Date: 23 January 2002
If American generals were looking for a justification for their policy of annihilation through bombing of nasty regimes, Ridley Scott's film certainly provides it. The young "Rangers", the U.S.'s crack combat soldiers, get a thorough pasting as the entire city of Mogadishu turns against them following a bungled kidnap attempt on Somalia's political elite. The film ignores almost completely the wider geo-political reasons for and consequences of, the US intervention, with the exception of a tokenistic referral to the famine that was engulfing Somalia because of the civil war taking place. Instead the focus is on the Rangers themselves and the astonishingly unfortunate turn of events which led to them becoming trapped in the most hostile part of the city.
Essentially, Black Hawk Down is one long battle sequence, the longest in cinema history apparently, and Scott must be congratulated on his ability to keep the viewer absorbed throughout. There is some inevitable schmaltz and machismo, but mainly the direction and cinematography is excellent and its difficult to imagine a better portrayal of what its like to be 'under seige'. PC-types will complain that the Somalis get a pretty raw deal, but there are a couple of scenes, including one where one of Aidid's lieutenants persuasively tells a captured Ranger that peace will only arrive in Somalia after violence, and where a Ranger stumbles in to a Somali house to find a women bent over her four children in a state of abject fear, which balance things out a bit. Black Hawk Down is about the worst situation humans can find themselves in and how they survive, and in this, if nothing else, it succeeds.
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