ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  ridley scott

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  biography

LENGTH  -  144 minutes

RELEASED  -  28 december 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  sony pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  black hawk down

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $95,000,000
black hawk down - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from black hawk down at

buy the dvd from black hawk down at

123 elite u.s. soldiers drop into domalia to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord and find themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed somalis.

steven zaillian, as script doctor, did an uncredited re-write on the script.


picture from black hawk down

picture from black hawk down

picture from black hawk down


three out of four possible stars

The word "gritty" has been thrown around in a lot of advertisements concerning this movie, and it's probably the most applicable term to describe Black Hawk Down. And long . . . long is a very good word. What people look for in a war movie is realism. A lot of blood, mountains of dirt, and hundreds of bullets. And this film is stocked with all those things plus the added bonuses of good acting and some camera work that won't make the viewer dizzy. In fact, the camera work, a type of documentary filmmaking, isn't of the hyper shake sort, like the cinematography in Behind Enemy Lines.

It's more the gentle rocking of the "Law & Order" variety, where, as an audience member, the camera looks as if it's moving, but it's not shaking violently. Using a combination of arial shots and steadi-cam shots, the scenes of this movie are filmed so that the audience can focus on the actors (and their gruesome war make-up), instead of having to take motion sickness pills to the film. And the performances in this film are possibly the most attractive part of the movie. Although the film has a very large cast, there is more than one stand-out performance in the film.

The most surprising of which is Ewan Mcgregor's performance as "John Grimes." Mcgregor's character has been stuck behind a desk, typing and preparing coffee for his superiors for most of the current fighting and in the years prior, during Desert Storm. But when he is thrown into the conflict to help in the city, he is not the eager man he had been before being called to the front lines. But during and after the fighting, Grimes proves himself to be one of the bravest men in the field and Mcgregor makes sure this performance is a strong one. And indeed, there are strong performances all around. Even though there are a lot of characters to keep up with.

If there is a fault with the film, it is in how the story is presented. The basic gist of it isn't too hard to understand: Marines are called to extract the right hand men of a Somalian warlord. Their mission goes horribly wrong when one of their black hawk helicopters goes down in the field. What happens during the film though is a confusing series of events that take the soldiers from battle to battle as they wander through the dangerous streets of the war torn city. There are so many soldiers for the audience to take note of that it's hard to understand which soldiers are doing what, and why they're doing what they're doing.

This confusion starts in the beginning when the filmmakers have deemed it necessary to show the audience a bunch of titles, describing what has gone down in Somalia during the U.N. peacekeeping missions and the presence of the U.S. Military. What's important to this picture are the people on the screen, who represent real men who went into this battle, but there's so much set up and preparation for the movie that it's a good half hour before the main characters (all one hundred of them or so) are introduced. There's too much set up and then too many faces of which to keep track. The poster for this film may have included only Josh Hartnett on it, but the film has so many speaking parts in it, that the convoluted series of events is made even more confusing by the large amount of actors.

Good performances aside, this film has so many actors that the audience must contend with, that it's hard to keep up with the story. The list of people with substantial speaking parts is staggering: Josh Hartnett, Ewan Mcgregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Ewen Bremner, Sam Shepard ... and there are more. All of these men share a lot of time on screen and although it's not hard to keep them apart visually, their names, ranks, and purposes are sometimes confusing. The achievement of this film is not in its story-telling prowess (something which it lacks), but rather in the fact that it's an effective war film.

Soldiers are shot and they die, but their memory remains through a solid two and a half hour piece of celluloid, which even if it isn't a perfect movie, creates a viable record of the events surrounding those few days in 1993. Convincing performances and one hell of a make-up department combine to make a war film that's a fast paced journey into these soldier's lives. And if the patriotism sometimes overshadows a balanced account of the story, that can be considered a trade off of the war film genre. History is told by the winners, or the people with the biggest budgets. So this film can be seen as a war film that's realistic and engaging, but hindered by storytelling that tries to overcompensate for the intelligence the producers don't think the audience has.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs sony pictures 2001
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