Runtime: 2 Hours
and 23 Minutes
"Black Hawk Down" isn't a bad movie. It just isn't a necessarily
good one. I appreciate the men who died in Mogadishu, and I'm sorry
that they were involved in such a clusterfuck operation. Let me get
that on record right here and now. But let me state that I don't feel
this movie particularly does anything to honor their memory. Yes,
it outlines the situation. It shows you how things went wrong. But
a better filmmaker might have gotten me to care about it.
"Black Hawk Down" is the tale of servicemen who went into
Mogadishu, Somalia to try and bring down a local warlord who was depriving
people of food and causing genocide. However, an operation that was
supposed to be over in less than an hour soon becomes a terrible siege.
Helicopters go down, the locals are far more well-equipped than anyone
expected, and everything that can go wrong pretty much does.
Sure, it's a sad story. A really bleak tale. But Ridley Scott didn't
make me care about it. The only characters in the story that I really
cared about were a typist played by Ewan McGregor who gets his first
chance to go into action and a captain played by William Fichter who
disobeys any order that might get more men killed. However, if it
hadn't been for the natural charisma of McGregor, I doubt I would
have cared as much about the former character.
The film is sorta like the first twenty-five minutes of "Saving
Private Ryan" drawn out to two and a half hours in length. If
you think that sounds good, well, it does in theory. But in reality,
it's not quite as good as you might expect. First of all, the first
twenty-five minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" drew me in
and absorbed me and kept me interested enough to pay attention for
the rest of the film (which, by the way, was much more involving than
the rest of this one- it had better characters and more on its mind).
This film just grinds on and on, putting its characters through the
meat grinder and not really giving you any reason why you should care.
I'm sure that the actual individuals involved in this conflict were
more interesting than the bland types that inhabit this film. You
never lose sight of what the characters are supposed to be doing or
where they are, but it never really mattered to me. Every moment of
the film just reminded me of a scene I had seen done better in another
film. "Three Kings" covered a lot of the same ground, and
with more panache and more guts than this one. It's a pretty slack
film that can't generate interest out of men who are blown in half,
or gets an unintentional laugh when a man puts his own severed hand
into his pocket for safe keeping.
Yes, I know it sounds awful that I would laugh in such a moment.
But that only illustrates the dullness of this film. I was never very
compelled by it, or sucked into the plight of the people in the film.
They were never real people to me. The filmmaking is fine. The battles
are bloody. But they don't really add up to anything. And by the time
that the film does start to kick its morals in, it's too late. We've
long since lost any interest. The "it's so sad" violin music
that oozes over the film only enhances the feeling that you are watching
a movie, and a fairly benign one at that. It's the wrong choice.
I guess I'm in the minority, but I just wasn't compelled to care
about this movie. And I was in the mood to see it. I had just watched
Ridley's brilliant "Alien", proof that the men could once
create a spellbinding and intense bit of filmmaking that put you through
an emotional wringer. If this film had contained half the punch or
resonance of that one, it might have been a war movie to be reckoned
with. Such as it is, it's just another missed opportunity by a director
who used to matter.