"It's about the facelessness of war!" exclaimed a colleague. "The compositions are stunning, with action going on in the foreground and background. It's a dynamic and apocalyptic visual experience!" This, to me, is madness. Black Hawk Down has been mistaken, in its bloated self-importance, for being cinematically and politically relevant. Take away its timely guise of patriotism, and it's a real horror show, more about murder than military prowess. Without the morally repellant "kill 'em all" subtext (young white boys mowing down the savages), you're left with something merely incoherent.
Two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters go down in the mazelike streets of Mogadishu during a routine search-and-capture mission, leaving 100 G.I.'s stumbling around enemy territory with limited resources until the rescue Rangers show up. It's been oft-compared to having almost two full hours of Steven Spielberg's masterful 30-minute Omaha Beach sequence in Saving Private Ryan, which sounds good on paper only because Ryan suffered by following up its amazing visual prologue with a glut of character-driven monologues to invest personality within each soldier before he get killed. But Spielberg understood the basic precepts of documentary filmmaking: no matter how chaotic things got, we always understood where the soldiers were, and where they were going. Black Hawk Down, by removing exposition and cohesion, couldn't care less.
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