Directed by: Ridley Scott || Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott
Screenplay by: Ken Nolan || Starring: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Orlando Bloom
Music by: Hans Zimmer || Cinematography: Stawomir Idziak || Editing by: Pietro Scalia || Country: United States || Language: English
Running Time: 144 minutes
A year after the critical and commercial success of Gladiator (2000), Ridley Scott returned with another visceral exercise in ultraviolence, but this time in a much more recent historical context. Black Hawk Down (BHD) covers the story of the Battle of Mogadishu, and follows the perspective of multiple American units as the US military manages to stir up a hornet’s nest of Somali hostiles, and what follows is two hours of some of the best action you’ll ever see in a war movie. The number of shootouts, chucked grenades, and prevalence of “Holy Shit!“-moments in the film is impressive. The only films in recent memory that rival or surpass BHD in terms of sheer intensity are Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Raid (2012).
The action and visuals deliver under the watchful eye of Ridley Scott and cinematographer Stawomir Idziak. Particular commendations go to the FX-team and stunt doubles, my Lord. Nobody in their right mind could call BHD sloppily shot — but can its script and characters keep up? As far as pacing goes, the battle-scenes are as well coordinated as they are choreographed. The calm, quiet moments are as finely executed as the breathless, dramatic scenes filled with lead-infused carnage. No part of the film is boring at the very least, and that is a huge plus for this movie.
As far as character depth and development goes, that’s where BHD struggles the most. Josh Hartnett showcases one of his better roles. Supporting actors Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, and William Fichtner do their jobs to make their one-note characters seem likable enough. Their dialogue is stronger than your average cinematic war tour, but nothing is too memorable. In all fairness, Hartnett’s character achieves a minimal level of growth by the story’s conclusion, his character having become considerably hardened by all the combat he was forced to endure, but that is about as much as we get as far as arcs are concerned.
In conclusion, Black Hawk Down lacks the true knockout punch reminiscent of great war films because of its lack of depth at the character level. We all like our boys in uniform, I suppose, but rarely more so than from a visceral, sheer survivalist point of view. The film’s action scenes are impressive any way you look at it, and will get your heart pounding no matter your opinion of the characters themselves. That being said, nothing in Scott’s hornet’s nest feels that special beyond its primal impact and beautifully woven carnage.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Black Hawk Down is a visceral, action-packed, and expertly paced war-picture that showcases some of Ridley Scott’s best action-direction of his career. It remains one of the few movies I’ve seen that lives up to those hack-critic accolades on countless DVD covers like, “Non-stop thrill ride!” It lives up to that cliche. The film gives you little time to breathe amidst all the grit, blood, and chaos.
— However… underwhelming character development and mostly cardboard characters weaken the story’s impact and let down an otherwise strong cast. You won’t mind much given how relentless and tightly edited the picture is (this is no Pearl Harbor ), but you’ll barely remember any character names, backstories, or motivations whatsoever. Even more so than Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down is an action-direction showcase for Ridley Scott that has little to no interest in a captivating story beyond basic human survival and aggression.
? Delta Force are portrayed as war gods in this film, which I suppose is accurate, no?