Saturday, October 4, 2014

Flick Pick: Blackhawk Down

Blackhawk Down
(Columbia, 2001)

Anyone too young to drink in most states wasn't born when the events in this movie took place, 21 years ago today. Ridley Scott's masterful portrayal of the ill-fated Delta/Ranger raid into Mogadischu premiered barely three months after 9/11, and the tale of the events that led to 19 American soldiers' deaths and those of 1000+ Somalis recounted within it have become one of the best and most powerful war movies of the modern era. While definitely a fictionalized dramatization, the realism and accuracy of many of the details is phenomenal, in no small part due to the training, nigh indoctrination, of the cast members by the actual units, and no small number of veterans of the engagement, prior to filming; and the extensive use of those very units for many shots in the film. American military involvement and cooperation was unprecedented, and a year later, as events unfolded, couldn't have happened. The result is a brutal, gritty, hideous, and sublime look at war in a very small place, telescoped down from the hundreds and hundreds involved to a key few. The cinematography is what one expects from Scott, a compositional master, and the Moroccan landscape fills in admirably for the squalor that was Somalia in 1993, and largely remains to this day. What little carping over the film was largely sour grapes from those all too accurately portrayed, while the critical and popular acclaim redounded to the courage and honor of the units involved, even then already gearing up for an entire decade-plus of war in the same region. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Director for Scott, and won two for Best Sound and Best Film Editing, while pulling in nearly $173M in box office at home and abroad. Until the films of the SWAsia experience begin to make their way to the box office, if you would understand soldiers at war, particularly American ones, this is the movie to see.

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