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_Black Hawk Down_ and dirty.


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#1 of 98 Jack Briggs

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Posted August 18 2002 - 07:16 AM

Perhaps it was Jerry Bruckheimer--he of the Armageddon and Pearl Harbor pedigree--breathing heavily down Ridley Scott's back: "Let's do a quick run-through to establish all the characters we want 'em to cry for when they buy the farm--and get to the shootin' and the blowed-up stuff post-haste."

And so it came to pass that Scott swept the obligatory build-up aside with quick dispatch and gave the audiences an extended version of the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Meanwhile, the best-realized character in the entire film, Sam Shepard's general whatshisname, is the only one who resonates.

Perhaps the real star of this movie is each and every little bullit zinging around the viewer in 5.1-channel glory. And the explosions.

Scott's hot/cold/hot/cold roller-coaster variability as a movie-maker lands him squarely at the medium-warm setting with Black Hawk Down. A flick such as this would have been unthinkable in the less-military-friendly 1970s, but in this era it pushes all the correct buttons. Patriotism triumphs bigtime at the box office.

Not really a "great" movie by any stretch, Black Hawk Down makes for a fun thrill ride of a guilty pleasure, lacking as it does the maudlin pretense of Saving Private Ryan. Besides, the camera work comes across beautifully in the DVD transfer.

But aren't people starting to tire of push-button moviemaking?

#2 of 98 Matt Stone

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Posted August 18 2002 - 07:43 AM

I still have problems with the lack of character development argument. I suppose, they could have tried to develop a couple of characters really well...while skimming over the others, but it just seemed to me that there were too many characters to deal with to get fully developed character arcs.

And regarding the patriotism, I disagree there too. The movie is pro-soldier, but anti-war...and perhaps anti-American interference.
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#3 of 98 Luc D

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Posted August 18 2002 - 07:51 AM

It's remarkable how similar our tastes in films are, Jack. I felt the exact same way about Black Hawk Down. It's as slick as Hollywood films get, and just as poorly written as well.

It's mediocre through and through. Dynamic mise-en-scene and sharp editing can't save a film that seems to have so little to offer except to further explore this necessity of hyper-realism in today's war film. Here's hoping that this trend of "war porn" has died down with the failure of Windtalkers.

#4 of 98 Mitty

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Posted August 18 2002 - 08:14 AM

It must be tough to be Ridley Scott, at least from an artistic point of view. At least from where I stand, his good movies underperform and his crappy movies become smash hits. At least of late that seems to be the trend. Black Hawk Down barely cracked the 100M barrier, but considering its budget, it was a disappointment. It just seems like his greatest wave of success came on the heels of his worst pictures (but lets not turn this into a Gladiator discussion).

I think this is a fine piece of work by him, pretty much for entirely the reasons Jack criticizes it. It doesn't develop individual characters because it's not about the individual characters. It's about the mission, how it went wrong, and how the soldiers had to flee for their lives. It would have been less risky for Scott to develop heroes for us to root for. After all, that pretty much fits the formula of war movies, even the good ones. But haven't we seen that before?

And WRT whether it's pro or anti war: well, that's a tough one. I think it takes the "a picture is worth a thousand words" approach and answers it through the images, rather than exposition and speech making. As I recall, even the text at the end only gives statistics, no particular commentary.

Of course, I haven't seen the movie since early in its theatrical run, so it isn't exactly fresh in my gulliver.

#5 of 98 Rich Romero

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Posted August 18 2002 - 08:19 AM

I agree with Mitty. Character development was purposely looked over. In war, there are no heroes who save the day. Each man is a hero. They decided to focus on the conflict and the battle.
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#6 of 98 Bill J

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Posted August 18 2002 - 08:46 AM

In my opinion the lack of character development was what made Black Hawk Down great. The film feels realistic because of the anonymity of the soldiers.

As Rich said, "each man is a hero."

Ridley Scott's goal was to put an accurate, hour by hour, step by step, recreation of the battle on film.

Overall, Black Hawk Down is about combat (as Scott intended). It isn't a political film and it isn't an "America is the best" film.

#7 of 98 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted August 18 2002 - 09:20 AM

I disagree about both of your points, Jack. You may be right that Bruckheimer forced Ridley Scott to put in those buddy-buddy scenes in the beginning, the only things that marred the film for me.

