Black Hawk Down
(2001)











Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 23 Minutes


Reviewer: Dale
Grade: C

"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.