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A French journalist in Afghanistan is kidnapped by the Taliban.
For more about Special Forces and the Special Forces Blu-ray release, see Special Forces Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 8, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoît Magimel, Denis Menochet, Raphaël Personnaz, Mehdi Nebbou
Director: Stéphane Rybojad
» See full cast & crew
Special Forces Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 8, 2012
Stephane Rybojad's "Forces spéciales" a.k.a "Special Forces" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal. The supplemental features on the disc include a lengthy documentary feature; gallery of deleted scenes; and a short video interview with a French Marine. In French, English, and Persian, with optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
A French war correspondent (Diane Kruger, Frankie, Mr. Nobody) is kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. She is then tortured and videotaped. The footage is sent to Paris, where after a short briefing the French President authorizes a Special Forces unit to free her.
The commandos arrive in Afghanistan and quickly locate the area where the correspondent is kept. Shortly after, they attack a poorly guarded Taliban compound and rescue her. The Taliban leader, a brutal fanatic educated in the West, and his guerilla soldiers immediately go after the commandos.
The hunt that ensues complicates things a lot because the commandos are forced deep into Pakistan, where they cannot establish contact with the rescue unit that is supposed to pick them up. They go high up in the mountains and try to get back into Afghanistan but blizzards slow them down. The Taliban also regroup and later on launch a surprising attack.
Meanwhile, back in Paris the French generals become seriously concerned because they have lost contact with the Special Forces unit and have no idea where to look for them. Stuck in an unknown area somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the exhausted commandos must decide whether to keep climbing or turn around and face the Taliban.
Stéphane Rybojad's first feature film is well researched. The elaborate action sequences, for instance, look incredibly real, while the military jargon makes sense (hearing the French commandos screaming go, go, go, however, is flat out stupid). The various locations seen throughout the film are also striking (some of the boldest footage was shot in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan).
But after the initial wave of flashy shootouts, the film quickly begins to disintegrate. By the time the commandos enter Pakistan, it is already perfectly clear that Rybojad does not know how to direct the impressive cast (Benoît Magimel, Djimon Hounsou, Denis Menochet, Tchéky Karyo, Raphael Personnaz). As a result, the actors consistently utter cliched lines that are typically reserved for similarly themed Hollywood productions.
What frustrates the most, however, is the weak editing. The never-ending quick zooms, cuts and overshots create the impression that one is watching an unusually long and flashy commercial rather than a coherent film. Especially during the second half of the film, the fast zooms and cuts are likely to annoy even hardcore fans of Michael Bay's work.
Ultimately, the film has nothing meaningful to say about the French Special Forces and their activities in Central Asia. This is unfortunate because the unusually long documentary feature included in the supplemental features section of the Blu-ray disc clearly shows that the cast and crew members were very much dedicated to the project. If anything, their well documented exhausting journey to Tajikistan is actually far more illuminating about the various risks and dangers French men and women in uniform in the area face daily.
The film benefits from a surprisingly good soundtrack courtesy of composer Xavier Berthelot (TV's La grève des femmes).
Special Forces Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.38:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Stephane Rybojad's Special Forces arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal.
The high-definition transfer is very strong. Most close-ups convey tremendous depth, clarity is consistently pleasing even though a lot of the film was shot under vastly different conditions, and contrast levels consistent. The color-scheme favors rich yellows, light browns, blues, grays and blacks, none of which appear boosted. There was one specific sequence where I noticed light banding. However, I did not see any aliasing patterns to report in this review. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern either. Finally, I did not spot any transfer anomalies affecting stability. All in all, fans of Special Forces will not be disappointed with the film's transition to Blu-ray. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Special Forces Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with portions of English and Persian). A separate French Descriptive Service track is also included. For the record, Studio Canal have provided optional English and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame. Also, there are no English subtitles for the English dialog.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very aggressive. During a few of the shootouts it really feels like one is placed right in the middle of the action - the fronts and the surround channels are very effective. Xavier Berthelot's music also adds plenty of color to the film. The dialog is crisp, clean, and stable, and there are absolutely no balance or sync issues to report in this review. The English translation is very good.
Special Forces Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Special Forces Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I enjoyed the long documentary found in the supplemental features section of the Blu-ray disc a lot. It offers a fascinating glimpse into a world that remains an enigma for many of us. On the other hand, Stephane Rybojad's Special Forces is a flashy and predictable action film that looks a lot like something Hollywood would produce. RENT IT.
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Special Forces Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Special Forces Blu-ray - December 8, 2011
The UK branch of Studio Canal will release on Blu-ray director Stéphane Rybojad's debut feature film Special Forces (2011), starring Diane Kruger (Farewell, Benoît Magimel (Little White Lies, Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, and Tchéky Karyo (Nikita). Street date ...
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