REVIEW: “Black Hawk Down”

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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.

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“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.

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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

5 STARSs

5STAR K&M

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34 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Black Hawk Down”

  1. I had a bit of a weird journey on this film – after my cinema viewing, I didn’t think it was much of a film, to be honest, probably because I was confused as to what the hell was happening most of the time. On my second and third DVD viewing I still felt the film lacked…. I don’t know, something to rectify what i saw as a haphazard narrative that did nothing for me (not to mention the hodgepodge of characters with barely-there characterization). It took a number of further viewings, in the company of family members and fellow cinephiles, before i began to warm to the films charms.

    I think my main problem was that it was trying to emulate the then recent Saving Private Ryan in terms of visual style with regards to battle. In the years since, I’ve come to accept that what Spielberg achieved with SPR had almost no choice but to filter through to modern war cinema, and almost every film set during wartime since has utilized a similar “look” of desaturation or shutter speed ramping. Looking at the film now, I can see the woods for the trees finally, and consider it among the very best the modern genre has to offer.

    • Wow, that’s interesting. This movie really grabbed me from the start. I’ve really had an affection or it since and its one of those rte movies I can watch anytime.

  2. YES!!!! Cannot agree more. One of my favorite war films. The helicopter turret scene is one the of the most explosive scenes I’ve ever seen and often played in my home theater. Well done Keith, glad you gave it a perfect score man.

  3. Gosh, I saw this in theaters when I was in high school, because I had a huge crush on the then it-boy Josh Hartnett. I actually recently bought it on DVD to re-watch, since I’ll have a much greater appreciation for it now! But I completely forgot all the other actors in this…Tom Hardy?? Who knew! Great review, Keith! You’ve inspired me to quit being lazy, and watch this, because I too have a deep love for Ridley.

    • That’s awesome to hear. Yes Tom Hardy has a role in it as well. He plays one of the heavy gunners left behind by the convoy. Look real close because he’s very young in it. 🙂

  4. Nice review, Keith! Yes, I agree. I really liked Josh Hartnett’s performance. I remember hims as an actor on the verge of something. This is the film that did it for me. Then, I don’t know what happened to him. Still, a great Scott film. 🙂

    • Exactly! I’m not sure what happened to him. He just faded off the map. I really thought he had some promise and I enjoyed his work here. Would love to know what he’s doing.

  5. I have to admit I’ve been curious about this film for some time but my pal Ted said this (like Saving Private Ryan) just might be too violent for my taste. I do like Mr. Scott’s work and a bunch of great actors here that I appreciate (well apart from Josh Hartnett).

    • Knowing your take on violence, there are a few scenes in it that really are graphic. They are brief, quick shots. But they are there. Two scenes come to mind but that’s really about all.

    • Ruth, after thinking on this you really should try and check it out. It’s so powerful and the fact that its based on true events gives it so much more pop. Would LOVE to hear your review!

      • I’ll think about it, the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it scarier. Maybe if I know when the violent parts are then I can close my eyes during those times 🙂 I know Ted has the BD of this one I think, so I can borrow it from him.

      • This is one of those times where I wished we lived closer. You and your husband could come over and watch it with my wife and me. I pretty much have it memorized so I could tell you when to turn your head! 🙂

        My wife isn’t one for blood and guys either but she really does like this movie.

  6. Thank god some love for this movie! I hear so many people crapping all over it but It’s still one of my favorite war movie of the past decade. Great review

  7. Wow, man! 5 stars? You do like Ridley Scott. I have to admit that Scott often disappoints me but Blade Runner is one of my all time faves.

    I went into Black Hawk Down expecting another disappointment but it was top class. I’m not sure about about 5 stars but its not far off it.

    • It’s a definite 5 star flick for me. The power behind its true circumstances really hits me and the entire look of the picture is amazing. I love the tension, the atmosphere, the performances.

      As for Scott, he really delivers for me. Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Robin Hood, and yes, even Prometheus are high, high on my list. I also appreciate American Gangster, Thelma and Louise, and Kingdom of Heaven. I guess I am a fan! LOL

      • Blade Runner is a definite 5 stars but I’d struggle to give the rest of those you mention, you same rating. Not poor by any means but just not quite the complete package for me. I do love Thelma & Louise, though. I forgot all about that.

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