Black Hawk Down – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Black Hawk Down
Release Date: 2001
Ratings: R / UNRATED
Runtimes: 144 minutes / 152 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Formats Available: 4K UHD Blu-ray | Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 5/7/19
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell, Jeremy Piven, Ron Eldard, Jason Isaacs, Kim Coates, Sam Shepard, Ewen Bremner, Hugh Dancy, Ian Virgo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Steven Ford, Brian Van Holt
Jump to Sections: Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs can be found at the very bottom.
“Black Hawk Down” – based on an actual event – was a 2001 film directed and produced by Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott, a true modern filmmaking legend, is best known for directing films such as “Alien“ (1979), “Blade Runner“ (1982), “Gladiator“ (2000), “Hannibal“ (2001), and “The Martian“ (2015) – all of which are now available on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format.
The film was based specifically on the book (“Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War”) written by Mark Bowden. The screenplay adaptation of the book was written by Ken Nolan, also known for writing the screenplay adaptation for the film “Only the Brave” (2017). The film also was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, best known for producing films like “Top Gun” (1986), “Bad Boys” (1995), “Crimson Tide” (1995), “The Rock” (1996), “Con Air” (1997), and “Pearl Harbor” (2001).
This, known as the Battle of Mogadishu, all was a military procedure gone wrong that involved two black hawk helicopters crashing while the U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force were attempting to capture a self-proclaimed leader in Mogadishu, Somalia. The battle took place on October 3rd, 1993 and lasted into the next day. The soldiers would end up having to stand off against the fighters until they could get evacuated safely out. This is in no way a “spoiler” to tell you this, as this was all was a real-life event, somewhat covered on the news. For that very reason, I’m not going to go into real detail about this film’s plot and such and instead let you just enjoy it for what it is, if you haven’t already seen it. Chances are though, most of you have already seen this 2001 film.
The film itself included an incredible cast of talented actors like Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Orlando Bloom, Ron Eldard, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Kim Coates, Ty Burrell, Tom Hardy, and Jeremy Piven – to just mention a few. This new release of the movie includes both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, both on the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc. “Black Hawk Down” is one of the most impressive modern war films out there and is highly respected by most all fans of cinema.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
The movie comes to 4K UHD Blu-ray presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, just as it was previously on the original 2006 Blu-ray release and during its theatrical run. The movie was shot on 35MM film using the Super 35 cinematographic process with Arriflex 35-IIC, Arriflex 435 ES, Moviecam Compact, and Moviecam SL cameras, according to IMDb’s technical specifications.
This transfer comes with a beautifully consistent amount of film grain and an abundance of detail, especially in comparison to that 2006 Blu-ray. The Blu-ray couldn’t handle this film grain and detail so much due to compression and it resulted in a softer look with grain sometimes almost turning into block noise. Now, on 4K, this is sharp and the film grain always manages to stay visible. This hits some video bitrates as high as 100Mbps using the HEVC on 4K. Be warned though that this [in 4K] is more graphic than it was in just HD back on Blu-ray Disc. Now, with the new 4K presentation you’ll see at times a large amount of detail and at times it can be a bit unsettling for some viewers, but that’s what military conflicts are like.
Keep in mind that the Blu-ray used the ancient MPEG-2 codec, whereas this new 4K release is using the HEVC (high-end video codec) and running bitrates much higher, as discussed. This film on 4K is finally able to display all of the detail that was there all along now being on a BD-100 with the film using near 70GB for each version (via seamless branching).
The use of real aircraft – namely the black hawk helicopters – and attention to realism has really the chance to show off now in 4K. The slight visual effects that were added in post-production look really good and don’t appear dated at all. It all looks very impressive, with the explosions and gunfire all throughout. It’s rough visually in terms of its style but it comes with pretty damn crisp picture quality and immense clarity. One of the most impressive things I noticed more here in 4K than I ever did on Blu-ray was the amount of sweat that you find on people’s faces able to appear finally as it is glistening with a perfect amount detail on stuff beard stubble and even at times on hair strands.