As Mitty and Rich said, the film intentionally drops any significant character development. To develop any of the surviving characters as "hero" types would have make the whole terrible mess a patriotic victory. In the eyes of movie goers. There will always be some that are so desensitized by violence from movies that they will go into this and say "look at all the big cool 'splosions." But that wasn't the intent at all, in my opinion. The point seemed to be to show the conflict as realistically as Scott possibly could while making it understandable to the audience.

I also dissagree that "Patriotism triumphs bigtime at the box office." This film isn't patriotic at all. If anything, it's anti-war. But it skips the political angle entirely, simply showing the horrors that soldiers go through. It's important that this was a terrible failure as far as a mission goes. Too many war films are about victory. The way that the script so deftly avoids political commentary on the events, it could be used as an example for either side to further their cause. If they had such a film during Vietnam, I'm sure the hippies would have tried to use it as a demonstration of the horrors of war. I'm sure the government would have tried to use it as a display of the heroism of our troops. The only political baggage you'll find in the film is the stuff you brought in with you.

#8 of 98 Bill J

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Posted August 18 2002 - 09:26 AM

Adam, I agree 100%.

#9 of 98 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted August 18 2002 - 12:18 PM

I consider Black Hawk Down to be the best film 2001. For me, it is a film that matters. Here’s what I said about it earlier this year:

Black Hawk Down is the least sentimental and manipulative war film to come out of Hollywood for quite some time. This film will come as a surprise to many who is expecting a Saving Private Ryan type of narrative.

Character development comes in many forms. Ridley Scott uses a different kind of technique for the audience to get to know the characters in this film. There is very little use of spoken words and instead he uses very vivid imagery to give his characters life and depth. Every facial expression says a lot about a person. Every move. Every gesture. Ridley Scott brilliantly captures this on film with an ensemble cast that are highly competent. Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Sam Shepard, Ron Eldard and the rest of the cast are worth noting. In the end, we do end up caring for each one of them.

As far as the battle scenes are concerned, they are done with brutal honesty devoid of any gratuitous violence. At first I was concerned about this as the trailer did not paint a good picture. I thought this was going to be another MTV type shoot with the quick cuts and accompanying rock music in the background. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. It achieves the perfect balance between the rock selections and the ambient music from its composers headed by Hans Zimmer. And Ridley Scott does great work with the camera.

Black Hawk Down tells more than just an incident that happened in Somalia in October 1993. More importantly, it tells a story about relationships and the individuals who fight a war.

-------------

As far as the lack of character development concerns that have been raised, these soldiers, for the most part, have Moms and Dads, brothers or sisters. Some may even have wives and children of their own. That’s enough for me to care about these characters.

~Edwin
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#10 of 98 Robert Crawford

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Posted August 18 2002 - 12:28 PM

It's remarkable how similar our tastes in films are, Jack. I felt the exact same way about Black Hawk Down. It's as slick as Hollywood films get, and just as poorly written as well.

It's mediocre through and through. Dynamic mise-en-scene and sharp editing can't save a film that seems to have so little to offer except to further explore this necessity of hyper-realism in today's war film. Here's hoping that this trend of "war porn" has died down with the failure of Windtalkers.
Talking about missing the point of the film!Posted Image

Also, this film is less about patriotism and more to do about trying to stay alive in hostile situations and protecting yourself and the comrades in arms you're fighting with.




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#11 of 98 Steve Enemark

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Posted August 18 2002 - 12:30 PM

Jack- must all movies feature character development? I seem to recall a little space movie that you and I like that has as close to zero character development as possible and still manages to be a masterpiece.
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#12 of 98 Matt Stone

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Posted August 18 2002 - 12:56 PM

Couldn't have put it better myself, Edwin.
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#13 of 98 Ryan Peter

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Posted August 18 2002 - 12:58 PM

I'm confused, but shouldn't this go in one of the official threads?

http://www.hometheat.... Down Official

http://www.hometheat.... Down Official
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#14 of 98 Robert Crawford

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Posted August 18 2002 - 01:03 PM

Ryan,
This is turning into a film discussion, therefore, the Official Review thread is not appropriate and since the last post to the Official Discussion thread was six months ago I don't see a problem with Jack discussing this film in a newer thread.




