*** Official "BLACK HAWK DOWN" Review Thread

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 13, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Saw Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down in NYC
    last night.
    This is one of those rare times that I go to a
    public movie performance.
    It's hard to say what I really thought about
    this film. My first reaction is that although
    the film is beautifully well done, it's overly
    too long and its just a non-stop show of bloody
    carnage.
    Of course, a film like this needs to be made
    to realistically show civilians what war situations
    are like. This is a true story, and one whose
    importance should not be underplayed by toning down
    the graphic reality of it all.
    I think that aside from Private Ryan, this
    is one of the most realistic war movies I have
    ever seen.
    All I can say is that I liked the film, but
    would not want to watch it again except for a
    DVD review.
    **** I must warn everyone that this film is more graphic
    than Saving Private Ryan was. ****
     
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Since this film is opening this coming Friday, the 18th of January; we might as well anoint this thread the Official Review Thread.
    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for Black Hawk Down. Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.
    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!
    If you need to discuss those type of issues, please post your discussion comments in the Official Discussion Thread for this film which can be found at this link.
    Thank you for your consideration in this matter.
    Crawdaddy
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    The following is adapted from my review in a previous non-official thread:

    In every aspect of its production and direction, this film is a masterpiece of craftsmanship even for Ridley Scott, from whom we've come to expect such things. The film sets out to plunge the viewer into the middle of a battle zone, and it succeeds.

    Although some reviewers have found the characters to be flat and interchangeable, I had a different experience. Within the tight confines of the story, which unfolds over a very short time, Scott and his exceptional cast manage to find little moments that give you some feeling for the individuals inside the uniforms. One particularly fine example occurs with Sam Shepard's General Garrison near the end of the film, when Garrison goes to see the wounded. Sheperd has no lines, but what he does tells you a lot about his character. Off the top of my head, I can recall similar moments with Ewan McGregor (an exceptional performance, IMO), William Fichtner, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, Josh Hartnett and Ron Eldard, and there are probably others that I'm forgetting.

    What the film manages to convey is that, given time, each of these characters could have shown you an interesting life. But there is no time, and it's precisely what makes their lives different and individual that these men have to leave behind in order to have any prayer of surviving the battle portrayed in the film. The audience may not have an opportunity to bond with any particular character, but I was left with an overwhelming respect (and no small sorrow) for what they endured as a group. It's a stellar cast, and they do great work under circumstances where lesser actors would have been overwhelmed by the big loud machinery of a major war film.

    M.
     
  4. Ivan Lindenfeld

    Ivan Lindenfeld Second Unit

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    Wow, I must have been really special to see this sneak tonight here in Jacksonville. Lots of press there. I guess we do get military films as sneaks because of the huge military presence here.
    This movie does not leave me waxing eloquent. That is not a negative comment. I just can't think of words or phrases except "It's a war movie circa 2002." "Realistic war movie."
    It was good. It was visceral. It told the story well. It was visually and cinematographically accomplished. Ridley Scott does it again. Oh, and it had the Panic Room trailer attached. ;0)
    Maybe I am just so numbed by the absolute carnage and action and gore and intensity that the cat has my tongue.
    I don't even see much of a message here, except the obvious that all was movies are anti-war movies. The history lesson is there: The US went to Somalia. The US screwed up the mission. The US got their asses handed to them. The US withdrew from Somalia changing nothing. These are historical facts and not spoilers.
    A well executed film. 4 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy war movies, see it. It's very good. Yep I think that if a grenade went off outside my window I'd probably not flinch. [​IMG]
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Yeah, I know, crappy review, but hey you got your money's worth. Now over to the discussion thread...
     
  5. Kristian

    Kristian Supporting Actor

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    I saw the film a few hours ago, so I'm still sort of processing what I thought of it. Ridley Scott deserves praise for the craft that went into portraying the conflict in Somalia so realistically. All the technical aspects of the film are top-notch. But when it comes to the characters and the story, I found the film somewhat lacking. The characters are very one-dimensional and that makes it hard to care for them. Still, I was moved several times, but I thought Saving Private Ryan handled the emotions of war better.

    Overall, I'd give it *** out of ****, mostly due to the film's technical brilliance.

    BTW, did anyone else find the comic relief with the deaf soldier
    really inappropriate?
     
  6. Kristian

    Kristian Supporting Actor

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    No, I have not read the book. If it helps me understand the film better, then maybe I should.

     
  7. GerardoHP

    GerardoHP Supporting Actor

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    After about 100 minutes of this film I walked out, which is something I almost never do.