This release contains a visual presentation that is the best this film has looked ever looked on home video. “Black Hawk Down” on 4K for sure reference material, especially for a catalog title. Sony continues to impress me and others with their catalog 4K titles. It should come as no surprise that this release earns a perfect video quality rating.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in Dolby Atmos, with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core for those without the proper equipment to decode Atmos as well as DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. There’s also a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix included as an option. I’m always a fan of a release including both Dolby and DTS for comparison purposes. This type of thing used to be common on the DVD format but hasn’t even been that often seen on Blu-ray, let alone on 4K releases.
This new Dolby Atmos mix is one huge improvement over the uncompressed LPCM 5.1 that the original 2006 Blu-ray included. The mix is downright intense as all hell, with the sounds of helicopter rotor blades roaring from the height speakers and leaving you feeling right there in the middle of it all. There’s a room-shaking amount of bass present all throughout the film (via the subwoofer) from the very opening all the way up to the action-packed latter half.
Gunfire sounds threatening as the bullets seem to be whizzing past you in the surround rear channels as well as echoing nicely through the height speakers. Explosions sound downright massive. It’s all so very convincing and much more intense than the previous lossless 5.1 mix on Blu-ray ever was. The helicopters sound tremendously realistic all throughout, as even flyovers make use of the height speakers in the Atmos mix to feel right overhead.
Dialogue can go from being normal chatting during a few opening scenes to downright screaming in the battlefield. Regardless of the situation, the dialogue exchanges are all mixed clearly into the center channel. I found I had to make no volume adjustment here at my typical reference level. The music composed by Hans Zimmer sounds absolutely marvelous here going from being a more African sound that’s almost hypnotic to downright intense. The score really benefits from now having an Atmos mix, even making nice use of even the height speakers. Most of the music though, admittedly, comes from the front left and right channels, as well as the rear channels and the bass, is emphasized heavily via the subwoofer.
Simply put, this Atmos mix is downright loud as hell and it’s one of the most impressive I’ve heard for a catalog military film. This is right up there with the Atmos found on “Saving Private Ryan” on 4K, one of my personal favorite war films on the format, in terms of sound quality and definitely is pure demo material from start to finish.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically included on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film is included via Movies Anywhere which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes and VUDU. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed.
- A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included as well as a second “Bonus Disc” described below.
The majority of the bonus materials are found on the “Bonus Disc” (2nd) Blu-ray Disc. No audio commentary tracks are included on the 4K disc, sadly. The audio commentaries are still housed on that original 2006 Blu-ray first disc. These are all presented in Standard Definition (SD) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound (@192kbps).
The first Blu-ray Disc includes:
Commentaries, which consists of the following audio commentary tracks only for the theatrical version of the film (on the Blu-ray):
Audio commentary by Author Mark Bowden and Screenwriter Ken Nolan
Audio commentary by Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Director Ridley Scott
Audio commentary by U.S. Special Forces Veterans ’93
The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down Documentary (2:31:20 – SD) is split up into six sections but you can use a play all function to watch it as a documentary. The six sections include Getting It Right, Crash Course, Battlefield: Morocco, Hymn to the Fallen, Digital Warriors, and After Action Report. In this documentary you get interviews with Ridley Scott (Director/Producer), Mark Bowden (Author), Ken Nolan (Screenwriter), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Ewan McGregor (Grimes), Eric Bana (Hoot), Jason Isaacs (Steele), Orlando Bloom (Blackburn), Ian Virgo (Waddell), Gabriel Casseus (Kurth), Sam Shepard (Garrison), Josh Hartnett (Eversmann), Hugh Dancy (Schmid), Jeremy Piven (Walcott), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Gordon), Johnny