Release Date(s)2011 (March 26, 2013)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Day of the Falcon (a.k.a. Black Gold) tells the story of rivaling Arabian tribes, who are at war with each other for various reasons, not the least of which being the crude oil that has been found underneath their lands. Directed by French director Jean-Jacques Annaud and backed independently by Arabian investors, the film focuses on the personal stories between fathers and sons on opposite sides of the war and their conflicting ideals.
Despite the film having such a wonderful cast from various corners of the globe and being filmed on location in North Africa, the final result is one of boredom. There are some very fine speeches and very good performances, but they’re almost hidden by an overly-long and drawn out plot with very little visual flair. Don’t get me wrong though. The cinematography is masterful, but there’s not a whole lot to look at other than sand. The performances themselves also don’t seem to connect well between each actor. They feel distant from one another and never really sync up together. Antonio Banderas’ performance feels more like an afterthought, and seemingly unengaging. The score is also a bit of a miss for composer James Horner, who doesn’t seem to capture the emotion of each moment very well. The film does manage to stop being tedious about halfway through, when some of the action sequences kick in, but they’re over in the blink of an eye and aren’t really built up well in the first place. The film had its potential, but it just needed to focus on its characters a little more and structure things a bit better. A little aesthetic other than just sandy landscapes couldn’t have hurt either.
Thankfully the film’s Blu-ray presentation isn’t mediocre, by any means. The transfer features an extremely healthy grain structure that is just as fine as the sand seen in the film. You’ll hardly notice it, if at all. Colors and textures are strong, blacks are deep and contrast is excellent. Skin tones also look their best. The film appears to have had its color timing dialed back a bit to give it a slightly dated feel (according to the novel it’s based on, the story takes place in the 1930s), but the warm and problem-free images soak up the visual detail exceedingly well. The only audio track on the disc is an English 5.1 DTS-HD track with optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, which is about all you need really. The audio itself isn’t bad, per se, but it seems to lack punch. Everything is perfectly audible and well-mixed, but it’s not a soundtrack a modern film of this scope needs. It feels very old-fashioned, in that regard. There’s not a lot of ambience or envelopment until the battle scenes later in the film, but dialogue is perfectly clear and the sound effects are appropriate and used well. There’s some low end to it all, but again, it all feels very bland and not spruced up all that well. It sounds fine, but it could’ve sounded the least bit better.
Extras include the documentary The Making of Day of the Falcon, the Transforming the Desert: The Visual Effects of Day of the Falcon featurette, the From Storyboard to Screen visual comparison featurette and a couple of previews for other movies. Sort of sparse, but I wasn’t expecting much from them anyways. Overall, Day of the Falcon feels ambitious, but its whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts. It feels like it’s missing a few pieces to the puzzle. I guess I admire it in a way, because it isn’t a terrible film, but more of a mediocre one. This Blu-ray presentation of it should please most people, although I’d recommend it more as a rental.
- Tim Salmons