5 Days of War (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 1-Dec-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Audio Commentary-Director Renny Harlin
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 113:14
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Renny Harlin
Studio
Distributor
Anchor Bay Entertainment Starring Rupert Friend
Val Kilmer
Andy Garcia
Dean Cain
Emmanuelle Chriqui
Heather Graham
Mikko Nousiainen
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Trevor Rabin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

"The first casualty of war is truth"

     Iraq 2007: a team of war correspondents including reporter Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend) and cameraman Sebastian Ganz (Richard Coyle) are ambushed. Their colleges killed, Anders and Ganz are saved from death by the intervention of coalition troops from Georgia led by Captain Rezo Avaliani (Johnathon Schaech).

     The following year as tensions between Russia and Georgia over the disputed provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia escalate, Anders and Ganz journey to the Georgian capital Tbilisi and join other correspondents, including The Dutchman (Val Kilmer), looking to cover the story. Meanwhile, in the face of the Russian army build-up, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (Andy Garcia) appeals to the world for US and European support against Russian bellicosity.

     Anders and Ganz hire a car and drive into South Ossetia. They stop for the night in a village where a wedding is taking place but without warning Russian jets attack the village, killing and injuring a number of the wedding guests. Helped by Tatia (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the sister of the bride, the reporters drive some injured guests to a hospital and take footage of the injured and dying. The next morning they learn from Tatia that her sister and father are missing and agree to drive her to the surrounding villages to search for them. They are able to contact their old friend from Iraq Captain Avaliani: with his help they pass through the Georgian lines and manage to find Tatia’s family in a small village late in the afternoon.

     As morning breaks they are preparing to leave when the village is attacked by Russian and militia forces, including helicopter gunships, jets and ground troops. Taking shelter they witness, and are able to film, a systematic massacre of civilians by forces led by Colonel Demidov (Rade Serbedgia) and the sinister mercenary Daniil (Mikko Mousiainen). Surrounded, the reporters are captured by the Russians but not before Ganz hides the memory card with the footage of the atrocity. However, the Russians suspect that they have been filmed and prepare to torture the reporters to find the memory card. However, just in time the reporters are rescued by Avaliani and his men in a daring raid. Anders, Ganz, Tatia and Avaliani and his men travel through Russian lines together to the Georgian town of Gori. There, with the town under aerial bombardment and attack by Russian tanks and soldiers, the reporters have to try to get the footage of the atrocity out to a disinterested Western press and public, an act which will put their lives very much at risk.

     Georgia is an ex-Soviet republic which since gaining independence had been trying to forge greater ties with the west, including applying for NATO membership. Indeed, Georgia had been encouraged by the US and the West to stand up to her neighbour Russia but when the 5 day war between Russia and Georgia started in August 2008 the western public were uninterested, preferring to watch the Olympics in Beijing, and the western governments unwilling to challenge Russia’s version of events. 5 Days of War, a film about that short war, was partially financed by the government of Georgia in an attempt to get their side of the story out to a wider audience. As a war film, 5 Days of War works fairly well although as a historical record, seeking to tell the “truth” about the conflict, it works less well.

     Finnish born director Renny Harlin is an underrated action director, perhaps best known for Die Hard 2 (1990). He has had some failures, such as Cutthroat Island (1995) although even then it was more a matter of poor casting than direction, but he has on his CV some excellent action films such as Cliffhanger (1993) and, my favourite, Deep Blue Sea (1999). In 5 Days of War the action is well staged using hard held cameras with, in this case, is appropriate. The support of the Georgian government also means that the film had access to military equipment including tanks, fighter aircraft and helicopters that give an authenticity to the action sequences. As Harlin points out in his commentary, none of the aircraft and helicopters in the film are CGI, all are real including the helicopter that is shot down: the filmmakers were given a damaged helicopter which they were able to drop from wires! 5 Days of War also looks spectacular due to the Georgian locations filmed by Peruvian born cinematographer Checco Varese. Before working in films Varese had been a news cameraman between 1985 and 1994 covering conflicts including Salvador, Nicaragua, Bosnia, Chechnya and the Gulf War, so he knows a thing or two about filming news teams in war environments.

