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BLACK HAWK DOWN   Print  E-mail 
Written by Graham Reed  
Monday, 05 July 2004

You've heard of pornography? Well, this is Warnography. War Porn.

 

 

Following last years entertaining but lightweight fluff that was "Pearl Harbor", producer Jerry Bruckheimer decides to try to make up for previous wrongdoings by by roping in 3 of the same cast (Tom Sizemore, Ewen Bremner, Josh Harnett), and director Ridley ("Gladiator", "Blade Runner") Scott, in an attempt to make a serious war movie. They failed: "Black Hawk Down" however, is a visually accomplished, slick but beautifully looking piece of propaganda.

 

Set in 1993 and based on the true events US forces are in Somalia, trying to stop a civil war, the US forces mount an operation to extract two of the local warlords lieutenants. However, if it all went to plan, it'd be a very short movie.

 

When 2 US Black Hawk helicopters get shot down, and the US ground forces get blocked in by roadblocks and pinned down with what seems to be the entire city after them, that's when the pyrotechnics start as the US soldiers have to fight their way through the city, as well as rescue the crews of the downed helicopters.

 

As you'd expect from Ridley Scott, the direction is assured,capable and vibrant : brilliant colours, beautifully shot, using a number of camera tricks (but nothing you've not seen before in "Hannibal" or "Gladiator") and shaky-cam to try and get across the  horrors of war. How the producers expected to be Oscar nominated for this is beyond belief; the acting is nothing more than duck, run, over, shout, shoot, repeat ad infinitum . Only Eric Bana (of "Chopper" fame), while mostly unrecognisable, seems to be anywhere near convincing.

 

Structurally though, the film is flawed: a wide array of characters are introduced fleetingly in an overlong, dull sequence at the beginning which sets up the situation and leaves unsure of who is who, unable to care really about them at all. Then the raid starts, the volume goes to excruciatingly loud, and then the explosions begin.

 

And once they begin, they just don't stop, with an almost 2 hour long battle sequence that lacks pacing and quickly becomes devoid of tension and excitement, but just becomes an never ending stream of blood, bullets and heroics.

 

With gore on the level of "Saving Private Ryan" (the much- imitated benchmark for any modern war film) and beyond, this film also seems to cash-in on the post September 11th jingoism in the US: shots of the local militia called to prayer, with the faceless Somali population referred to in the racist term as "skinnies" thoughout, depicted as uncultured savages with AK-47's and seemingly dispatched with a single bullet when the American deaths are savage, bloody, and heroic. Its like a remake of "Zulu" with machine guns and helicopters.

 

"Don't Drink and Fly next time!"

 

While war is seen to damaging to both sides, The underlying racism of the US troops is unsettling. Not to mention the subtext that it portrays only the Somali people who don't participate as victims, while the anti-US and faceless Somali Militia savages exist only be mown down in a hail of heroic gunfire while suppressing his fellow citizens.

 

And all the while Johnny Redneck of Iowa cheers on, sups his Diet Coke and Big Mac, and renews his subscription to "Guns And Ammo".  But there else, what else did you expect from the producer of "Top Gun"?

 

However, as DVD's go, this is truly truly packed with stuff. 3 commentaries - of which all are interesting, and a good 2 1/2 hours of making of material which just shows you exactly how much work went into this - especially the FX portion about digital helicopters for the crash sequences. It's astounding just how much work here there is, especially when you don;t even think of it as effects it's that good. An outstanding DVD for an technically outstanding film; if you read through the war porn subtext of the film, this film is technically brilliant if nothing else.

 

 

BONUS MATERIAL :-

DISC ONE

Audio commentary with director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer

Audio commentary with US Special Forces veterans

Audio commentary with writers Mark Bowden and Ken Nolan

 

DISC TWO

"The Essence Of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down" featurettes:

- After Action Report (24m 55s)

- Battlefield: Morocco (29m 57s)

- Crash Course (29m 52s)

- Digital Warriors (23m 5s)

- Getting It Right (23m 18s)

- Hymn To The Fallen (17m 53s)

 "Image And Design" features:

- Designing Mogadishu

- Jerry Bruckheimer's Photo Album (5m 23s)

- Photo Galleries

- Production Design Archive

- Ridleygrams

- Storyboards (with optional audio commentary) (14m 42s)

- Title Design And Exploration (with optional audio commentary) (3m 22s)

8 alternate and deleted scenes with optional audio commentary by director)

 

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