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BLACK HAWK DOWN

SYNOPSIS:
Based on the October 1993 mission to Somalia by elite US soldiers as part of a UN peacekeeping force to kidnap two Somali warlords in an effort to quell the civil war that had precipitated a famine - a mission that went wrong. As the carefully planned operation gets under way, expected to last an hour at most, nobody anticipates the bloody mess it will become as the militia shoot down two of the invincible Black Hawk helicopters. Amidst continuing heavy battle, the mission is to leave no man behind.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
From the promotional tagline, ‘Leave No Man Behind’ to the final line of dialogue, spoken by Eric Bana’s character, Sgt First Class ‘Hoot’ Gibson, to the effect that he’s going back into battle as a Delta Force specialist “because of the man next to you,” Ridley Scott makes it abundantly clear that he’s making a buddy movie. It’s about heroes who don’t mean to be heroes but do heroic things by instinct, and about the American spirit in the face of defeat or disaster. For an Englishman, he does a darn good job of that, taking us into the 1993 battle of Somalia’s civil war on the side of the Americans who try to kidnap a vicious warlord, a man whose actions and supporters helped starve 300,000 Somalians to death. (In that context, criticising the Americans for interfering in an attempt to assist seems to miss a rather tragic point.) The pity is that its huge, technically, cinematically perfect recreation of the hideous, terrifying and insane battle ground of Mogadishu eventually – after just two hours of almost endless fighting - covers up the whole reason for the slaughter. Maybe that’s another of Scott’s points. That it’s all so pointless in the end, since nothing changes in this world, as people around the world hack each other and shoot each other and maim each other for causes and ends that get mulched in the process. We see it all on screen here, from the bullets to the blood, from the chaos and the spilt guts to the mulching of sanity. Nobody can fault the film for its traditional cinematic achievements; extraordinary veracity and visceral punch has been achieved; every aspect of filmmaking craft is at its state of the art best. I just wish more had been done about the politics and the self-serving ‘Animal Farm’ culture of the militia, to set the story in its full context. As it is, western democracy can be seen to be equated with American politics of violence in a foreign country. This is simplistic and the film could have avoided that response had it been more sensitive to the political perceptions that it triggers. But as I said at the beginning, this is really a buddy movie. So while it’s based on fact, and it goes a long way to document the circumstances, the film is not about the incident as such. It’s about the men.

Review by Louise Keller:
A disturbing and close-up view of a war zone, Black Hawk Down is an extraordinary epic that transports us right into the tanks, the soaring Black Hawks and on the ground in a feverish and terrifying battle. Ridley Scott's superb direction never loses its intensity and the impact of the battlefield mayhem is compounded by the realistic production design and sensitive editing that gives us the devastating feeling that we are actually there. The images are graphic and often shocking, as we sense the trepidation, the fear, the terror and horror of the soldiers, many of whom have never shot at anyone before. Propelled by idealism, the men who fought the Battle of Mogadishu venture into the unknown, and learn the consequences. The horrors and futility of war are paramount as we are trapped in a zone from which there appears to be no escape or relief. Bullets fly in a desperate thunderstorm of endless fire. The battle is on the rooftops, on the ground, and the confrontation with innocent civilians, children and even a donkey, remind us that no lines are drawn between those fighting and those who are not. A strong ensemble cast meld together seamlessly, students together in the harsh lesson of war, supporting each other in times of dire need. Sam Shephard grounds the command as the two-star commander, who waits helplessly from the Operations Centre. Although we never really get to know any of the characters intimately, this could well be the point Mark Bowden makes in his book and Ridley onscreen, as time in such circumstances does not allow the luxury of intimate encounters. We gather snapshots beyond the superficial, getting a sense of the bond formed between men who fight side by side. 'It's all about the men next to you' says Eric Bana's character Delta Sgt First Class 'Hoot' Gibson. It's a great US debut for Bana, who said how easy it was to forget that they were actually making a movie – so real was the experience. This translates into the viewing experience; we really feel as though we are there. The cinematography lingers and the scenes are long – we are there for the whole haul. Much of the action is very tough to watch and the dynamics are extraordinary, with Hans Zimmer's percussive, African influenced moody score scorching our emotional barometers. Potent filmmaking at its peak, Black Hawk Down is far from a superficial film: it shares a powerful, searing insight into the courage, tenacity, strength and richness of the human condition.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

Andrew L. Urban interviews
SCOTT & BRUCKHEIMER

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW
by Brad Green

TRAILER

BLACK HAWK DOWN (MA)
(US)

CAST: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewan Bremmer, Sam Shepard, Gabriel Casseus, Kim Coates, Hugh Dancy, Ron Eldard, Ioan Gruffud, Thomas Guiry, Charlie Hofmeier, Danny Hoch, Orlando Bloom

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: Ken Nolan (book Mark Bowden)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Slawomir Idziak

EDITOR: Pietro Scalia ACE

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2002







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