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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 13, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Diane Kruger, Djimon Hounsou, Benoit 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 13, 2013
Stephane Rybojad's "Forces spéciales" a.k.a "Special Forces" (2011) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One. The supplemental features on this release include a gallery of deleted scenes; a long and very informative making of featurette; and a video interview with a member of an elite French commando unit. In French, English, and Persian, with optional English, English SDH, and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "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 Entertainment One.
The high-definition transfer appears to have been sourced from the same master StudioCanal had access to when they prepared their Blu-ray release of Special Forces for the UK market. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. and UK releases look virtually identical. The only very small discrepancy I spotted is in the area of color reproduction - the film's prominent yellow tint is slightly stronger on the StudioCanal release (compare screencapture #3 with screencapture #10 from our review of the StudioCanal release). Depth and especially clarity are often outstanding, despite the fact that various portions of the film were shot under drastically different conditions. Contrast levels are also stable. There are no serious transfer specific anomalies, such as heavy banding and aliasing. Also, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum i all upl, viewers who have been hoping to get a North American Blu-ray release of Special Forces should be pleased to know that Entertainment One's presentation of the film is every bit as impressive as StudioCanal's. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray release. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Special Forces Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (with portions of English and Persian). For the record, Entertainment One have provided optional English, English SDH, and French SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The lossless track is appropriately aggressive. Many of the shootouts also have some excellent surround effects. There is also a good range of nuanced dynamics that allow the soundtrack to blend well with the action sequences. The dialog is very crisp, clean, and stable. There are no pops, cracks, audio dropouts or distortions to report in this review.
Special Forces Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Special Forces Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Stephane Rybojad's Special Forces should appeal only to those of you who enjoy very fast, loud and very flashy action films. I personally enjoyed the very long documentary film that is included as a bonus feature on this release a lot more. Rybojad and his crew's journey through Central Asia, where the majority of Special Forces was shot, is truly eye-opening. Entertainment One's technical presentation of Special Forces is excellent.
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Special Forces Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Special Forces Blu-ray - January 17, 2013
Koch Entertainment has announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of writer/director Stéphane Rybojad's Special Forces, starring Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds and Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond). The pulse-pounding, action-packed ...
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