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Black Hawk Down
Black Hawk Down (Soundtrack)
Black Hawk Down: A Story Of Modern War (Novel)

Black Hawk Down Review

Directed By: Ridley Scott.
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Ron Eldard, Eric Bana, and William Fichtner.

Synopsis: After his Oscar winner Gladiator, Ridley Scott brings us an adaptation of a true war story. The year is 1993 and the U.S. has sent special forces into Somalia to destabilize the government and bring food and humanitarian aid to the starving population. Using Black Hawk helicopters to lower the soldiers onto the ground, an unexpected attack by Somalian forces brings two of the helicopters down immediately. From there, the U.S. soldiers must struggle to regain their balance while enduring heavy gunfire.

I viewed this picture and A Beautiful Mind and the same thought struck me after each. These men won Oscars for the wrong films. I mean, Gladiator? I liked the film, enjoyed it but it was not a distinct work that no one else could have either directed or acted (this kind of statement usually draws some hate email). But Russell Crowe's work in both The Insider and A Beautiful Mind far outshine anything he does in Gladiator. As for Black Hawk Down, even with all of its flaws it's a talent of Scott's that everything he puts up on the screen is as coherent as it is.

Once Black Hawk Down starts, pay attention, read everything without skimming and watch all the details that Scott has placed for the viewer. That first half hour is integral if only to figuring out which character is which. Once those boys, with their crew-cuts, their helmets and the lot get into the action their faces quickly become masked by dirt, sweat, blood, and anything else they can mange to cover themselves in and it soon becomes tricky to identify some of the men. Others (like the leads Hartnett, McGregor and Tom Sizemore stand out no matter what they get hit with it seems).

Some critics have already heralded this as a huge Oscar contender, I would be inclined to agree with them but I have reservations about doing that to a film. Firstly, it over reaches the expectations of the audience so they go in expecting something special and inevitably come out dismayed they were not as 'blown away', bad turn of phrase I know, as the critic was in their initial screening. Some other reservations? Well, one, this film owes a huge debt. to Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. That film ushered in a new form of war movie for Hollywood. Not just realistic but hyper-realistic. As if you are there, the bullets whizzing by your ears and the impacts of bombs being felt all around. And if anyone says this film would have been done the way it has been without the earlier ground breaking movie, they are a dolt who has no knowledge of film history.

That's not to say Ridley Scott just used someone else's film as a road map...far from it. The man as a director has gone from being a solid A-List director to something of a surprising talent. I would hate to use the word artistic for all the negatives it implies but the fact that he managed to comeback from 1492: Conquest of Paradise at all is a tribute to the man himself!

There has been the inevitable backlash regarding this film as well. Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, has said "The Somali people are depicted as very savage beasts without any human element. It's just people shooting each other." I would have to disagree with his statement, I did not come out of the movie thinking that the Somali people were doing anything except what could be expected in their situation. Those involved in the fighting were on one side, the Americans on the other. It takes two sides to conduct a fire fight.

Besides, what is this movie about? It seems people forget that nowadays once they step outside of the theatre. What did the director and scriptwriter intend...not the film you wish you saw but the film they made! What IS Black Hawk Down about? Is it about the food not being distributed to the starving? No. Is it about the political unrest in Mogadishu? No. It IS about a Black Hawk helicopter that goes down during what should have been an easy in-and-out military operation and the rescue efforts that went on to cause more casualties, more mistakes, more crashes, etc.. If someone wants to make those other movies, go ahead...but don't blame Scott for shooting exactly what it was he intended to shoot. A military action, warts and all.

Okay, enough ranting there, (besides Ridley can stand up for himself) now back to the review.

I am still unsure about Josh Hartnett as an actor though he does give a solid performance here he is quickly outshone by bigger talents. However, hold any moment of Hartnett's performance here against his performance in Pearl Harbor and it is like comparing animation to reality. Ewan McGregor is as good and only seems to stuggle slightly with the American Accent. I wondered aloud why Tom Sizemore is never in more films (and seems to be getting typecast in war films with Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor). But the guy who stood out to me? Eric Bana.

Get used to that name, you are going to see a loooooooot of it in the coming years. He's an Australian actor who just walks on screen and stuns you with his presence. He was in an Aussie horror flick called Chopper in 2000 that has huge positive reviews dangling around its celluloid neck and he was recently cast as Dr. Bruce Banner in the up-coming Incredible Hulk movie to be directed by Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

To be honest with you, Black Hawk Down is a good movie, a movie that could easily be re-watched, but whether or not I would want to go through that again is something else. The first half hour is all set-up and the the next hour and forty five minutes is a barrage of fighting that just makes one wonder how any of these men do the real thing. It's graphic in detail (as it should be) it shows mistake after mistake and it's unrelenting. It should not be punished for these elements, but praised and with that in mind...4 stars out of five.

And just be happily impressed when hearing that the name Jerry Bruckheimer (producer of such flicks as Top Gun and Flashdance) is the other half of the team responsible for bringing this picture to light. Something about that fact gives me hope for the future.

Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul

DVD Information:

Special Features:
Black Hawk Down On The Set Featurette
Theatrical Trailers
Animated Menus
Production Notes
Scene Selections

Video: Not Known

Audio: ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1

The DVD Review:
Very sparse on the special features on this disc, even after Ridley Scott mentioning it would be a fully loaded set. My guess? A Special Edition is about to be released 6 months after the June 2002 release. Hmmm...maybe just before Christmas.

Evil Ash

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