Armadillo (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 5-Oct-2011

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Additional Footage-additional footage
Trailer-x 4 but not for this film
Interviews-Crew-Director Janus Metz Pedersen
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 101:03
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Janus Metz Pedersen
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Kasper Torsting
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $34.95 Music Uno Helmersson


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Danish DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Danish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080i
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

     Some time ago I reviewed Restrepo on this site, a documentary shot on the front line in the Korengal Valley, eastern Afghanistan focusing upon the young men of the American Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503 Infantry Regiment, 173 Airborne during their year long tour of duty. In Australia we sometimes overlook the fact that quite a few nations contribute soldiers to the conflict in Afghanistan. Now, in Armadillo, we have a documentary shot in 2009 on the front line in Helmand Province southern Afghanistan that follows the six month deployment of young Danish soldiers from the Gard Hussar Regiment.

     We first meet the soldiers prior to their deployment interacting with their families, girlfriends and fellow soldiers. While family members are apprehensive, most of the soldiers look upon the deployment as an adventure, almost a game. After a raunchy farewell party, they are flown to Armadillo, a Forward Operating Base containing 170 British and Danish troops hidden behind razor wire and walls, and told that the Taliban are only 800 metres away. Embedded with the soldiers were director Janus Metz and cinematographer Lars Skree and the result is a brave, raw, immediate and uncompromising look at young men at war in a hostile environment.

     Armadillo provides no linking narration and only captions show the passing of time. The film is not about the politics or the strategy of the conflict, but about the actions and reactions of young men such as Mads, Daniel, Rasmus and Kim. The film, without preaching, shows clearly the difficulties faced by coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. Behind razor wire in their base, they are isolated from the villagers, working out, playing video games and watching porn. On patrol they attempt to gain information from locals through the interpreter, but as a man says “you have guns, the Taliban have guns and if I tell you when you leave the Taliban will come and slit my throat”. Instead, their patrolling and use of mortars destroys fields, houses, livestock and innocent civilians, such as a three year old girl killed by a grenade. Money is offered in compensation and accepted, but this is an elegant illustration of how heavily armed and equipped foreign troops can alienate a local population. The absence of the Afghan National Army here, even as interpreters, is telling, although Afghan army soldiers do appear in the additional footage included as extras.

     Although some of the Danes were wounded in action, the group did not incur any fatal casualties, although Danes in another forward base did. The film shows the boredom of their isolation, the tension of the patrols when nothing happens and the sudden adrenalin rush of action, with the camera very much in the firing line. Five months into their tour, the Danes on patrol (and the cameraman) come under intensive fire from the Taliban – this sequence is immediate, tense and chaotic, presenting as harrowing an account of being in the front line as one is likely to experience without being there. The consequences of this action did create a controversy in Denmark with the revelation that during the fight a number of wounded Taliban fighters were shot and killed. The film does not shy away for this, although it is perhaps best for people to make up their own minds.

     Armadillo is a sometimes beautiful, sometimes tense, brave, raw, immediate and uncompromising look at young men at war in a hostile environment fighting an almost unseen enemy. I don’t imagine their experiences, as depicted in the documentary, are any different from those of any of the coalition soldiers currently fighting in Afghanistan.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Armadillo is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original aspect ratio, in 1080i. The print is as one would expect from footage shot on the run (in some cases literally) on the line in Afghanistan in different, often dull, light, although 1080p might have helped.

     Detail in the still shots is fine but, understandably, in motion and in the field the detail lacks sharpness and the focus, brightness and clarity vary. Colours are desaturated, giving a dull, washed look to the majority of the footage. Blacks and shadow detail in the few night sequences are acceptable. There is very heavy and noticeable grain is a number of sequences, but I did not notice any artefacts. In truth, given the source material this is not a film to show off the HD format.

     English subtitles are available in a white font that is sometimes difficult to read over the top of light coloured footage. The subtitles once activated remain on for the snatches of English dialogue, and also give a definition of various terms used by the soldiers. They did not contain any spelling or grammatical errors.

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

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Danish 5.1 DTS-HD MA or Dolby Digital 5.1.

     The audio, like the video, was recorded in the field. Dialogue is clear, but effects such as shots and helicopters were on the flat side. The surrounds were mostly used for music, with a little ambient sound. The subwoofer gave occasional support. Basically the audio gets the job done.

     The original score by Uno Helmersson is atmospheric and nicely adds to the feel of the film, although it does sometimes call attention to itself. There we a couple of snatches of heavy metal music added.

     As the dialogue was recorded on the spot, lip synchronisation was fine.

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

Extras

Additional Footage

     Additional footage is presented under the following sub-headings:

Director’s Comments (6:23)

     Janus Metz Pedersen speaks briefly about the origins of the film, his motivations and the film’s context. .

Trailers

     Included is Restrepo (2:12), Animal Kingdom (2:12), Carlos the Jackal (2:10) and Snowtown (2:07).

R4 vs R1

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

     There does not appear to be a Region A US or Region B UK Blu-ray. Releases include Region B German and Region B Danish versions; from what I can see they seem similar to our Region B release with only language and subtitle differences.

Summary

     Armadillo is a documentary shot on the front line in Helmand Province southern Afghanistan which follows the deployment of a group of Danish soldiers. It is a sometimes harrowing, sometimes beautiful, brave, raw, immediate and uncompromising look at young men at war in a hostile environment.

     The video and audio are as one would expect from footage shot on the run in Afghanistan. Extras consist of approximately an hour of additional footage, a director interview and trailers for other films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def 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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