    I think the almost complete lack of character development in this film really hinders the emotional impact of the story. It was at about 100 minutes into it that I decided I no longer cared about the outcome, I no longer cared to watch the repetitive carnage and I no longer cared for the interchangeable scenes being played over and over again.

    Yes, it is technically impeccable, but this is something you expect from any Ridley Scott movie.

    What you also expect is to be emotionally involved and, in my experience, this film offered little or none of that. Any prime time story on the same event has been done in a more emotionally involving fashion, and the fact that the book was as impersonal with the characters as the movie is does not, IMO, make the movie better.

    I think the critics and the hype machine have -- as usual -- lavished this film with too much praise. I will not be surprised when, in time, many of those who raved about this movie see it for what it is, a flawed film weakened by its excessive length and lack of character development.
     
  8. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Well, I won sneak peak passes to this tonight. It hasnt opened yet in Omaha. I just got home.... walked out of the movie with an hour left. This was one grade A piece of crap in my opinion. I kept an open mind, in fact I really knew nothing about the movie going in. I thought that other movies like SPR, Rules of Engagement, and Three Kings were much better. I give it [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  9. YANG

    YANG Second Unit

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    Just caught the show last night, it moves me real hard (even though there are some light moments which I don't feel funny at all), far more better than PEARL HARBOR. This is the best of 2001.

    The best… does not refer to the action or violence, but on the bond of the soldiers who fight together as a team, as a family of the DELTA FORCE. War films from HOLLYWOOD had been focusing on AMERICAN heroism, BHD is totally different, it shows that the troops as victims of war. RIDLEY SCOTT had really done a great job to this film.

    Numbers of bloody scenes maybe too horrible and violent to some viewers, but to me, these are the sad and tear-jerking moments that grips my emotion. Such as one of the guy whose body was cut into half during the strike of RPG, trying to hold his last breath to ask the captain of the HUMVEE troop to take care of his family after his death. The pilot who was under attack tries to grab hold of his children photo, and the RPG round that pierce through the prisoner truck driver's body that did not explode…all these are sad scenes. But to a viewer who sits by my side, were amazed by the gore that he keeps wowing at the scenes. I guess these viewers had went in to see this show with action in mind, no expecting any drama that is present in this film.

    While 95% of the whole film is perfect, there is one part that disturbs me. Isn't that commanding GENERAL a hard-hearted asshole who cares only about his job? At the near end of the film, when he saw the blood from a seriously wounded personnel drips to the floor he picks up a surgical robe and clean it…is that sarcastic or real life act?

    Several days ago when I watch the FOXNEWS coverage on MOGADISHU incident, there was one part they mentioned that there was a BLACK HAWK managed to touch down to rescue personnel who were under attack. An officer sacrificed himself by firing to the attackers just a few steps off the chopper.

    But there is no mention of this in the film. Did RIDLEY SCOTT miss this out?

    High points to this film, 9.5 over 10. Hope that this film gets best picture award!
     
  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    9.5 out of 10
    Ridley Scott has captured the same look and feel of Soderberg's Traffic and applied it to a war picture. Gone are some of the hyper-cuts that plagued Gladiator, which is ironic because you would expect modern warfare to play more chaotically. The grain, look and tone of the film have that same Traffic feel throughout.
    Zimmer's score is thoughtful and reflective. One of the best of the year for me. The pre-recorded music choices are also excellent, from "native" songs to 92-93 rock choices.
    Scott has achieve one of his best efforts. In particular he allows the audience to grasp the layout better than most news stories could even do. With good use of overhead shots (helicopter POV shots, surveillence looks), dialog, and other smart camera work, Scott allows the audience to understand who is where and what needs to be done in a situation that is understated by calling it chaotic.
    This is something that is so often lost on action directors, conveying exactly what action is taking place and how it affects the situation. For another good example, see the beginning of SPR.
    The acting is solid, but one look at the cast would tell you that. 2 standouts are Sizemore (no surprise) and the steller up-and-comer Eric Bana. Hartlett gets a big role and makes the most of it too.
    The film's one weakness is that you just don't have the time to get to know all the characters enough to care totally, although simply being an American should get you in the heart a little. Also, due to the story's nature, there is little character growth or philosophy.
    However, the film is a masterpiece of a technical telling of the story AND it does manage to make room for some reflection on the feelings of many of the characters involved, as well as give an overall philosophical consideration of the situation.
    This is done very evenly and with little bias. In the end I had only one regret, and that was that we went in unprepared for the ambush that awaited us. It doesn't feel like a "war is bad" or "war is good" message. It simply says "this is war and it's an unfortunate part of life".
    I found it refreshing to not be preached to by a film of this subject, even though something like Three Kings shows us it can be done well.
    One last thing to note, this is the best film with Bruckheimer's name on it and there is one specific reason that is true. With a subject that could easily be exploitive, with over the top cliched heroic moments and "cool, hurrah" moments that Bruckheimer usually indulges in to an excess, the film instead is quite subdued in that area. The heroic moments do arrive, but the presentation is so well restrained that they play very honestly. Only one time do we have a "H'wood" moment (involving some night vision goggles) and even that plays true after all the other groundwork has been laid out. Plus Scott chooses not to linger too much on it which makes it all that much more rewarding (and by that point the audience is starving for a moment like that - I heard clapping and was myself at the point of saying "That's right ***holes, eat that" to the screen [​IMG]).
    During the film you find yourself thinking this is cowboys and indians, where the indians keep coming. You think this is all "done up" for H'wood. Then you see the final stats of 1000 Somalians killed, 19 US troops. A 50 to 1 death ratio. At that point you realize that what seemed insane actually must have been A LOT like that.
    And then the film really grabs you.
     
