Black Hawk Down Review
Based on an actual incident in 1993, Black Hawk Down is director Ridley Scott's attempt to outdo Spielberg, and he fails miserably. The film centres on the disastrous US military mission in Somalia, in which a crack-team of one hundred and twenty American Delta units and Ranger infantry were dropped into Mogadishu. Their aim was to abduct two important Somalian warlord lieutenants. However, things do not run according to plan, and it isn't before long that two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the American troops are stranded in the middle of the city, forced to shoot their way out. In reality, eighteen Americans soldier were killed and over seventy were injured, not to mention hundreds of Somalians. The mission turned out to be America's worst day of combat since the Vietnam War.
At just under two-and-a-half hours long, Black Hawk Down suffers due to an almost total disregard for any sort of narrative. It's almost as if the film is just a second act without a proper first or third. To put it bluntly, the film is mostly the infamous first half-hour of Saving Private Ryan transplanted to Somalia, 1993 and padded out to one hundred and forty minutes. Before you stand on your chairs defending the technical virtuosity of director Ridley Scott, there is no question that visually Black Hawk Down is probably as realistic as it can get. There lies the problem of the whole film, in that Scott's overt pandering towards realism has rendered the film a sort of IMAX simulation or computer game as opposed to a film with a proper narrative cohesion. At least if it was a computer game you could control the action, as opposed to the film where you are just standing back without any physical or emotional involvement. It's rather like being dropped in the middle of a war-zone and then being picked up again hours later, and this sort of moviemaking either appeals to you or it doesn’t. After a short while of being impressed by this technique, it soon becomes boring, and you shriek with horror as you realise that this was the only hook the film had in the first place. Scott gives the film such a razzle-dazzle shine that it is often hard to even recognise the soldiers, let alone identify with them.
And speaking of characters, the film is littered with so many of them in an attempt to respect the integrity of all the real-life soldiers that it doesn't really know who the audience should care about the most. Scott has deliberately cast many big name players in small roles so that we supposedly can easily identify with them, even though Scott forgets that the audience needs to care about them too. Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana (Of Chopper fame who has lost a lot of weight), Tom Sizemore, Sam Shepard and Ioan Gruffudd are some of the fine actors involved in this production (Josh Hartnett was deliberately left out before you ask), and yet none of them manage to claw out distinctive performances. Ridley Scott has always been criticised for not deeming actors important enough for his movie (watch the good Channel 4 documentary on Blade Runner), and it's clear that he has attempted to authentically recreate the military ordeal first and foremost as opposed to telling a decent story centred around the mission.
As the name Jerry Bruckheimer has been banded about this film, it wouldn't be right for Black Hawk Down to leave out the cheesy dialogue and two-dimensional stereotypes. Yes, the film has the solider phoning his wife before battle to tell her he loves her, only for her to just miss answering the phone. Yes, the film has the wounded soldier asking a fellow soldier to tell his parents that he fought well. Yes, the film even has the gung-ho patriot who simply refuses to stop re-entering the fire-zone in order to help his comrades. Yes, this is Pearl Harbor merely with a more technically competent director.
Despite all of the views above, it is clear that the film will be a smash in the US, a country desperate for some patriotism after September the eleventh. The producers have even added some textual bookends to the film to try and justify its cause, even though they are almost redundant due to the film's complete amnesia with regards to the political messages at hand. Rather than concentrate on the issues of the US wasting expert troops in someone else's war, the film becomes a high-octane macho flick aimed at the young testosterone filled audience. The slick 'realism' and young male cast will certainly appeal, and there is no doubt that many will champion this film as the greatest war film ever made, even though it hardly ranks in the top twenty. The biggest disappointment is that Ridley Scott, the director of Alien and Blade Runner, seems to have mutated into his brother Tony Scott, making masculine wastes with producers like Bruckheimer. Perhaps Tony could have done a better job.