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Black Hawk Down (2 DVDs)
Member Name: alexiscool
Black Hawk Down (2 DVDs)
Date: 01/04/02, updated on 01/04/02 (22 review reads)
Advantages: Good airial photography, gripping,
Disadvantages: plot isn't brilliant
A combination of the Saving Private Ryan phenomenon and the recent stirring of US patriotism has seen war movies (with added brutal realism) enter a new trend. Witness the recent Behind Enemy Lines and the forthcoming We Were Soldiers and Windtalkers. This latest entry has certainly got the credentials behind it, with director Ridley Scott on a roll after his recent blockbuster hits, teaming with action spectacle producer Jerry Bruckheimer and marshalling an all-male, ensemble cast of recognisable faces led (arguably) by Pearl Harbor's Josh Hartnett.
Based on a true-life event that took place in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu in 1993, the film lacks a plot as such. Rather it focuses on the intense, sustained battle that occurred when a contingent of US marines were shot down in the centre of the city, and were faced with a hostile force consisting of thousands of armed civilians and the warlord Aidid's militia. In the words of base-bound General Garrison, they have "stirred up the hornets' nest." The rangers attempt to regroup and rescue their comrades with the tenet "leave no man behind," but, between the mounting wounded and mass confusion, find themselves fighting for survival.
On a grab-you-by-the-throat spectacle front, Black Hawk Down is predictably impressive and on this aspect can hardly be faulted. Scott artistically presents scenes of war - attack helicopters sweep over miles of beaches; elite marines tumble in slo-mo through war-shattered streets; fiery rockets are launched through the air toward convoys of armoured vehicles. This sense of relentlessly mortal danger and its accompanying adrenaline rush is convincingly palpable.
Acting-wise the cast is uniformly good, but there's such an array of characters that it is often difficult to keep track of the ensemble. The obvious leader is Hartnett, but even he seems to disappear for a good chunk of the movie. Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Rya
n, Pearl Harbor) risks typecasting in another fearless hardened soldier role, Ewan McGregor pops up for a while as a previously deskbound clerk, and there's even a small part for ex-Corrie star Matthew Marsden.
There are some jaw-dropping action set-pieces and aerial photography, particularly in the crash of the two black hawk choppers as they spin out of control toward the ground. There's the (now) requisite scenes of bloody carnage, as soldiers and their (largely anonymous) enemy are peppered with blood-spraying bullets and missiles tear through flesh. However, this battle intensity is also something of a flaw in the overall enjoyment of the movie - it takes up a relentless two thirds of the running time. As such, one or two engineered breathers might have helped, or some semblance of a narrative. Also, with the film feeling rather overlong, a liberal bit of re-editing wouldn't have gone amiss.
The ending, too, feels unsatisfying and flat - the General calls in the cavalry, the survivors are rescued, and there's a few bumper-sticker platitudes from Hartnett like "heroes don't ask to be heroes, it's just sometimes it turns out that way." That said, you certainly leave the movie theatre feeling a little shaken - and perhaps that was the aim.
In all, Black Hawk Down is a worthwhile trip for those with the stamina for it, its spectacle and wrenching realism making it a classier Pearl Harbor, without the laughable romance.