  11. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Kristian,
    The audience response I saw indicated that it was very much needed relief. A feeling I shared with them when they all laughed.
    I thought Scott applied just enough to not be hammy about it (and I assume that really happened anyway), but to give us a short breather. And I don't know how else his character would have behaved in that situation. The humor seemed to come from human truth of the moment (at least to me).
    Yang (don't worry everyone, it's not really a spoiler)
     
  12. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    Might as well get it out of the way now. Black Hawk Down is one of this year’s best films. [​IMG] (out of four and my third film with a full rating for 2001).
    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.
    ~Edwin
     
  13. Ben_S

    Ben_S Agent

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    It's an above average war movie with great production values but there's nothing really special about it. Lots of back and forth firing and nice action shots but it gets very repetitive after a while. While it had it's moments, I found the film to be emotionally uninvolving.
    It shouldn't have surprised me one bit since Ridley Scott's films has always struck me as being dry. Nice visuals but no emotions behind them. It gets pretty boring just sitting and watching the pretty pictures pass by and not feeling any emotion. Must be his Brit side getting the best of him. (j/k [​IMG] )
    I give it two and a half stars for the production values.
     
  14. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Man, I cant believe I'm like literally the only one here who didnt like it. I have never walked out of a movie before, but it was just a total waste of my time. I really thought it was pointless, and bad.
     
