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Black Hawk Down (2001)

Black Hawk Down Special Edition DVD

Leave No Man Behind

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 144 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15


War movie buffs should rest assured ‘Black Hawk Down’ contains the vitals of the genre in spades. Rapid gunfire, exploding limbs, blokes with dirty faces spouting cheesy lines at each other – it’s all here. The presence of Ridley Scott in the director’s chair should also help to move it up the credibility ladder in the eyes of fans of the genre. After all, Ridders has been around the block – and if he can bring the likes of Alien and Gladiator to the big screen so convincingly, surely a flick that boils down to little more than a bunch of soldiers running about shooting at each other should be a doddle, right?

Unfortunately, there’s one overwhelming problem with ‘Black Hawk Down’ – it’s really, really boring. Now, when I’m watching a movie, I’m really not all that bothered about whether or not it gets its history right. The fact that this one opens with the line “Based on an actual event” didn’t even worry me too much (even though such a message can practically always be replaced more than comfortably with “the following story should be taken with an extra-large spoonful of salt”). But what I can’t abide is any film that just doesn’t seem to give a brown one about the basics of engaging story-telling.

Set in 1993 amid the Somalian Civil War, it’s the tale of American UN peacekeeping soldiers who wind up in a spot of soapy-bubble whilst trying to get their hands on two of the country’s leading ne’er-do-wells. Two helicopters (or “Black Hawks”, though I’ve always preferred the term “choppers”) get shot down slap-bang in the middle of the trouble-spot, and the whole thing turns into one giant messy rescue mission.

Aesthetically, this is perhaps the most striking war movie ever made. The use of colour, along with the camerawork itself, make this an incredible piece of work to look at. As far as the plot goes, however, it is just a complete mess. You can’t tell one character from the next, the closeness to the action makes it practically impossible to get any real grasp of what’s going on, and the whole thing is just one big drawn-out battle scene. Suffice to say, it swiftly grows tiresome, and in the end the same techniques that make the film so visually stunning are also the reason why it fails.

It's Got: That bloke Matthew Marsden, who used to play a mechanic in ‘Coronation Street’. Y’know, the one who had nookie with Sally Webster.

It Needs: Jack and Vera Duckworth.

DVD Extras This brand-spanking new 2-disc Special Edition contains a choice of three audio commentaries, full detailed filmographies, eight deleted/alternate scenes, six (count ‘em!) featurettes on the ‘Essence of Combat’, seven (count these ones too!!) ‘Image & Design’ featurettes, and some web stuff. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10


A triumph of technique, a failure of storytelling.