Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday's Featured Film - 11/14/08

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Black Hawk Down

With Veteran’s Day having come and gone this week (with sadly few people noticing), I figured that I’d give a war film my Friday’s Feature perch. As modern war films go, Saving Private Ryan tends to get all the press, and with good reason. However, Ryan launched a bit of a renaissance in the war genre, with several excellent films following it over the last decade. The pinnacle of those movies, in my mind, is Black Hawk Down, director Ridley Scott’s retelling of the Battle of Mogadishu. The movie is a harrowing look into the horrors and brutality of modern warfare, but also an uplifting look into the courage and honor of the modern soldier.

In 1993, U.S. forces were stationed in Somalia as part of a global humanitarian mission. Civil war had racked the country, and hundreds of thousands had died in a brutal genocide. Warlords ruled the nation, and UN aid was often intercepted before it could ever reach the people who so desperately needed it. When the opportunity presented itself to nab one of the chief warlords in the capital city of Mogadishu, a U.S. strike team was sent in on a routine mission to extract him. Things went horribly wrong, however, when an American helicopter was shot down over the city, turning a simple catch and extract mission into a massive rescue effort and a struggle for survival.

Scott is one of my favorite directors, and he captures the battle with brutal reality. The action is up-close and dirty (and often extremely graphic), following in the frenetic, hand-held cinematic tradition that Spielberg forged with Saving Private Ryan. Also like Ryan, this is a movie that largely eschews the political factors at play and focuses in on the men on the ground. This is a tale of soldiers. Thankfully, the cast playing them is top notch. John Hartnett takes the lead, but great performances are also turned in by Eric Bana, Ewan MacGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Sam Shepherd, Jason Issacs, and Orlando Bloom, among others. The film is particulary relevant, I think, given our current political/military climate. When the men who waged World War II returned, they were hailed as heroes, having fought a war that the nation understood was necessary and important. Over the past three decades, however, our soldiers have come home from less-popular wars like Vietnam and Iraq and smaller conflicts like Somalia and Kosovo largely removed from the public consciousness. As a result, their sacrifices and heroism often go unnoticed. War has become a source of debate for political pundits, rarely recognized as a harrowing reality and a realm of brave heroes. As we look at Scott’s portrait, we come to see the bond that unites these warriors, summarized by Eric Bana’s Sgt. “Hoot” Gibson – “It’s about the man next to you, and that’s it.” I don’t know where you stand on the merits of our nation’s war policy, but I’d encourage you to watch Black Hawk Down this weekend and reflect on the merits of the men who fight those wars. - **** (out of 4)

Black Hawk Down is rated R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language.

1 comment:

Darius said...

I need to go back and watch that again... I only saw it once about 6 years ago, so my memory of it is kinda weak.