Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Black Hawk Down

Consider this my second post in a series of three in which I expose the best war movies in the last one thousand years. That's right, a millennium of war movies... most of which being made within the last eighty years. My list, however, only accounts for the last ten years... because those are the years that count.

To be honest with you, I wouldn't have placed Black Hawk Down in the top three until I watched it again just recently. And that was only my second viewing of the film. Did I like it the first time I watched it in theaters almost ten years ago? Yes I did. So why the delay between viewings? The answers to that question are the very things that put this film in the number two spot. But I'll get to that in just a moment.

Before I get to the good stuff, allow me to offer a little commentary. This movie should have been called Black Hawks Down, as there were two choppers shot down in this battle. It needed to be said. Don't know what it's about? Man... I'm full of questions! Well, here's the quick intel: This movie tells the story of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, in which U.S. troops were called in to extract key Somali warlords. It was designed to be a 30 minute, in and out mission, which turned into an 18 hour stand-off when two U.S. Black Hawk Helicopters were shot down by enemy RPGs. And before all you D&D fans get all excited, RPG stands for rocket-propelled grenade.

Now, if I may, I'd like to actually share a thought or two on why this film makes the top three. For starters, one of the biggest reasons why it made a quick, and very recent, jump to the top is simply for the significance of the story. In my experience, there are far too few good war movies that depict realistic modern warfare. On top of that, the conflict itself isn't as well known as WWII, Vietnam, or even Desert Storm. I love how it brings this obscure battle to light, and depicts the modern soldier.

The second reason would have to be the general realism of how the story is told. As I said in my last war movie review, a good war movie is one that honors our military veterans with realism - not Hollywood hype. And if you want to know why it took me almost ten years to come back around for another viewing of this movie, it's because this movie is nothing if not realistic. To be honest, there are many parts that are just difficult to watch. And while it doesn't come close to the realism of Band of Brothers, with real life men portrayed on the screen with matching names, it comes pretty close. My understanding is that every character in Black Hawk Down was inspired by a real person... in some cases, multiple people.

When writing a review for this movie, you can't ignore the non-stop action. There's maybe 20 minutes of setup at the beginning, but then it's on... and it's on hard... until the end of the movie. This movie is literally one big battle scene that rarely lets up. And the action is so intense, a diaper is advised while viewing. That's a mistake I made on both occasions.

Finally, the last reason why this movie was so good was the lack of screen time by Orlando Bloom. But you will enjoy performances by Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnet, Jeremy Piven and a few other guys you've probably seen is some other war movies.

Listen - this is a good movie. Some of the "buddy soldier antics" in the beginning are a little cliche. But those moments are fleeting and forgivable when the real story is unleashed. When it's all over, you'll be thankful you weren't an Army Ranger in '93... unless, of course, you were. In that case, my hats off to you.

I said a lot.

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