  15. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    Here's my review!
    Black Hawk Down - [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG] out of [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
    Black Hawk Down is one of the most stark, brutal and realistic war movies ever made. That, and it's the best "First Person Shooter" adaptation ever made. I didn't know whether to cheer, cry or lunge for my Playstation controller.
    There are essentially two types of war film: the ones that try to capture the true nature of violent warfare, and the ones that use a wartime backdrop to tell a drama tale or adventure saga. Ridley Scott basically melds these two classes together and comes up with something new: the fact-based documentary-style action-adventure drama video game. While Black Hawk Down may not be one of the best war films ever made, it is one of the most realistic. This movie is not for the faint of heart.
    Black Hawk Down is free of all the pre-packaged requirements that most war films choose to showcase. Absent is the heavy-handed metaphor of The Thin Red Line, the allegorical religion of Platoon and the moronic posturing of Pearl Harbor. Director Ridley Scott clearly wants this film to do one thing: drop the audience in the center of a massive, confusing and ultimately meaningless battlefield. Aside from a few indulgent moments and stilted exchanges, Scott succeeds overwhelmingly.
    Without any extra implied subtext, the onus here is simply on the battle at hand. Screenwriters Steve Zaillian and Ken Nolan (working from Mark Bowden's book) seem to have historical accuracy as their main priority, and if the film isn't entirely accurate, it's damn close enough. The audience is briefly introduced to a collection of soliders on a peace-keeping mission in Somalia. (While some seem to feel that the overall lack of character development is a shortcoming, I think the general "facelessness" of most characters is quite intentional.) The latest mission is to abduct two high-ranking officials in the city of Mogidishu. What began as a simple "in-and-out" extraction turned into an brutal miniature war.
    That Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Legend, Alien) is a brilliant visual storyteller is no surprise. That Scott allows the no-nonsense screenplay to govern his masterful camera strokes is what elevates Black Hawk Down above just a "good war flick". Another pleasant surprise is that the brainless eye candy usually offered by two of this film's producers (Jerry Bruckheimer and Simon West) is nowhere in attendance.
    Although Black Hawk Down doesn't feature many "starring roles", the film is a who's who of popular character actors. Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge!), Sam Shepard (The Pledge), Ron Eldard (Deep Impact), Tom Sizemore (The Relic), William Fichtner (The Perfect Storm), Richard Tyson (Three O'Clock High), Danny Hoch (Bamboozled), Jeremy Piven (Very Bad Things) and Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings) all deliver the goods in roles of varying size, while Josh Hartnett (The Faculty) is surpisingly strong as a newly appointed Seargent. The two standouts in the cast are Eric Bana (Chopper) as a special forces loner and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot) as the mercilessly devoted Captain Steele.
    If Black Hawk Down stumbles in one respect, it's that of simple restraint. I'm not saying that the horrors of warfare should be muted in any way, but how many lingering shots of a soldier's exploded leg do we need to see? In the film's most brutal sequence, an impromptu battlefield surgery takes place. Although it's important that the audience feel the horror and pain of these soldiers, it's a tough trick to pull off when everyone's looking away. I've no aversion to gore, but overkill of any kind mars a scene. Some of the action scenes also could have used some clearer delineation: If total realism is what Scott was going for, perhaps his faceless army of villains could have been charcterized a bit less cartoonishly. (The non-stop deluge of Somalian attackers most closely resembles Romero's mindless zombie army from Dawn of the Dead.)
    Of course no movie could tell this tale precisely how it happened, but Black Hawk Down gets as close to the battlefield as I ever hope to be. The non-stop explosions and carnage may be a bit much for some, but anyone familiar with the computer games Doom, Quake or Unreal will have an ass-kickin' time. So why did I feel so guilty when I got an "action-movie rush" from all the best "kill" scenes?
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Just got back from my first viewing of "Black Hawk Down" which should signal to all of you how much this film impressed me. I've seen a great many "War films" in my cinematic viewings but this film ranks among the best of them. Initially, I'm actually more impressed with "Black Hawk Down" than with "Saving Private Ryan" as far as it's depiction of war and telling of American soldiers trying to fight their way out of a fire fight. As far as character development, I thought the main characters of the film were more than developed enough for me. At the end of this film, I knew exactly what Sizemore, Shepard, Hartnett, Dana, and a few other characters were about and their motivations during that battle.
    I will probably end up seeing this film at least three times. In my adult life, I can't remember seeing any film three times during it's initial theatrical run. Usually twice is enough for me. Also, I was so engrossed with this war story that I never turned away from it even during it's most horrific scenes. Furthermore, the musical score was excellent and I will definitely be buying the soundtrack. The direction and writing were top-notched while telling the story in a concise and easily understood mannner. Scott's direction during the fire fights were some of best action sequences ever put on film. In closing, the entired ensemble cast did an excellent job in their various roles. My rating for this film is 4 [​IMG] 's !
    Crawdaddy
    Members,
    Remember there is a discussion thread in which we can discuss our views in more detail. This thread should be for reviews only and not for any discussion regarding specific points about the film.
     
  17. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    I was disappointed with this film, despite the realism of the battle scenes. There was no emotional attachment to any of the characters because they were just so under developed. Sure, you could argue that the point of the film was to show the incident itself, but why spend 30-40 minutes of the film "getting to know" the characters, who go through the usual cliched "bonding" scenes.

    And the mantra of the film "leave no man behind" was laid on pretty thick throughout the film, when it was obvious from the start of the battle scenes.
     
  18. Chuck C

    Chuck C Cinematographer

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    To reinterate what many have said, people, including my roommate who saw it with me, may have a problem with the underdevelopment of the characters, but I find it to be the type of film Ridley Scott intended. When I read the book, the characters had a large background story, but in the essence of time, Ridley Scott and the writers knew they had to TOTALLY do away with that. I felt a rush of emotion and a lump in my throat right before Ron Eldard's character (Durant) was ravaged and taken prisoner. Nothing was corny, the direction was original, it was exactly like the book, great cast (the guy from kindergarten cop, anyone pick up on that?) oh, and the camera tricks were off the freaking hook.

    That's why I think this film was one of the best of the year.

    A/A-
     
  19. Josh_Hill

    Josh_Hill Screenwriter

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    Donny G
    Did you not see my reminder comments in my post? I assume you can read since you posted your discussion comments that I have deleted!
     
  20. LawrenceK

    LawrenceK Stunt Coordinator

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    Inevitable comparison to Saving Private Ryan: Black Hawk Down is by far the better of the two films. In fact, Black Hawk Down is one of the best war movies ever made. It is technically masterful, it makes you feel the confusion, chaos and violence that the soliders were dropped into, and were surrounded with for an entire night. It has none of Saving Private Ryan's melodrama, and "hollywood" feel. It is just realistic and unflinching and excellent. Four out of Four stars.
     

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