Strong (Shughart), Ron Eldard (Durant), Brian Van Holt (Struecker), Harry Humphries (Military Advisor/Associate Producer), Tom Sizemore (McKnight), Maj. Bill Butler (Public Affairs Officer, 75th Ranger Regiment), William Fichtner (Sanderson), Matthew Marsden (Sizemore), Michael Roof (Maddox), Billy Dowd (Extras Casting), Sammy Howarth-Sheldon (Costume Designer), Branko Lustig (Executive Producer), Steven Ford (Cribbs), Kim Coates (Wex), Tom Hardy (Twombly), Neil Corbould (Special Effects Supervisor), Phil Neilson (Stunt Co-ordinator), Hans Zimmer (Composer), David Jones (Visual Effects Supervisor – Asylum), Tim Burke (Visual Effects Supervisor – The Mill), SFC John Collett (Military Consultant), Col. Lee Van Arsdale (Military Consultant), Maj. Brian Bean (Task Force Operations Officer), Lt. Col. Kurt Potts (Task Force Commander), Col. Tom Matthews (Military Consultant), and the real First Sgt. Matt Eversmann. So, that’s to just name a majority of those interviewed and all apologies if I missed anyone. Just keep in mind though that the runtime for this is making of documentary is actually longer than the theatrical version of the movie itself! This is the definition of thorough in terms of a making-of style full-length feature – not a featurette. The author of the book (Bowden) first gives us backstory as to how he interviewed the real soldiers (mostly Rangers) that were involved in this actual event. He then discusses how he wrote it first into a newspaper series and then turned it into a book. In fact, it’s very interesting as learn that producer Bruckheimer actually bought the rights to the movie before the book itself had even been published. You get to see the boot camp and pilot training, from behind the scenes perspective in video clips, that the actors went through right before shooting the film. Next, there’s focus on shooting the film in Morocco to double as Mogadishu Somalia. Interesting fact: Ridley Scott also shot the film Gladiator (2000) in Morocco. There’s a whole lot of onset and even more behind-the-scenes footage found in the latter half of the documentary. The film’s composer Hans Zimmer chimes in, pun intended, later to discuss creating the beautiful subtle and intense musical score that fit the film ever so perfectly. You’ll get to see some footage of him working on the music with other musicians in the recording studio here. Next, comes some focus on all of the excellent visual effects that digitally were done on the film. Finally, things end on a somber note paying attention to the lives lost during this real-life military event. Shame on the major 24-hour news outlets for not giving this more coverage, as even numerous actors point out how little it was mentioned when it occurred.
“Blu-Wizard” was included on the Blu-ray which let you customize how you view special features by allowing you to make your own custom playlist. Once you create a playlist you can start watching the movie and it will come up as you’re watching and branch out into the featurette clips and such during certain times in the film. Sadly, you will, of course, have to watch the film in just HD and not 4K. Also, this does not use picture-in-picture (PIP) but instead just opens the video of the featurette/documentary. After each section plays it will go back to the point in the film where it had branched out from and continue playing.
The second Blu-ray Disc (“Bonus”) includes:
- “Black Hawk Down On the Set” (24:08 – SD) was made for TV to promote the film. This featured behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Ridley Scott (Director/Producer), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Josh Hartnett (Eversmann), Mark Bowden (Author), Col. Lee Van Arsdale (Co-Military Advisor), Eric Bana (SFC Hoot Gibson), Jason Isaacs (CPT Mike Steele), William Fichtner (SFC Jeff Sanderson), Ewan McGregor (SPC Grimes), Tom Sizemore (LTC Danny McKnight), Sam Shepard (MG William F. Garrison), Ken Nolan (Screenwriter), Arthur Max (Production Designer), Hugh Dancy (SFC Kurt Schmid), Orlando Bloom (PFC Todd Blackburn), Michael Roof (PVT Maddox), Brian Van Holt (SSG Jeff Struecker), Ron Eldard (CW3 Mike Durant), Major Brian Bean (Operations Officer, 160th SOAR), LTC Kirk Potts (Task Force Commander, 160th SOAR), and Col. Thomas Matthews (Co-Military Advisor). Some of these interviews are reused from the footage from the documentary found on the Blu-ray.
- “The History Channel: The True Story of Black Hawk Down“ (1:31:35 – SD) is the full TV episode which aired on History Channel. This proves to be very informative and is a must-watch.
- “Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu” (55:02 – SD) was an episode that originally aired on PBS. This is yet another must-watch and very informative.
