Black Hawk Down – Special Forces Week

Black Hawk Down is currently available on instant Netflix

Black Hawk DownBlack Hawk Down (2001) – Rated R

“Based on a true story, U.S. Rangers and an elite Delta Force team attempt to kidnap two underlings of a Somali warlord, their Black Hawk helicopters are shot down, and the Americans face intense combat with the militia on the ground.”

No one gets left behind, you know that.”

My bone of the day to pick is this. The Hurt Locker was a very good film but not only were Up in the Air, Up, Inglourious Basterds and District 9 (all nominees) better films but, as a modern portrait of war (post World War II), you simply cannot beat Black Hawk Down.

I agree that it was long overdue for a female director to win and Kathryn Bigelow is certainly a good one but it really cheapens the prize when you start to think that the award was not actually given for Best Film but to redress a wrong or perhaps for being topical.

I guess my real gripe is that the best post-World War II war film, Black Hawk Down, was not even nominated for Best Picture and lost Best Director to Ron Howard for A Beautiful Mind.

Black Hawk Down did win Best Oscars for Editing (amazing and well-deserved) and Sound (if you have good speakers, you can almost feel the bullets hitting). It was also nominated for Best Cinematography (again well-deserved – Best Cinematography does not always have to be pretty) and the aforementioned Best Director for Ridley Scott.

Poor Ridley Scott. In 1979, he made one of my all-time favorite horror movies, Alien. In 1982, he made one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies, Blade Runner.

He finally got his first Oscar nomination for Thelma & Louise, THE female buddy flick but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. He got his next one for Gladiator but lost to Traffic (seriously? he lost to a remake of a BBC miniseries where the miniseries was better than the movie.). He lost the Best Director nod on Black Hawk to A Beautiful Mind.

So to sum up my favorites: Ridley Scott made Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. The best director films for those years were Kramer vs. Kramer, Gandhi, Traffic, and A Beautiful Mind. Which set of films are still watched today? I have to give you that Silence of the Lambs was better directed than Thelma & Louise.

Well I guess I have used up all my room to rant. I better quickly run down why you should see this film.

Part of the reason Black Hawk Down is so good is the incredible attention to detail. The black hawks and little birds are real black hawks and little birds. Real Rangers do the rope scenes. The satellite maps behind Garrison are some of the real scenes from that battle.

Ken Nolan did an incredible job of trimming down the unbelievably detailed book by Mark Bowden. Most of what is trimmed out are pre- and post-raid events, an examination of the drug khat, and some Somali points of view (from what I remember).

While I deride Tony Scott for his unnecessary jump-cutting, bleached out cinematography, and sped-up and slowed down scenes, here Ridley Scott uses all of these to great effect. If I had to use one word to describe Black Hawk Down, it would be intense.

I am going to be brief about the acting. There are a number of name actors in this film but also many unknowns. I found all the performances to be spot-on. Josh Hartnett is the lead but this is really an ensemble film. Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard and more all put in fine performances.

I really love that there is no one hero – these are all heroes. I defy you not to tear up the first time you hear the snipers volunteer to go to the downed chopper.

As if you could not tell, I whole-heartedly recommend this incredibly intense film. The only reason not to see it is if you are extremely averse to realistic warfare.

Interestingly while this is a right-wing favorite (it is actually a personal favorite of George W. Bush), it is also a favorite of the Somalis (although for quite different reasons). Regardless of ideology this is one humdinger of a true story. By the way “skinnies” is not a malnutrition reference, it comes from “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein.

People Watch: Yes that is Legolas (Orlando Bloom) tumbling from the helicopter that starts the disaster rolling.