     When 5 Days of War moves away from the conflict it is on less sure ground, mostly because it tries to tell too many stories at once. For example, the sections of President Saakashvili with his cabinet and US advisor help to justify the Georgian position and decry the absence of Western support, but they are, except at the highest level, unconnected to the personal stories and events taking place at the front. As well, even when we are in the war zone there are a number of story lines that tend to collide. There is the story of the atrocities committed by the militia and the thriller elements as Anders and Ganz are rescued at the last moment and try to get the footage out, to which is added the love interest between Anders and Tatia that is so underwritten as to be superfluous. Then there is the gung-ho defence of Gori by Avaliani and his men who refuse to abandon the city despite the express orders of the President, a sequence which shows off all the hardware and the bravery of the Georgian soldiers, but has little to do with the other story. Finally, the film is also dedicated to the war correspondents who risk, and lose, their lives recording conflicts around the world, so there is a story line about the comradery of the correspondents and reporters such as the Dutchman, photojournalist Zoe (Antje Traue) and grizzled Michael (Ken Cranham) who appear every so often.

     In 5 Days of War the truth is indeed a casualty, as the film tells only one side of the story. The Georgians only want peace while the Russians are bent upon war, launching a brutal unprovoked attack upon civilians. The Georgian soldiers, as depicted by Avaliani and his men, are brave, honest and upright, but perhaps with an eye to working with their neighbours after the conflict, individual Russian soldiers show compassion and it is the mercenary militia who commit the murders of civilians.

     5 Days of War states that it was based upon true events and at the end of the film there are a number of brief interviews with Georgians who had lost loved ones in the conflict. There can be no doubt that civilians were, as usual, the innocent victims of war and the machinations of politicians and that in the conflict there were atrocities committed on both sides. While 5 Days of War has intense, exciting action sequences, as a film the gung-ho elements seem out of place and there are too many story strands for the film to be coherent and successful. It is a pity that 5 Days of War, as a film, does not do the innocents full justice.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     5 Days of War is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the original aspect ratio being 2.35:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The film was shot using RED digital cameras. The colours are bright, especially the rural scenes, but lack depth and have been treated in post-production to give a slightly desaturated yellowish look that is fairly prevalent in current filmmaking. Otherwise, the print is mostly sharp with nice detail. The exceptions include when video footage being taken by cameramen in the conflict zone is shown, in which case an interlaced effect is deliberately added, and during the hand held action sequences when the movement results in a loss of sharpness and detail. Within the colour scheme skin tones are good, contrast and brightness consistent, blacks and shadow detail excellent. There was minor ghosting but it was very fleeting. Otherwise artefacts were absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available in a clear white font. In the portion I sampled they followed the dialogue closely but added little extra information.

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

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 at 2868 Kbps, plus an English audio commentary.

     The audio is good, providing the enveloping experience expected of a modern action movie but without overdoing it. Dialogue is not always clear but there were the subtitles when this happened. The surrounds were frequently in action with ambient sound and music and, as expected, went into overdrive during the action sequences with rockets, cannon fire, flying bullets, jet and tank engines and explosions around the soundstage. The sub-woofer provided bass as appropriate for engines and explosions without unbalancing the sound stage.

     The original score by Trevor Rabin uses both traditional Georgian instruments and orchestra. It is suitably dramatic and suitable for the film.

     I did not notice any issues with lip synchronisation.

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

Extras

Commentary: Producer / Director Rennie Harlin

     Director / producer Rennie Harlin is humorous, entertaining, informative and very passionate about his film and the subject matter. He has a lot to say about the production including how he got involved, using the actual locations in Georgia where the events happened as well as filming in the President’s office, the effect on the local people of restaging events only a year after they actually happened, shooting a war movie on a $12 million budget and the logistical challenges of shooting action scenes using real aircraft, helicopters and armoured vehicles. He is also not unaware of the irony of using a partly Russian crew and stunt team to reconstruct the Russian invasion of Georgia. Harlin also talks about the DP, composer, costume designer and editor among other people involved on set. A very good, non-stop commentary and well worth a listen.

Deleted Scenes (11:00)

     Half a dozen scenes, or alternate takes on scenes, a couple quite long, some without completed audio. No commentary.

Trailer (2:21)

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 has identical specifications and extras as our release and adds Spanish audio and subtitles. The German Region B release has English, German and French DTS-MD MA 5.1 audio tracks, more subtitles and different extras. That release has Cast and Crew Interviews (28:09), Behind the Scenes featurette (15:00) a different trailer (1:07) but misses out on the excellent director’s commentary and the deleted scenes. Take your pick, really.

Summary

     5 Days of War looks good, has great action sequences using real jets, helicopters and tanks but the jumbled story lines in the end do not do the subject matter full justice.

     The Blu-ray looks and sounds good. Extras are limited but include an excellent audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, September 27, 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

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