Black Hawk Down
review by Joe Swanberg
As the helicopters
and trucks left base for their mission, I began feeling a little queasy. I was
nervous for these elite soldiers. Director, Ridley Scott manages to create such
a sense of unease in the first twenty minutes of Black Hawk Down, that
I was ready to yell at the screen and tell the men not to go. I didnt
know a thing about this ill fated mission in Mogadishu when I entered the film,
but I knew enough in the first half hour to get the sense that things werent
going to be good.
when the actual mission begins, Black Hawk Down steers itself toward
the realm of the standard war movie, following many war film clichés.
There is the soldier who spends his days behind a desk, dreaming of his chance
to fight, and finally gets called in on the worst mission imaginable. There
is the soldier who cant go on the mission because of a broken arm, but
is later able to help. And there are also the shots of soldiers picking up arms
and other body parts, reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan.
Even though there
is little originality to be found in the film, it is intense and quite entertaining
(though I feel strange using the word entertaining to describe watching people
kill each other). There is a surprising amount of comic relief in such a gory
film. Ewen Bremner, best known for the role of Spud in Trainspotting,
has some hilarious scenes interspersed with the horrors of war. I cant
remember ten minutes that didnt have some kind of joke stuck in, but it
never felt tacky or offensive.
Other than the
standard plot devices, the major problem I have with Black Hawk Down
is the way it treats the lives of the Somalian rebels. Of course it is hard
to be sympathetic with a group of people that is starving their own countrymen
and shooting at our soldiers, but there is never a moment in the film when the
death of a Somalian is anything more than a quick cut of blood splattering out
of his chest. The text that comes on the screen at the end of the film sums
up the producers attitude toward the lives of the Somalians. It reads,
Over 1000 Somalians died during the raid, and 19 American soldiers lost
their lives, creating a distinct difference between the deaths of the
Somalians and the Americans.
Black Hawk Down does not raise any new questions about the relevance of war, nor does it bring to the screen any memorable characters. I doubt the film will have any lasting effect on anyone who has seen Full Metal Jacket or Saving Private Ryan. But it is an intense experience in the theater, with a well executed beginning. If you are a fan or war films, or of cute young male actors with shaved heads and uniforms then Black Hawk Down is for you. If you are looking for a great movie to see on a Saturday night, try The Royal Tenenbaums.