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Movie: Black Hawk Down

[Movie: Black Hawk Down] In 1982, the blockbuster "Top Gun" was directed by Tony Scott, brother to Riley Scott. In 1986, James Cameron directed the blockbuster "Aliens" -- the sequel to Ridley Scott's own "Alien". Now, in Black Hawk Down, Ridley tries to one-up everyone, attempting to outdo Top Gun in patriotism and Aliens for breathtaking scenes showing endless waves of attackers. While he's at it, he also tries to usurp the Most Gutwrenching War Movie throne held by Saving Private Ryan. All this ambition makes for a movie that's well above-average, but tries a little too hard.

By now you know the story, either by because you've read countless Black Hawk Down synopses, seen the Frontline special or recall the details of the actual event. In 1993 a simple "extraction" mission in Somolia went from frying pan to fire, resulting in scores of US soldiers trapped in Mogadishu, surrounded and beseiged by Somolian milisa. Scott does an excellent job at conveying the out-of-control, chaotic nature of this event, but he just never seems to know when to quit. The first third of the movie centers of the soldiers before the mission, showing their relationships and dedications to the cause. This does a good job of stirring patrotism in the auidence, but he keeps it up until the whole thing begins to tilt towards jingoism. In the firefights sceens -- where a handful of American soldiers defends themselves against hordes of oncoming Somolia gunment -- you are at first mesmersized by the overwhelming odds, but Scott continues until you feel like you are watching someone play "Black Hawk Down' on a Playstation 2. And the "fog of war" is well documented by showing conveys driving around aimlessly through town as the officers try to make sense out of the deteriorating situation, but these scenes go on for so long that I found myself getting bored by the confusion rather than unnerved by it.

In these instances (and other), less would have been more. Scott continually orchestrates the action and suspense until they reach their peak, but then feels the need to drive the point home a few more times, ultimately weakening the power of the imagery. That said, there's no denying that those scenes or incredible and indelible power exists in Black Hawk Down, and they make this a movie well worth seeing.

Posted on February 18, 2002 to Movies