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Unit: Season Four, The

Fox // Unrated // September 29, 2009
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 6, 2009 | E-mail the Author
A stellar collaboration between famed writer David Mamet and director Shawn Ryan ("The Shield"), "The Unit" (based upon the book, "Inside Delta Force", written by Eric Hane) follows a group of elite United States Army Special Forces officers dubbed Alpha Team - Sergeant Major Jonas Blane (Dennis Haysbert, "24"), Master Sergeant Mack Gerhardt (Max Martini), Sergeants First Class Charles Grey (Michael Irby), Staff Sergeant Bob Brown (Scott Foley, "Felicity") and Colonel Tom Ryan (Robert Patrick).

The group head off on various secret missions - from assassinations to protection to rescue and more. The catch is that they must remain secretive, "Mission: Impossible"-style at all costs. Their wives are given only minimal information about the mission, and those who are suspected of leaking information about the program may result in their husbands being re-assigned.

While not the raw, primal scream that creator Shawn Ryan's "The Shield" was, "The Unit" remained a remarkable effort for its four seasons (this fourth round was the last), as the Mamet/Ryan collaboration managed to provide an unusually detailed look at the realities of day-to-day life for these characters both on a personal and professional basis. The series has always taken great lengths to maintain accuracy - the show was based upon Eric L. Haney's book, "Inside Delta Force" and Haney is a technical advisor on the series - and those efforts made for a richly compelling show during its run.

As the show draws to a close during this fourth season, the series does an astonishing job maintaining the kind of tension that it had built up over the past few seasons. The season begins with "Sacrifice", which opens with the team coming home after a long mission looking forward to the possibility of some R & R, only to find themselves thrown into one of the most hellish situations (fittingly enough, a 2-parter this season is called "Into Hell") they have ever faced. Early in the episode, a terrorist attack is made on the new administration, and the series makes the interesting (and rather effective) choice of being in a control room while the events play out.

With the threat also coming down on the Unit itself, operations are soon moved and this causes new and painful tensions (as well as major changes for the women to have to face in their home lives) for the soldiers and their families. The team also takes on a new member, Bridget Sullivan (Nicole Steinwedel, who turns out to be another ace casting decision for the series) and grows increasingly aware of a much larger plot afoot, building up to a finale where the Unit is tasked with stopping multiple attacks - but the situation may not be as it initially seems.

The season does a very nice job spreading out the larger story arc while delivering some solid solo stories in-between, including the powerhouse "Into Hell", where Jonas must head to Iraq when Betsy is kidnapped - when the situation changes, Jonas must make a monumental choice. Other highlights from the season include: "Hero" (where new team member Sam, played by Wes Chatham in an excellent performance, is introduced); "Sudden Flight" (where the Unit follows a scientist who may be a pawn in the larger plot), "Inquisition" (the team tries to con a terrorist in order to get him to reveal information); "Shadow Riders" (in order to keep peace between two tribes in Afghanistan, the Unit delivers a bride to her future husband) and "Unknown Soldier", the finale.

The show's writing and directing still continues to operate at an exceptionally high level of quality. Dialogue by Mamet or the other members of the show's writing staff remains fantastic - the series continues to offer memorable dialogue and enjoyably twisty, complex storylines. The performances also continue to impress, with Foley, Haysbert and others delivering moving, powerful performances. The series also continues to excel technically, delivering large, intense action sequences on a TV budget.

As difficult as it is to see the series go, it ends just right, on a quiet, emotional montage that offers some moments of hope.

48. 4- 1 28 Sep 08 Sacrifice
49. 4- 2 5 Oct 08 Sudden Flight
50. 4- 3 12 Oct 08 Sex Trade
51. 4- 4 19 Oct 08 The Conduit
52. 4- 5 26 Oct 08 Dancing Lessons
53. 4- 6 2 Nov 08 Inquisition
54. 4- 7 9 Nov 08 Into Hell, Part 1
55. 4- 8 16 Nov 08 Into Hell, Part 2
56. 4- 9 23 Nov 08 Shadow Riders
57. 4-10 30 Nov 08 Mislead and Misguided
58. 4-11 21 Dec 08 Switchblade
59. 4-12 4 Jan 09 Bad Beat
60. 4-13 11 Jan 09 The Spear of Destiny
61. 4-14 15 Feb 09 The Last Nazi
62. 4-15 8 Mar 09 Hero
63. 4-16 15 Mar 09 Hill 60
64. 4-17 22 Mar 09 Flesh & Blood
65. 4-18 29 Mar 09 Best Laid Plans
66. 4-19 12 Apr 09 Whiplash
67. 4-20 26 Apr 09 Chaos Theory
68. 4-21 3 May 09 Endgame
69. 4-22 10 May 09 Unknown Soldier


VIDEO: The fourth season of "The Unit" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.78:1 (1080p) and the results are mostly fantastic. While some minor edge enhancement is occasionally seen, the presentation otherwise looked crystal clear, with no pixelation or additional faults. Sharpness and detail were - with few exceptions - top-notch, with fine details (including pores, hair) clearly apparent during many scenes. Colors looked bold and rich, with no smearing or other concerns. Although not quite flawless, this was otherwise an excellent presentation of TV material.

SOUND: The show's DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack does provide a solid amount of action during the more intense mission sequences, with the surrounds kicking in discrete sound effects and ambience, bringing the viewer into the middle of the situation quite well. Audio quality remained pleasing, with effects sounding punchy, music remaining crisp and full and dialogue sounding natural and clear.

EXTRAS: Unfortunately, there's not all that much in the way of extras included for the show's send-off. "Snake Doctor: A Leader Among Us", " "Shadow Riders: A Western Come Undone" and "Into Hell: A Brotherhood Divided" are three featurettes that run around 10 minutes each. The first looks into Haysbert directing, and the other two take a look into the production of a pair of episodes. These are reasonably enjoyable for one viewing, but not something that is going to be viewed more than once. It's too bad that a commentary or retrospective featurette could have been added to deliver a nice wrap-up for this critically acclaimed series. 6 deleted scenes for "Shadow Riders" are also offered.

Final Thoughts: "The Unit" certainly ends on a high note with this powerhouse fourth and final season, which delivers a series of intense storylines and continued stellar performances from the ensemble cast. The Blu-Ray edition goes light on the extras, but offers excellent audio/video quality. Highly recommended.
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