Black Hawk Down

Bomb Rating: 

I'm all for movies where guys shoot at each other until your ears ring so loudly that you're pulling your cell phone out of your pocket every thirty seconds (which you deserve for bringing a cell phone into the theater, you bastard), but I'm not at all convinced they have a point other than entertaining an audience that still can't distinguish between entertainment and death, even in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy.

There's a basic difference between a book and a movie. Although I'm sure the "Black Hawk Down" book is a thrilling read for those who like that sort of thing, it doesn't attempt to turn a horrific event into an amusement park ride. Hey, let's spend the evening with the kids eating popcorn and drinking Coke and watching Somalis turned into mulch by unbelievably powerful helicopter guns! 1,000 Somalis died in the Battle of Mogadishu, compared to 19 American soldiers. It's natural that we don't give a shit about the Somalis since they were the ones firing at our men, but because these events aren't put into context -- apart from director Ridley Scott's suggestion that we shouldn't have been there -- we hope by default that more Somalis get shot than Americans, and such was the case.

Ironically, it's hard to keep track of the actors in the film, though a few are recognizable: Josh Hartnett plays Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann, leader of one group of troops. Ewan McGregor is a "man behind a desk" until he's dragged into the field. Tom Sizemore is Lt. Colonel Danny McKnight, one of those fearless leaders in the mold of Robert Duvall in "Apocalypse Now." I have a hard time imagining anybody just walking around casually while bullets fly from every direction, but this is Scott's method of comic relief. Eric ("Chopper") Bana is Sgt. 1st Class Norm Hooten. William Fichtner is Master Sergeant Paul Howe.

There's little more to the movie than the simple story of a few hundred elite troops getting bogged down and defending themselves against thousands upon thousands of militia. Every country is guilty of creating hierarchies of human life and viewing its loss in terms of national affiliation, and movies do nothing more than turn this activity into a self-justifying game. By this film's account, one Somali life is worth about 1/50th of an American life. The film scarcely touches on the responsibility of the commanders, who seem to barely understand the situation and risk the lives of the soldiers as though they were plastic men on a mound of dirt. And I'm not talking about the generals so much as the politicians, President Clinton in this case, whose "America as Tentative International Policeman" strategy backfired worse than the Kenneth Lay Retirement Plan.

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