“Black Hawk Down” is an exciting film with so much intense action that the audience may find it almost unbearable, not just because of the tension the film produces, but because it is a horrific true story. Based on the U.S. military excursion that went wrong in the city of Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993, which killed nearly 20 American soldiers and 1,000 Somalis, the film can be very disturbing due to its unrelenting desire to truthfully depict modern warfare.
The action throughout the film, which never lets up, makes the opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan” seem superficial and showy. Director Ridley Scott has achieved a chaotic melee that attacks the audience’s senses.
On a routine but highly dangerous mission, a group of Army Rangers and Delta Force troops try to infiltrate one of the busiest sections of the city to arrest one of the most powerful warlords in the country. While taking on heavy fire, one of the Army helicopters is shot down, turning the capture of one man into a rescue mission of a whole helicopter crew. Trapped, the men are forced to hold their ground as an entire city, enraged by their presence, surrounds them. The audience can feel the restriction the soldiers experienced as Scott quickly surrounds the characters with hostile enemies.
The only thing the film fails to do, which made Mark Bowden’s military book (the source material for the film) better than most, is explain the motivation of the Somalis’ in their attack on the Americans. In the end, they appear to be ruthless people who are only interested in killing the foreigners who have taken position in their country.
The timing of the film affects how the audience sees the film. While displaying the horrors of war, “Down” highlights the seriousness of the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. It is unavoidable to ignore the current situation as you watch this examination of modern warfare.
But beyond the horrific images that Scott expertly portrays on screen, the key to the success of the film lies in the characterization. The soldiers in the film are so well developed that the audience is enabled to recognize each without confusion. This is an incredible feat considering the number of characters and the amount of hectic action in the film. This achievement is due to both the excellent screenplay and the wonderful acting of the whole cast. Scott has never worked with such a talented cast.
Josh Hartnett, who has the most prominent role as Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann, has the right assertive presence and innocence to make the role work. He works a fine balance that proves he may be the next generation of great Hollywood stars.
“Black Hawk Down” producer Jerry Bruckheimer has perhaps one of the longest winning streaks in movie production history. After his hits of the 1980s, including “Flashdance” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” Bruckheimer and his late producing partner, Don Simpson, continued to find audience pleasers that raked in millions of dollars.
But after trying to buy prestige last year with the vomit-inducing travesty of “Pearl Harbor,” Bruckheimer has found a film that may bring the critical recognition his successful career has been missing.
This milestone for Bruckheimer is also one of Scott’s best films. “Down” incorporates the stylish sense both filmmakers have mastered, but also taps into real human emotions.
For Scott, this is a film that deserves the accolades that his “Gladiator” received. For Bruckheimer, this may be the highlight of his career.
Staff Writer Steve Allan can be contacted at: [email protected]