- Questions & Answers Forums (10:25 – SD) has a play all function, however, consists of three different Q&A forums at BAFTA (London – 12/14/01), Editor’s Guild (Beverly Hills, CA. – 1/10/02), and American Cinematheque (Hollywood, CA. – 02/25/02). Andrew Collins hosts the BAFTA panel which included Ridley Scott (Director/Producer), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Mark Bowden (Author), Josh Hartnett (Eversmann), Ewan McGregor (Grimes), Jason Isaacs (Steele), and Col. Tom Matthews (Military Consultant). The Motion Picture Editor’s Guild panel was hosted by Bennett Goldberg which included the film’s editor Pietro Scalia. The American Cinematheque panel was hosted by Dennis Barton and included Ridley Scott (Director/Producer) and Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer).
- “Target Building Insertion (6 Angles)” with Commentary (5:44 – SD) focuses on a scene that comes late in the film and gives you up to six different angles to witness it from on one screen. This comes with audio commentary by Terry Needham (First Assistant Director).
- Deleted & Alternate Scenes (20:01 – SD) come with optional audio commentary by director Ridley Scott. These come with a play all function and eight scenes total. These all are incorrectly framed up with four black bars on all sides, as they do not display correctly in the widescreen aspect ratio that they were intended.
- Music Video – Denez Prigent & Lisa Gerrard – Grotoz A Ran – J’ Attends (3:54 – SD)
- Image & Design (29:31 – SD) has a play all function but is split up into individual sections of Designing Mogadishu, RidleyGrams (Ridley Scott’s Storyboards) with Commentary, Jerry Bruckheimer’s On-Set Photography, and Invisible Design/Title Exploration with Commentary. Here (across the featurettes) you will get interviews with Arthur Max (Production Designer), Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), and Flavio (KAMPAH) Compagnq.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:24 – SD) ironically is presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, while the film itself is in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This will fill the entire screen in this aspect, without the black bars at the top & bottom.
- Original TV Spots (6:35 – SD) have individual spots as options as well as the play all function.
- Photo Galleries are still images that you navigate through using the directional buttons on your remote. These consist of the following galleries:
- Production Photos (4:34 – SD) 275 images total.
- Production Design (2:30 – SD) 151 images total.
- Poster Explorations (1:08 – SD) 69 images total.
Overall the bonus materials here prove to be the most thorough that you could truly expect, totaling up to well over 6 hours in length with a making-of documentary that’s longer than the theatrical version of the film itself. Plus, there are two full episodes that aired on networks PBS and The History Channel as well as so much more. The only real downside here is that the three audio commentary tracks are sadly still housed on that original 2006 Blu-ray Disc release that is included. That means you can’t watch the film in 4K and hear the audio commentary, which is a tad bit disappointing considering most studios now include them on the 4K disc.
Aside from that slight flaw regarding the audio commentaries, this really proves to be a great set of extras, plus you get a digital copy of the film compatible with Movies Anywhere. There’s just about everything out there regarding Black Hawk Down the event and film included here. It’s everything but the kitchen sink, well, maybe it has the kitchen sink but it’s in the wrong room (on the wrong disc). I’m referring again to the audio commentary tracks being only on the damn Blu-ray. That’s enough to stop me from giving this a perfect rating for bonus materials. Just simply for not including the audio commentaries on the 4K disc, as it should be a “no brainer” to do so. Sorry, not sorry.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“Black Hawk Down” is easily one of the director Ridley Scott‘s finer films and one of the best modern war films made. The performances from the actors here and the amount of action are downright unforgettable, as well as at times very emotionally moving. The film is now approaching being almost two decades old but it stands up to the test of time and still proves to be just as enjoyable all these years later, especially when we can finally see in it in 4K and hear it with an incredible sound mix.
That said, this offers a video presentation in 4K that is the definition of “reference material” with so much film grain left intact, such newfound amounts of detail and just a very impressive visual improvement. The audio here in Dolby Atmos is downright loud as all hell, in a very good way, and will certainly leave you impressed. Lastly, there are over 6 hours of bonus materials found on this release and three audio commentary tracks that sadly are only included on the original Blu-ray. That choice to not include on the commentary tracks on the 4K disc is really the only downside to the extras here but all and all they should leave most everyone almost entirely happy with what they get.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials