Fortress (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 24-Apr-2012

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Trailer-x 6 for other Eagle titles
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 100:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Phillips
Studio
Distributor

Eagle Entertainment
Starring Bug Hall
Donnie Jeffcoat
Sean McGowan
Chris Owen
Edward Finlay
Manu Intiraymi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Christopher Ward


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In the middle of 1943 American long range B-17 heavy bombers (the “Flying Fortress”) began operating out of bases in North Africa attacking targets in Italy. It was a deadly and costly campaign in lives and aircraft. Fortress tells the tale of one aircraft, and one crew.

     Newly arrived Michael (Bug Hall) is assigned to the bomber crew led by Wally (Donnie Jeffcoat) after a mission in which the co-pilot and two gunners were killed. Michael is fresh, inexperienced and a non-drinker and when he makes a major error on their first combat mission, the crew, including Charlie (Manu Intiraymi) and Burt (Chris Owen), are less than forgiving. As other aborted missions occur and bad luck continues, Michael must fight for the crew’s acceptance before they are all thrown into a deadly mission to attack Rome, deep into enemy territory, where, to survive, they must be able to trust each other and to work together.

     Fortress is a low budget film that delivers. The air action sequences are loud, frenetic and exciting with some genuine heart in mouth moments. The camera shakes as the B-17 ploughs through heavy flak, and German fighters flash and spin past, all the time accompanied by explosions and machinegun fire that resonates around the speakers. Most of the model and CGI work of the air battles are neatly done, and believable, although other sections of CGI on the ground, especially the dust storm and the tent base, are not so well executed. This is also a very clichéd story, and some of the dialogue is twee to say the least. But in the main the characters of the crew are nicely drawn, which is just as well for when they are flying with oxygen masks on it can be difficult to tell who is who within the confines of the narrow B-17 fuselage. The ending, following their hammering by flak on the mission to Rome, is not quite as one might expect.

     Fortress also has a nice sense of humour, with some quite funny moments while on the ground. The credits do indicate that “No B-17s were harmed in the making of this film”, a nice touch. The closing credits also illustrate what is obviously a sore point with the filmmakers: they were unable to gain access to any of the few existing B-17s, and have obviously copped “flak” on internet sites about the accuracy of the film. They state ”if you are unable to enjoy the film due to glaring inaccuracies, we offer our deepest condolences”. I guess inaccuracies there were, but the film provides such an exhilarating experience in the main that anyone interested in air combat should be able to enjoy the film for what it is: a war film set in the skies over Italy in WW2. I think the filmmakers have done an impressive job on a limited budget and I enjoyed this one a lot.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Fortress is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which I suspect is close to the original ratio, in 1080p.

     The film seems to have been shot with a deliberately brightened palate, perhaps meant to represent the hot summer conditions in North Africa. This means that when a light source is behind the characters, such as out of the aircraft’s windows or through open tent flaps, the glare surrounds the actors making them soft and indistinct. The CGI airfield and tent camp also looks soft. In contrast, the flying sequences are clean and sharp, with nice detail. Colours in the sky exhibit a fine deep blue, while browns and drab yellows dominate on the ground. Skin tones do tend to vary a little, as does some of the contrast. However, except for some of the glare this is not distracting. Film grain is evident is some scenes but I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     The English subtitles for the hearing impaired have the dialogue in a clear white font and colour for the effects. They seemed fine from the small portion I sampled.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio choice was English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the DTS which is a good, immersive audio track.

     Dialogue occasionally was indistinct in the midst of explosions, gunfire and engine noise, but what can one expect in the middle of an air battle? I didn’t think anything important was lost, but there are always the subtitles. The surrounds were used to great effect in the air combat sequences with the explosion of flak resonating around the room while the aircraft engines roar and machineguns fire. There were also panning effects as the German fighters swept past. There was obviously less activity while the crew were on the ground. The subwoofer nicely supported music, engines and explosions.

     The music by Christopher Ward was very good. It tended to avoid bombastic overkill during the flying sequences, and instead provided a plaintive and wistful feel using North African ethnic instruments and voice that was very effective at setting the mood between missions. It was nicely represented in the mix.

     Lip Synchronisation was fine.

     While this is not the perfectly balanced audio track of bigger productions, it does an excellent job of placing the viewer inside the action, thus well supporting the visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There is nothing here on this film. Some insight into the low budget filmmaking could have been very interesting.

Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Eagle Entertainment: A Lonely Place to Die (1:52), Eliminate Archie Cookson (1:37), Aussie Park Boyz (2:09), Isenhart (2:15), Peter (2:35), and In the Name of the King 2 (1:06).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region A Blu-ray is due for release 31 July 2012, the UK Region B on 23 July 2012. There is no listing for extras. Our version seems to be the first release of the film. In the closing credits the filmmakers decry the internet piracy that occurred even before the film was released. Support the filmmaker and the local distributor and buy the film.

Summary

     Fortress is a low budget film that delivers with air combat sequences that are loud, frenetic and exciting, with some genuine heart in mouth moments. The filmmakers have done an impressive job on a limited budget and if the subject is of interest I would recommend a look.

     The video is not top flight Blu-ray material, but is fine, the audio is impressive. Extras are only trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, June 18, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
CGI aircraft - wolfgirv REPLY POSTED
Incorrect aspect ratio - REPLY POSTED
Re: incorrect ratio - wolfgirv
But also.... - wolfgirv REPLY POSTED