Best Movies of All Time + [William Fichtner]

BLACK HAWK DOWN

BLACK HAWK DOWN2001
R

I'd like to consider myself a bit of a movie buff. Most of my friends come to me for advice when picking what flick they should watch over the weekend. I can uncannily tell you the year that quite a few movies were released in a heartbeat. I'm not saying I'm the biggest movie fan, but I do have a bit of an obsession. Despite this, there are obviously quite a few movies that I have yet to see. I mean, I'm only twenty-two, and in the course of cinematic history, I find it difficult to think that anyone could have possibly seen every movie ever made. However, I had one friend who wouldn't take my critiques seriously until I saw The Godfather (which now rests at #18 all time for me), and I still get a lot of "How have you not seen that movie?" for any number of films. Black Hawk Down was one such movie, and I know I'm going to take a lot of flack for waiting this long to give it a gander, but worry no more, for I have finally seen it.

Black Hawk Down is a Ridley Scott film that tells the true story of the Battle of Mogadishu, which was a raid aimed at capturing two high-ranking officials serving warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Somalia. The film follows the ensemble cast that comprises a group of Army Rangers as well as Delta Force operatives who attempt to make the capture but are pinned inside the city when one of their Black Hawk choppers is shot down. The rest of the movie shows the frantic efforts of the soldiers and the higher-ranking officers to get all of their men out of the hostile area of the city.

The filmmakers placed some lofty expectations on this film by having the opening title card read the following quote from the Greek philosopher Plato: "Only the dead have seen the end of war." That's a rather deep and thought-provoking quote to start a war movie, don't you think? I think it sets the stage for the hope that Black Hawk Down will be a war movie with something more. It was a gutsy call, essentially making the audience say, "Alright, now you better back it up and give us something good." And boy, do they ever back it up.

The first thing you're going to notice about the movie, especially if you're watching it now in 2011, is the huge amount of familiar faces. When the film was released in 2001, a lot of these guys hadn't yet made a name for themselves, but now, we've got some heavy-hitters and A-listers giving fine performances all the way around. To give you an idea of how deep of a cast we've got, let me list the men you should recognize most easily (and why you'll recognize them):

Eric Bana (from Hulk and Troy)
Ewan McGregor (as Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars prequels)
Ioan Gruffudd (as Mr. Incredible from the Fantastic Four films)
Jason Isaacs (as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise)
Jeremy Piven (as Ari Gold from "Entourage")
Josh Hartnett (from Pearl Harbor and 40 Days and 40 Nights)
Orlando Bloom (from The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean)
Tom Sizemore (from Heat and Saving Private Ryan)
William Fichtner (from Armageddon and The Longest Yard)
Now, I recognized quite a few more people, but they're probably not actors you'd recognize instantly like the ones listed above. Normally, I'd be against having so many recognizable actors in a movie (although that wasn't the problem ten years ago, it left open the possibility for Black Hawk Down to age poorly with too many big-names shoved into one flick), but somehow, it works this time around. We never get a huge, get-to-know-you stage for any one of the characters although some get a little more than others. In a way, the film's screenplay keeps the audience at arm's length from the action, the carnage and the pain, which you can either take or leave. However, the fact that it was written that way helps to counter the fact that we've got a big, big cast and doesn't let the individual stars take over the ensemble piece. That's a huge plus.

The pacing of Black Hawk Down is fantastic as well. For the first hour of the battle, we're nearly going along in real-time with the soldiers while they fight their way to the downed chopper. After that, we have to take jumps in time - otherwise we'd be watching a fifteen-hour movie. Ridley Scott does a great job with directing, never taking his foot off the gas once he's slammed it to the floor. The end result is a high-speed, ultra-realistic war movie that leaves you utterly breathless.

It's difficult to make a war movie that's more than just a glorified action flick. A lot of times, we end up with movies that start out well but simply fall into the same rote shoot-em-ups. Black Hawk Down, however, carries an aura of something more, and I think, going in, the filmmakers knew exactly what they had. Perhaps that Plato quote wasn't as gutsy a call as we would have thought in the beginning.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: A-
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #121
2 Thumbs Up