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Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag(2004)
A state-of-the-art, edge of your seat experience! Get in the cockpit with the world's best pilots to witness the most challenging flying of their careers... Follow a young U.S. pilot as he makes his way through Red Flag - the world's most intense, simulated air war, training event - where U.S. and international pilots, ground crews, mechanics and rescue personnel are taken to the limits of their endurance. Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag delivers speeds of up to 800 miles per hour with thundering, roaring, screaming sound and stunning aerobatics that will blow you away! Filmed over the Nevada desert with unprecedented access to military procedures, the film features an enormous armada of aircraft including four U.S. squadrons of F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Aggressors, Stealth F-117s, B-1B Lancers, B-2 Stealth bomber, C-17 Globemaster III, a U-2R and more...
For more about Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag and the Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray release, see Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray Review published by Lindsay Mayer on October 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Narrator: Michael Hanrahan
Director: Stephen Low
» See full cast & crew
Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray Review
Take flight in high definition!
Reviewed by Lindsay Mayer, October 14, 2008
Fighter Pilot, from Image Entertainment, places extreme emphasis on wowing the viewer with its sweeping imagery and roaring sound. Though it was released a mere three years ago, it feels like a throwback to the large format documentary subjects of the 1990s; relatively light on substance and heavy on sensory overload.
The subject of the 48 minute feature is played in a fairly straightforward manner. The Red Flag of the film's title refers to an intense, advanced training exercise for the air forces of allied nations, who convene over the deserts of Nevada especially for this event. The film is given a character to follow - one Captain John Stratton, flying an F-15 Eagle in the U.S. Air Force. Inspired by his grandfather's service in World War II, Stratton strives to become an air force pilot from a young age. It is within his F-15's cockpit that the viewer first experiences the dizzying soar of a fighter jet's take-off, headed for the tense training of Operation Red Flag.
The film is keen to show the viewer every component of this complex and highly choreographed course. The pilots themselves do not hog all the glory. Ground crew prep the jets for flight and ensure everything is in order before taking to the air. This includes "FOD walks" at the break of dawn to inspect the runway and clear it of any debris, even the smallest pebble, that could jam equipment or be sucked into jet engines and potentially kill the pilot. Mechanics work through the night testing and double-checking every component of equipment, submitting it to high scrutiny and stress tests. Rescue personnel have rigorous drills of their own; firefighters and paramedics practice crashed aircraft fire scenarios to ready themselves when saving an actual downed pilot.
Directing it all from a Boeing 767 is the sophisticated Airborne Warning and Control System, or AWACS. Keeping tabs on every aircraft in the exercise, including their distance, current path, nation of origin, and whether they are "friend" or "foe" within the exercise. The jets shoot off harmless flares as "ammunition," and the computer tracks the path of the proverbial gunfire, marking whoever is hit. Those "dead" individuals must then land and remove themselves from the action. Another facet of Red Flag is a survival mission, wherein a random pilot is plucked from the force and dropped in a wide open expanse, forcing him to rely on the minimum basic tools he carries with him on the jet. Meanwhile, a rescue team must track the "downed pilot" and find him before any hostile forces.
While Fighter Pilot is at its best when showing off the sights and sounds of breakneck aerobatics, the feature's subject matter leaves something to be desired. The ins and outs of orchestrating such a complex exercise as Operation Red Flag are covered in a fairly thorough fashion, but it's carried out in such a dry fashion as to be unengaging. Not helping the matter is Captain John Stratton himself; while he may be one heck of a pilot, his cardboard narration, as well as the filmmakers' lame attempt at characterization, is laughable. With IMAX being a niche format, this film has it doubly hard, as its appeal will likely be limited to military buffs and aircraft aficionados.
Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray, Video Quality
Encoded in VC-1 and averaging about 20 Mbps, Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag has the advantage of its IMAX filmstock to back up its good picture quality. Contrast is generally good, and what colors are present on the film's desert landscape are rendered realistically. Blue skies and golden mornings look especially vivid. Unsurprisingly, the standout segments are artificial ones - specifically the animated AWACS computer simulations. Blacks and shadow details are well depicted, and the bright flare of engine burners or practice "missile fire" pop without blooming. Not a stunning high definition presentation by any sense, Fighter Pilot still fares pretty well on Blu-ray, especially for a film who's strength is drawn from the size of its screen presentation.
Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray, Audio Quality
With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Fighter Pilot boasts a superb aural experience. Simply put, the roar of jet engines is incredibly impressive on a good 5.1 system. A rich soundscape engulfs the viewer, with aircraft surging well across the front and into the back. Narration and dialogue are kept to the center channel, but the ambient noise is where most of the experience is created. The rear channels help to flesh out the presentation, with everything from engine warm-ups to exploding lines of "enemy" tanks filling your home theatre space with a rather dramatic cacophony. To this end, the LFE channel gets a hefty workout lending ample boom and rush to the soundscape. Overall, Fighter Pilot's audio fits its subject matter to a tee, and takes it above and beyond!
Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray is provided with a sprinkling of supplemental features, good at least for a once-over. The standard definition Making Of is a 10 minute featurette that talks with director Stephen Low, who reveals some of the challenges of aerial filming, as well as within spaces like the cockpits of fighter jets. He also discusses the technique employed to bring humanity to the piece - creating a "character" out of a real air force captain. While the effort was admirable, the captain's lack of "charisma" on the screen honestly leads to more audience disconnection, in this reviewer's humble opinion. The Film Trivia Quiz contains 11 questions that act as a "pop quiz" for viewers after they finish the film. The multiple choice format is easy enough for anyone who paid mild attention to the feature. Learn More! is simply a text screen that gives web links for more information on the feature and its subject matter. About the Director is another text screen detailing the IMAX filming experience of director Stephen Low. Dynamic Connection is Image Entertainment's version of BD-Live, using software branded DynamicHD. Still a work in progress, the only viewable content was a write-up about MacGillivray Freeman Films. There is also an interactive section called the tuneHD.net Blu-ray Community, which is not yet active. It features (or will feature, to be more precise) many customizable settings like My TuneHD and the TuneHD Forum, Galleries, iTracks, MovieNights, and Games.
One of the most enjoyable features of this disc is the plethora of IMAX documentary film Trailers from the same production company - all presented in high definition. About 16½ minutes worth of trailers are provided in AVC with DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, including Coral Reef Adventure, Journey into Amazing Caves, The Magic of Flight, The Living Sea, Mystery of the Nile, Greece: Secrets of the Past, Hurricane on the Bayou, The Alps, Dolphins, and Super Speedway. The ample amount of IMAX eye candy makes one hope for eventual Blu-ray releases of all these titles, though Image Entertainment is well on its way so far.
Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A good many IMAX films exist simply to wow the audience with grand sweeping visuals and booming sound. Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag is one of these films - not necessarily is that a bad thing, either. Though it may have a limited appeal to fans of military aircraft, the film's grand high definition visuals and excellent, engulfing sound will be a fun diversion for most audiences. This is a good overall package from Image Entertainment, and I do hope that they choose to release more IMAX documentaries to Blu-ray in the near future.
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