bana. 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.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Both Theatrical and Extended Versions
Video Resolution/Codec:
HDR10 / Dolby Vision HDR
Length:
152
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.40:1
Audio Formats:
English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Compatible) | English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Release Date:
November 7th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Between our reviews from Peter Bracke and Mr. E. Duarte, I don’t have much to add for Ridley Scott’s locked-and-loaded combat epic Black Hawk Down. I admire the film’s frenetic kinetic adrenalin-fueled combat sequences. Still, I’m also not altogether blind to the film’s fictionalized retelling of events and the relatively thin characterizations of the soldiers. The film's Extended Cut plays a bit better in that regard filling in some nice character beats, but not enough to really dig deep for thoughtful examinations and ruminations on soldiering and war or the Somali conflict.

But then I don't think that was ever the point. I do appreciate the film’s intentions for aiming to show the brotherhood of combat, but that’s also a theme we’ve seen in other (and better) war films for many years now. It’s not a film that I’d say I enjoy so much as respect for its technical prowess and Scott’s execution, but also as a product of the post-9/11 era (even if it was made prior to those tragic events). For me, it’s hard to shake the raw emotions of that time and the power of seeing the film in theaters. It's still a visceral experience to this day. I appreciate what the film accomplished but as for a lasting cinematic legacy, I’m undecided. 

For other takes on the film, read our previous coverage:



Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

Black Hawk Down attacks 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray for the second time with a new three-disc SteelBook plus digital release from Sony. The 4K is pressed on a new Region Free BD-100 disc with the same Blu-ray discs offering up the 1080p version and the bonus features. On top of getting a new BD-100 disc, the main menu thankfully drops the old “scrolling” nonsense of Sony’s first 4K discs and gets right back to a simple main menu with standard navigation options.

Video Review

Ranking:

As Sony has been on a mission to upgrade all of their earliest 4K releases to Dolby Vision, we see yet another impressive but only nominally improved release with Black Hawk Down. The HDR10 grade of the 2019 disc was already very good and a tough example to top. The Dolby Vision grade offers up some improved visuals in black levels and spectral highlights while giving a little more care and attention to the heavily stylized color scheme. Details are pretty damn close to identical between both discs, film grain is still very present (as it always has been) but it does appear a little more refined. Eating up a few extra gigs of disc space, the average bitrate picks up a few extra MBPS to ease the compression. Not astronomically higher, but enough to help this gritty actioner look a stitch better. If you’re happy with the HDR10 disc, this may not be enough of an improvement to punch the double-dip button (between DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K, this will be my fifth round for this film) but for first-timers for 4K, it’s certainly the better option.

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio side, we see the same excellent Dolby Atmos audio mix from before zip back into action. It’s a hell of a track. To that end, I’ll let Mr. E.’s assessment stand pat. 

All-out war erupts on the screen thanks to a fantastically awesome Dolby Atmos soundtrack that, while providing a noteworthy improvement over its uncompressed PCM counterpart, doesn't quite compare to some of the more aggressive and consistently active object-based tracks currently available. 

Nevertheless, we're talking about an action-packed war movie that more than satisfies where it counts and is sure to give everyone's sound system a great workout. Battle sequences are layered with a medley of chaotic noises spreading into pretty practically every corner of the room, placing viewers right smack in the center of the terrifying fracas. Debris often comes showering from above and landing all around, bullets whizz by in every direction and overhead the listening area, helicopter blades fill the entire room with surprising realism, and the echoes of screams ring everywhere, surrounding the listener with the mayhem of war, a bedlam of confusion and utter pandemonium. 

Still, a good portion of the story is a character-driven drama with priority given to the soft-spoken dialogue and various conversations, along with the constant yelling and screaming. The loudest, most turbulent sequences maintain superb clarity thanks to a remarkably sharp and detailed mid-range. The front soundstage feels broad and spacious with a great sense of presence, as an assortment of noises fluidly pans between all three channels and into the front heights, creating a highly-engaging half-dome environ. The swarming, busy commotion of the Somalian city fills the sides and rears, but the chaotic anarchy of war envelops the listener with the cries of wounded soldiers, bullets ricocheting everywhere and the blasts of gunfire in the distance, generating an awesomely immersive 360° soundfield. 

As would be expected from a war movie, a thunderous, authoritative low-end provides a robust, wall-rattling impact and presence to every explosion, sure to disturb the neighbors. But this sound design holds a special place in the hearts of bassheads everywhere because one scene, in particular, has served as the go-to demo clip for showcasing the capabilities of one's subwoofer. The "F**king Irene!" scene — just a little after the 37-minute mark — remains an awesome, room-pressurizing listen, reaching down to 5Hz with serious decibels, which could potentially ruin a sub while the majority of other subs don't even know it's there (bass chart). In either case, the object-based presentation is simply fantastic. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 94/100)

Special Features

Ranking:

Given that all of the extra features have been relegated to the included 1080p disc and bonus features disc, we’re getting the exact same excellent extra content. That also means the frustrating trend of the audio commentaries for the theatrical cut only arriving on the included Blu-ray disc. That frustration aside, you never want to miss a Ridley Scott audio commentary and all of the excellent archival features are well worth the time if you haven't gone through them before already. 

Blu-ray Disc

  • Audio Commentary featuring Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer. T
  • Audio Commentary featuring Mark Bowden & screenwriter Ken Nolan
  • Audio Commentary featuring Task Force Ranger Veterans.
  • The Essence of Combat (HD, 151 min): Exhaustive six-part documentary on the production.

Bonus Features Disc

  • The History Channel: The True Story of Black Hawk Down (SD, 92 min).
  • Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu (SD, 55 min).
  • Black Hawk Down "On the Set" (SD, 24 min).
  • Designing Mogadishu (SD, 13 min).
  • Q&A Forums (SD, 11 min):
    • BAFTA
    • Editor's Guild
    • American Cinematheque
  • Ridleygrams with Commentary (SD, 7 min).
  • Target Building Insertion (SD, 6 min).
  • Jerry Bruckheimer's On-Set Photography (SD, 6 min).
  • Invisible Design/Title Exploration (SD, 4 min).
  • Music Video (SD, 4 min). 
  • Deleted & Alternate Scenes (SD, 20 min) with optional commentary track
  • Still Galleries (HD).
  • Trailers (HD).

Neither the greatest war epic nor the worst, Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down is nonetheless an impressive technical accomplishment throwing audiences into the heat of hyper-realistic combat recreations. While the film may be thin on story or character, it remains a visceral exciting experience 21 years later. Sony gives Scott’s combat epic another mission on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offering up a new SteelBook as well as a newly encoded Dolby Vision transfer. The margins for improvement may be thin, the 2019 disc is still excellent, but newcomers to the format will definitely want to aim for this release for the exciting visuals, audio, and archival extra features. Highly Recommended