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#15 of 98 Ryan Peter

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Posted August 18 2002 - 01:06 PM

Thanks CD, just getting a clarification. I figured there was an expiration date on official threads, wasn't sure how long though. Posted Image

I loved the film, really intense stuff. I didn't have "fun" at all, much like SPR. "Visceral" and "brutal" are the two words that come to my mind instead.
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#16 of 98 Seth Paxton

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Posted August 18 2002 - 01:22 PM

Sorry Jack, I'm 100% with Mitty and Matt on this one. I had the exact same feelings.

Like a documentary where they were able to setup and light each shot properly before filming it.

#17 of 98 Eric Bass

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Posted August 18 2002 - 01:34 PM

While far from perfect, my take on BHD was that it did a fairly solid job of representing the book in a 2.5 hour movie. The book is essentially one account of the battle after another forming a complete narrative of the event. Given the restraints of film, and the relatively long time it takes to develop a character when complared to print, I'm not surprised that character development got the short end. They cut out tons of characters as it is as well as bunches of the story. Considering what they had to condense into a movie I thought it went quite well.

I have also heard so many reviews on this film accusing it of flag waving. It's a story about a bunch of soldiers dropped into a situation where they wind up fighting a 1-10 or worse odds battle and come out of it alive. None of them really understand or care why they are there, from the moment the shooting starts it's all about getting yourself and your friends out alive. I found many of the most heroic and dramatic moments of the book weren't even in the film. So if anything they toned down the heroism aspect somewhat. It's a film about a conflict that really hit America in the same way, though no where near the same level, as Vietnam. It affected our post-cold war politics in a huge way, as situations like Serbia/Bosnia emerged we saw a vastly different foriegn policy than we did before this event.

Sorry to rant, but we've heard all these comments before when Saving Private Ryan came out, and it's just getting old. Make a movie about the U.S. government, the military, or a conflict these days and if you don't put a cynical or anti-American political twist on it people think it's some kind of propaganda film.

Now that I've ranted in favor of the film I will say that it would have been twice the movie if they hadn't glossed over just how brutal the conflict got. I recall a particular scene towards the end where one Ranger is urging a woman not to pick up a gun so he won't have to shoot her, that's a very misleading scene and gives the impression that the Rangers were still fighting gentlemen by the time dawn came, which is anything but true. If there is one legitimate serious gripe I could see with this film, it'd be the typical Hollywood gloss coat it puts on the true life situation.

#18 of 98 Ashley Seymour

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Posted August 18 2002 - 01:53 PM

This action in Somalia that was basically a skirmish was forgotten until the book, the movie and 9/11 conjoined to give it greater significance. Going from memory, 17 U.S. soldiers died, about 75 were wounded and between 500 and 1000 Somalis were killed or wounded.

I don’t understand how focusing on several of the U.S. soldiers or even Somalis would serve to give this film a higher meaning or to make it more entertaining. The movie does wonderful service to the book, albeit with the normal alteration of details. What is remarkable about the action is the sameness of the horror that confronted each man. The men acted in accordance with their level of training and proficiency. Most were killed or wounded seemingly at random. What was to be a routine mission went wrong the way any military action goes wrong. In the fog of war information was mislaid, misanalyzed, miscommunicated. Soldiers relied on each other and survived or acquited themselves in the eyes of the comrades.

I really have a hard time imagining how the facts and the feel of the action could have been portrayed in a more accurate or meaningful way. This is about as fine and moving war movie as I can remember and I will be a frequent viewer of the DVD version.
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#19 of 98 Matt Stone

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Posted August 18 2002 - 02:08 PM

That is an excellent way to put it, Seth. It was much like a documentary. I also agree with Edwin, regarding the film not being so manipulative. Unlike Platoon, SPR, Full Metal Jacket, or the countless others...this film essentially set a camera in the middle of a war, and let the viewer decide on the message.
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#20 of 98 Patrick Sun

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Posted August 18 2002 - 02:30 PM

The message was loud and clear, and it warrants no further re-watch from me (after my initial theatrical viewing), thus I have passed on purchasing the DVD.
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