Black Hawk Down review

:. Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor
:. Running Time: 2:24
:. Year: 2001
:. Country: USA

In Black Hawk Down Ridley Scott delivers an aesthetic war movie that's not overly made up and avoids the usual platitudes of the genre.

The film relates the failed intervention of a group of American soldiers trapped in a hostile Somalian city in 1993. The scenario is based on the eponymous book Black Hawk Down that refers to the widely talked about story after the corpse of an American soldier was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.

Black Hawk Down's main strength is not claiming to be anything else other than a war movie. The film follows the preparations of the first considered benign mission and the following 24 hours of hell for the hundred American soldiers surrounded by several thousands of enemies. Scott doesn't waste time by showing the usual good-byes to the girlfriend and the march under the flags of the Academy. The introduction to the characters is rapid and avoids the usual profiles of the genre. Do not expect to follow the heroic adventures of a model battalion comprised of a sulky officer who will assume his duty until the end, a bad boy who will sacrifice his life and find redemption at the same time, an idealist who will save the life of a prisoner or of a coward who will save the day.

Admittedly, Black Hawk Down, a war film of the first degree, does not have the ideological range of Apocalypse Now, the poetry of The Thin Red Line nor the psychology of Full Metal Jacket and Platoon. However, never at any time does the film try to disguise itself behind demagogic patriotism or a pseudo analysis of characters (see Saving Private Ryan.)

The director goes for realism. Black Hawk Down is violent and nervous and would have been only another war movie if it weren't for its artistic photography and realistic vision. Ridley Scott re-uses the saturated blue-gray tones that he used at the beginning of Gladiator. By offering a realistic and aesthetic representation of violence, he manages to arouse the interest of the audience until the end. The picture is undoubtedly voyeuristic but its documentary aspect prevails.

The acting is deliberately subdued. Though the cast features some known faces such as Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, Sam Shepard and Tom Sizemore, no actor overplays his part or try to eclipse his colleagues. The reason is clear: under their uniform, all the soldiers are identical and were trained to act in the same manner while in combat. Thus you will not see a bare-chested Tom Sizemore with an ammunition collar around his neck and a machine-gun in hand (thank God!). Hartnett and McGregor are rather discrete while Sam Shepard manages to express the growing fear of the situation with simple expressions of his face.

Lastly, while we know that the film was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, to whom we owe Pearl Harbor, one appreciates even more that the film wanders from its subject matter.

Though Black Hawk Down is a minor film, it is nonetheless one strong experience.

  Fred Thom

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