You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.
War is hell.
The above words were uttered by General Sherman, general in the Union Army during the Civil War, almost one hundred and thirty-eight years ago. But those words were more than represented in a viewing of the new film, Black Hawk Down that I saw tonight. This film vividly recreates the obscene insanity of a military mission in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 that went horribly wrong and cost the lives of 18 servicemen and changed America's perspective on the conqueror takes all theory.
From the opening moments of the film until the closing updates that conclude the film, the audience was held in the grip of a movie that thrust them into the very bowels of hell, releasing harbingers of death as managed by those trained and those conscripted into forces that relegate loss of life and destruction as daily doses divvied out by whatever banana republic dictator who plays king of the hill in very real and deadly terms. What was supposed to be a simple search and seize, one hour operation for American military forces, turned into a descent into Dante's Inferno on adrenaline, spewing forth insanity in unmeasured doses.
The intensity of this film shows in the camera work that puts one into the picture for as real a ride as we are ever likely to get without actually being a part of the actual action. Short, cataclysmic bursts of rushing bodies in motion and skies filled with Black Hawks that reign for all the world like ravens circling a fresh kill, are matched frame for frame with the frenzied gyrations of the Somali war lord's army and Mogadishu's population as they gravitate closer and closer to eliminating their foe. Superb film editing rushes us to and fro, stressing the agonies and snap decisions that had to be made and acted upon. It canvesses the terror caught in the eyes of American troops and the fierce dedication to battle that the Somalis also waged.
This is an ensemble film and the actors involved, Sam Shepard, Tom Sizemore, Ewan MacGregor, Jason Isaacs and others, form a cast that envelopes the inane comedy of errors and bad luck that hounded these men as they took a roller coaster ride to hell. Each role was etched and finely honed and not a single performance tried to outdo the others. They melded perfectly and accurately in portraying a point in time that echoes to this day.
We are, in this day and age, bombarded with people on whom we shower the term hero with careless abandon, in a way cheapening the very term until it is no longer recognized for the honour it is. Athletes, entertainment icons, fashion models and even some criminals come to mind. The true heroes though, to me, are not the latter pretenders to a throne that doesn't exist in the same context, but rather to those who serve their country and risk their lives in the heat of battles for wages that wouldn't begin to pay for a star's new dress or an athlete's latest, unnecessary sports car. This is not to negate entirely those not in the military, but we have to come to grips with just who is and isn't a real hero in every sense of the word.
I came away from Black Hawk Down exhausted by what I had just seen, but I also left with a much better understanding of what commitment is all about. I sincerely hope that when the Oscar nominations are announced,
that this film manages to steal some of the thunder of the leading Oscar contenders, for this is a movie that will capture your very soul, heart and mind and engrave a multitude of ideas and thoughts on them. It shows how and why things happen, and how wars that were dictated to by generals and higher ups in safe and secure ivory towers, but fought by the grunts, resonated with thunder and death, that in the end secured loss of life and perceptions, and when it was all over, left those involved wondering just what all the fuss that created these scenarios was about.
Black Hawk Down is not for the faint of heart, but if you are willing to make the journey, you will not be disappointed.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.