January 02, 2002
Black Hawk Down If Ridley Scott and Francis Ford Coppola could somehow manage to produce offspring, I think it would be poetically appropriate that they have twins. One, let's call him Arnold, would grow up and produce masterpieces of cinema like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Themla & Louise, and Blade Runner. The other twin, let's call him Danny, would be responsible for just dreck as Bram Stoker's Dracula or Hannibal. More than any other filmmakers, these two have a history of churning out material that is either very hot or very cold; classic or crap. Black Hawk Down is more Danny than Arnold. But then I should have seen that coming with Jerry Bruckheimer sitting in the producer's chair.

I confess that I've only read about half of Mark Bowden's novel upon which the film is very closely based, but I have read all of his original Philedelphia Inquirer articles that inspired the book. I found both to be gripping, balls-out attempts to portray modern urban warfare in super-realistic terms without losing sight of the human implications of such conflict. Bowden repeatedly puts his reader in touch with the Somali participants of the events of October 3, 1993. We feel the pain of young men who watch their homes utterly destroyed, who clutch the corpses of their dead brothers. We even get repeated glimpses into the motivations and experiences of Mohamed Farrah Aidid's militia men who fought against the American soldiers, who helped drag their fallen bodies through the streets of Mogadishu. The result is a piece of investigative journalism that neither glorifies nor admonishes the actions of either side during that bloody afternoon. But no one can read Bowden's works without feeling a deep, boding sense of loss for the tragedy experienced by both sides.

Absolutely NONE of that makes it into the film. Oh there are scenes where we glimpse the heartache of loss: the selfless defense of Mike Durant's crashed Super 64, and the gut-wrenching agony experiences by Sgt. Eversman's chalk as they watch one of their brothers slowly bleed to death, powerless to help him. But noticeably missing is any similar presentation of Somali losses. The few Somalis that we do see much of are thuggish warlords who are little more than heavily armed gang bangers. There is no sense that some of these casualties of war were innocent passersby who got caught in the crossfire; that a lot of them were defending themselves from armed forces who were there to protect and help them because of horribly misleading propaganda given them by Aidid in order to drum up opposition to the UN mission.

Likewise missing from the film version are most of the instances where we saw American troops shooting into crowds of people who weren't involved in the conflict. Or the women who willingly allowed themselves to be human shields for armed militia men, knowing that the Americans were not supposed to shoot at them. Many of these horrors of war are noticably missing, replaced with several visual horrors a-la Saving Private Ryan. In fact, I got the distinct feeling that Black Hawk Down was trying to be a modern-era Ryan. It even had Tom Sizemore playing Tom Sizemore, just like SPR. I kept waiting for him to reach down, scoop up a handful of sand and rubble, and put it in a coffe tin labelled "Somalia."

Which leads me to the performances. Josh Hartnet delivered a pretty darn good portrayal of a young soldier who finds himself in combat command for the first time. Too bad he chose to follow it up with 40 Days and 40 Nights. Ewan McGregor delivers his most disappointing work since Nightwatch, and both he and fellow Brit Jason Isaacs are absolutely comical in their attempts at American accents (which I find odd, since McGregor at least has done it well before). And it's a good thing that Orlando Bloom got to kick so much ass in The Lord of the Rings, because he certainly "misses" his opportunity to do so in BHD. The only performance that really stood out to me was Eric Bana, who was extremely good as the solitary Delta Force fighting machine, Norm Hooten.

Don't get me wrong, Black Hawk Down is visually breathtaking. If you can imagine the tank sequence in Ryan extended out for over two hours, you begin to get the picture. The battle is fierce and offers a real sense of what these men endured over the course of that hellish day and night in Mogadishu. If you've read the book, you'll find many scenes and much dialogue repeated verbatum, and you man even find yourself with a high degree of anxiety when you KNOW that someone is about to be killed. It delivers, and is a solid action movie in its own right. But will benefit more from the current heightened sense of American patriotism than from its own merit. I can't help but wonder if it's not done on purpose to avoid any backlash from those who might accuse the filmmakers of being unpatriotic in such volatile times.

If you read the book, or if you are a big war movie fan, go see Black Hawk Down. If not, hang on and rent it when it hits DVD. Posted by Mithrandir at January 02, 2002 04:53 PM

I agree with a lot of whats above. Especially the performance Eric Bana gave as "Hoot." Although there wasn't one main actor, he left the biggest impression for me as lending advice to Hartnett, going undercover, and often volunteering to do this or that when most of the others seemed scared. He's a great actor. I think this movie was a big hit because it provided somewhat of an insight on the Delta Force which a lot of people are kept in the dark about since the government denies their existence. So this movie has really gotten me into special forces and increase delta force research. I think for the common person who does not know too much about the U.S. military, and who was too young to remember back in 1993 when it all happened, would have questions unanswered after the movie. Especially after reading the book, I think Ridley Scott should have had something in the beginning of the movie showing Les Aspin turning down the offer to provide armored vehicles and the gunships, and cut out about 15mins. of the long battle, just to provide a better insight on how the best military in the world lost as many lives as they did that day in Mogadishu. My favorite parts are when Hoot(Eric Bana) sheds his expertise and experience on Hartnett on several occassions, because not only was it good advice and knowledgeable insight, but also advice I think people can apply to daily life.

Posted by: Daniel on August 30, 2002 09:53 PM

I just hvae to say that any movie with Josh Hartnet in it that has to do with war is the best. Black Hawk down was a very very good movie. I thought Pearl Harbor was better but Black Hawk Down was still good. My dream is to meat josh Hartnet and play in a movie like Pearl Harbor. I thought the person who directed he movie and who put it together did a great job and I just wanted to congradulate you!

Posted by: Nikki Keen on October 14, 2002 03:05 PM

I just have to say that I have watched Black Hawk Down a lot of times and i have missed count after five. It is such a great movie! I think Ridley Scott and Jerry Bruckheimer did an awesome job on this awesome movie! I think Josh Hartnett looks better in war movies but I think he's great! Although there are scenes in BHD that have revealing mistakes but I still love it! it doesn't really go a lot by the book but it gets a pretty good idea on what the real thing was about. And yes, I did read the book and watched the movie! Just one last time I think Black Hawk Down is great and I am going to keep watching it until always! :D

Posted by: Eunice Raguin on October 31, 2003 06:45 PM

I just had to say something again. The movie does go a lot by the book and I have no clue why I said it didn't but some info are not the same because to make the story short you have to tell it that way! well, I really think this is a great movie and I hope to anyone else who reads my comments go ahead and watch it with buds! :D

Posted by: Eunice Raguin on October 31, 2003 06:47 PM
Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember info?