Black Hawk Down movie poster
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Black Hawk Down Movie Review

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Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Josh Hartnett, and Tom Sizemore reunite in Black Hawk Down, a much better and much more accurate portrayal than 2001's other war movie.

All three men were involved with director Michael Bay in the big budget and low-on-interest Pearl Harbor, and obviously they decided they wanted to do a grittier and more powerful film under the helm of Gladiator director Ridley Scott. Their second gamble paid off, because Black Hawk Down has managed to creep onto my Top Ten List for 2001.

Black Hawk Down tells of the tragic story in Somalia in 1993, where two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by Somali militia in the nation's capital. What was supposed to be a routine mission turned into the biggest and bloodiest battle since Vietnam, where 18 American soldiers were killed, 200 more were injured, and over 1,000 Somalis died.

I read part of the book and didn't particularly like it. It seemed cluttered and confusing, but, thankfully, the movie is anything but. There are a lot of characters, but Scott does a good job differentiating all of them, and the mission is pretty clear as well. Of course, you can't always tell which character is which, but that is pretty common in war movies.

Black Hawk Down provides a very vivid portrayal of modern warfare, the picture being clear and crisp, yet nothing like those movies of old. While there are similarities, I was thankful that Black Hawk Down had a different directorial style than used in Saving Private Ryan. After that amazing film came out, pretty much every war movie that followed used Spielberg's rough and shaky approach. Ridley Scott even used some of that in his previous masterpiece, Gladiator, but in Black Hawk Down there is something noticeably different and refreshing.

In terms of what is shown on screen, Black Hawk Down does not hold back much at all. There is blood, there is carnage, and the body count is amazing. It is probably unfair to compare it to the best war movie ever made, Saving Private Ryan, but it doesn't quite have the effect that that World War II movie did, but, then again, can that really be expected? Still, the movie builds up some characters to the point where you really don't want them to die, and there are a few scenes that just make the audience gasp. I was somewhat disappointed that the movie didn't follow the infamous scene many of us have seen where an American soldier is dragged through the streets by a truck, but obviously the people in charge thought the movie was already powerful enough.

Black Hawk Down is a war movie, and a very good war movie at that, but it also serves as a good action picture, and you can definitely tell that Scott and Bruckheimer were aiming for serious entertainment as well. During many scenes, there is racy background music that you usually wouldn't find in other war movies. I didn't always agree with the choice of music, but at times the added sound created a better atmosphere. Music aside, Black Hawk Down is nearly a non-stop roller coaster ride. The first twenty minutes or so are used for character build-up and so forth, but as soon as the soldiers leave the base, you know you're in store for a wild ride, and a wild ride is what you get. The whole movie is nearly a single action sequence, though there are a few slower parts thrown in for drama. Nevertheless, it is exciting from beginning to end.

The acting is very impressive as well. Hartnett, who continues to show his range, shows that even teenage heartthrobs can act. Sizemore, of course, does an excellent job. Ewan McGregor is pretty good. Sam Sheppard is quite impressive, as is the rest of the cast. There are a lot of recognizable faces but no one person dominates the show, and Black Hawk Down pays off because of it. Where a really big actor would force a story to be created around him, the story here is worked around the real incident, following many soldiers, some of whom die.

Many critics have noted that its award chances are diminished by its lack of a Somali viewpoint, but I really didn't have a problem with it. Sure, the Somalis who died (fifty fold what America suffered) have their own stories to tell and a different political stance, but that isn't what this movie is about. If the movie had taken time to look at things from the militia's viewpoint (which also wouldn't be too popular right now), it would have just slowed itself down.

Ridley Scott does a good job bringing the intensity of the battle to the big screen, creating a great war film and an excellent action movie at the same time.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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