I’ve never once tried to hide my appreciation for Ridley Scott. He’s one of my favorite directors and even when his material may not be its strongest, the sheer visual presentation and keen eye that he possesses has always blown me away. More often times than not Scott has given me a truly amazing motion picture experience. Gritty crime thrillers, ambitious science fiction spectacles, marvelous period pieces, and one particular modern military picture that I think is one of the greatest war films of all time – “Black Hawk Down”.
In 2001 Scott took on a project chronicling the events of the Battle of Mogadishu. The 1993 bungled operation to capture the brutal Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid revealed an ineptitude in the U.S. government and the true and unwavering bravery of the American military. It’s an amazing story adapted from Mark Bowden’s 1999 book. “Black Hawk Down” doesn’t cater to any political perspective and like many modern war films it doesn’t lose its effectiveness in a heavy-handed message. The movie sets things up and then puts its focus on the ground and the troops involved.
“Black Hawk Down” features a wonderful cast, each feeling perfectly at home in their roles. Eric Bana, Sam Sheppard, Josh Hartnett, William Fichtner, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy, Tom Sizemore, Jason Isaacs, Orlando Bloom, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Glen Morshower and others bring this gritty and intense war story to life. Much of the movie’s potency is due to the ability of these actors to draw us to the characters and truly invest in their dire circumstances. A lot of this is also due to Ken Nolan and company’s strong screenplay. The well versed military dialogue and strategies seem anchored in realism making the story itself all the more compelling.
But for me the movie’s success always comes back to Ridley Scott and his spectacular vision. His tension-soaked pacing keeps you locked in from when the first American boot touches ground. His cameras move through the Moroccan urban locations creating an unsettling and dangerous close-quartered environment. The vehicles, helicopters, weaponry, and uniforms all feel extremely authentic. All of this contributes to something that is essential for a film like this – high stakes. Scott does a tremendous job of raising the stakes as the soldiers try to survive amid such violent chaos.
And of course there are the brilliant action sequences. Loud echoing gunfire, heavy machine guns and RPGs, strikingly real chopper crashes, projected dirt and rock from grenade explosions and bullet rounds. It’s fierce and furious but again it carries with it a sharp tinge of realism. That’s what make it so powerful. I swear, every time I watch “Black Hawk Down” I find myself consumed by it. Scott’s eye for action is impeccable and here he always keeps it lodged in the story’s context.
“Black Hawk Down” is a visceral experience and quite frankly I can’t get enough of it. It’s frenetic action one minute and deeply moving the next. But it never loses sight of its main focus – the characters. Scott has done a lot of unique stuff throughout his career and many of his films are true favorites of mine. Well let me just say this is one of his best and coming from a big fan like me, that’s high praise!
VERDICT – 5 STARS