Move over Private
Ryan, Ridley Scott has just done Spielberg one better, an
unenviable feat to say the least. With Black Hawk Down, Scott has created the most
frighteningly, yet amazingly recreated war sequences ever put on
imagine the first 20 minutes of Ryan, multiplied by 6, and given a
deeper focus of complexity. While
the film is betrayed at times by its clichéd script, and the
dramatic license taken is a little emotionally manipulative, the
final effort is still one that leaves a sense of awe, respect and
admiration, not just for the creators of the film, but for the
soldiers and ideals so powerfully depicted.
It is both
frightening, and shocking, how quickly that important events can
fade from our memory. Two
years removed from the Gulf War, the nation had entered into
another peacekeeping mission, in the African nation of Somalia.
The country was in the midst of a famine of “Biblical
proportions” and was under the dictatorial control of warlord
Mohammed Aidid. The
United Nations sent in food and supplies to help the 300,000
innocent Somalis affected. Once
the country was back on its feet, a small contingent of
peacekeepers was left behind to help maintain order, and Aidid
targeted them, thus creating a hostile environment.
This story, based on the best selling book by Mark Bowden,
tells of one of the more infamous occurrences during the mission.
It started as a raid on a meeting of political dignitaries
of Aidid, which was scheduled to last 30 minutes, but due to
several mitigating circumstances (including a fallen soldier, and
two downed helicopters) ended up costing 18 American lives, and
leaving several soldiers pinned down in Mogadishu for almost 15
hours. More details
on the book, the soldiers, and the aftereffects are available in
the “Related Links” section on the left hand side of the page.
Having not read the book, I cannot compare, but I’m told that it
takes the same, detailed minute-by-minute retelling that the movie
does, also jumping around to several stories and people all during
the same timeframe. This
may cause confusion or frustration for some, who either get lost
in the shooting, or just mixed up as to which camouflaged, buzzed
haircut, soldier they are following.
But I feel, being a veteran of a much less violent Desert
Storm operation that this effectively reflects the mass
disorientation, and maddening sense that the soldiers here, and in
any kind of armed conflict, must have experienced.
The way that Scott and cinematographer Slavomir Idziak
captured this must truly be seen, to be awed.
The choreography and direction of having several different
things occurring, in several different perspectives and areas of
the scene, is truly a marvelous experience, even sans the gunfire,
blood, vehicles, explosions, and troop movement.
All of those combined, with a reasonably solid script, make
this one as close to a “You are There” experience than most of
us will ever want. My
only minor complaint involves the sometimes predictable side
stories (involving a new troops introduction, a last minute phone
call, and a letter to the parents, not to mention half of the
generals “leave no man behind” dialogue) I do not know if
these were actual occurrences, or Scott, Bowden and Zailian took
dramatic license to go for the sympathetic effect. This brings into question my whole, does life imitate art, or
vice versa debate. Do
people say and do things because they saw them on TV or the
movies, or do the movies do these things because they think its
what people would actually do, or at least want to be done.
It’s hard to say, and a never ending debate, but in this
film, those little occurrences, only mildly taint the overall
magic, and frightening reality of the films experience.
the performances save Hartnett, Sizemore, McGregor and Fichtner
(that still leaves over 15 focused speaking roles) go unnoticed,
or blend into things too much to really single out.
By reading the credits afterwards, I learned that Ron
Eldard, Jeremy Piven and Brendan Sexton were in the film, but I
could barely tell you where. None of these really stand out, as
they are, as soldiers are, a part of a cohesive team.
Each has a part, a job, to fill and do, and sometimes its
not as important whom the person is, as to how they contribute to
the team. This is the case in this multi talented, effective cast,
which does bring a bit of heart and realism to a painful piece of
Hawk Down is a brutally realistic depiction of warfare; its
heroes, their triumphs, the losses, the sadness, and the overall
emotion of the situation. This
will be as close as most of us will ever come to real warfare,
complete with the bullets, the blood, the confusion, the chaos
Amidst the predictability and emotional manipulation of recent
cinematic efforts, it seems that the art of film making often gets
lost amongst the attempt to present a universally crowd-pleasing
are storytellers, just as authors are, and their goals are
similar. Each creates
a story, whether the basis is factual, or generated in the mind of
the teller. They attempt to take us into their world, and give us a
complete experience, using every available method.
With Black Hawk, Scott has returned to the forefront of
visual storytellers (after his Hannibal debacle) and has given a
nation a reminder that soldiers and heroes have existed around us
for ages, all we need is someone to bring the story to our
attention and give it due justice in telling.
This was a part of our history that a lot of people may
have forgotten, and others would like to forget.
But for the sake of patriotism, and national unity, we
cannot, and shall not, thanks to Ridley Scott’s amazing vision.
I was a soldier, serving during this time, and only in
reflection and research, did I recall and recount the details of
this small dark slice of American history.
George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Sometimes it takes the story telling medium of the movies, not
just books, to remind, recount, reflect and respect the
participants, and the repercussions of our past discretions.
Let Black Hawk Down stand as a reminder that America is not
a perfect country, but will always be a proud, patriotic one.
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