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Film reviews

Black Hawk Down

Title: Black Hawk Down

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, et al

Reviewer: Matt Eccles

Rating (out of 10): 8


Despite Gladiator's minor flaws and the disappointment of Hannibal, Ridley Scott finally achieved the A-list profile that's been overdue for the best part of a decade. However, the pre-release buzz that surrounded Black Hawk Down was mainly due to its alleged post-September 11th American flag-waving and the many comparisons with the unforgettable opening sequence of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.

These sentiments were put aside, though, as some post-release commentators alleged that the film - while not being an unashamedly jingoistic paean to Uncle Sam - gave an unfavourably biased portrayal of the Somalian enemy. This reviewer would contend that, as Black Hawk Down attempts to put its audience right in the middle of the American soldiers' point-of-view, the Somalians are presented as primitive and barbaric because the Americans thought they were, rather than because they are.

Curiously, this is probably the only political point raised by this film. Indeed, it is difficult to work out what lasting impression on the audience Ridley Scott wants to leave. If it is simply that War Is Hell, then Black Hawk Down is an admirable success - we spend fifteen minutes getting acquainted with the characters, then spend two quite exhausting hours trying to figure out who's who as they become increasingly muddied and bloodied amongst the impressively staged (and shot) carnage.

However, the film's refusal to give these events little political context renders its focus on the soldiers at Ground Zero strangely unsympathetic. Overall, then, Black Hawk Down is an admirably dizzying and draining experience, but won't leave you thinking much afterward about the Americans' botched assault on Mogadishu that led to such unnecessary and tragic losses on both sides.

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