Black Hawk Down



I was just talking the other day about the power of “The Hurt Locker” and how it used it’s low budget to effectively make a different kind of war film. The topic led to Oliver Stone successfully overturning Francois Truffaut’s ruling that you could not make an anti war film, with his masterpiece “Platoon.”

And I believe that Stone helped shepherd in a new era of war film, using his brilliance in cinema as well as his own personal wartime experience. Prior to that, we too often had the seductive machismo of John Wayne and other war heroes in meaningful World War II type epics. One could argue Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” is disarmingly brutal commentary, but that would be missing the point. Because those boys needed help, being held captive. And who wouldn’t want to stride in their and save the day, gun in hand; a smile of encouragement over your face. Throw De Niro over your shoulder, slap some sense into Walken and ride off into the sunset.
Maybe you could even do it on your bike whilst breaking every rule. Maybe you could be like Eric Bana’s character in “Black Hawk Down.” In an otherwise masterful war film (utilizing a lot of money to deliver hellish warfare) we have this caricature cut out of a person. And it doesn’t help that Bana seems to think that an American accent is a surfer accent.

He breaks the rules, sometimes pointlessly, or just to be cool, like when he cuts the line with a live weapon strapped to his chest (maybe he’s invoking the Handsome Hawke cool of “Reality Bites” where we learn he is cool because he can’t even be bothered to open a candy wrapper). He often just goes out on mission alone, because, like Chuck Norris, he is often misunderstood and other guns and bodies would just get in the way of his righteous destructiveness.

After surviving countless bullets and pushing his body to the limits for about an entire day, he goes back to camp, grabs some quick grub, and decides he needs to get back out there, because boys still need his help. It isn’t offered that he might be more of a hindrance than a help as he is surely ragged, tired, and worn, and they have reconnaissance troops that can come in now. We last see him with Josh Hartnett’s character, who, amazed that Bana is about to go back out there (was he carrying a surfboard when he left?) and a bit ashamed that he was content to be alive and for the battle he fought. Hartnett, guiltily begins to think it his duty as well, and is about to join Bana. Bana says, “Don’t even think about it.” Because he’s considerate and he’s the man. He realizes what Hartnett has been through. And Hartnett needs to stay. Why doesn’t anybody say this to Bana. Because he’s the fucking man, man. And there’s boys out there.

Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” is a furiously awesome account of what went wrong that day when the chopper fell. It often strives for authenticity and is very effective. Most of the characters ring true, particularly a well placed Tom Sizemore. Then occasionally, Eric Bana shows up, sometimes in a bathing suit I think. But this isn’t a character driven piece anyway. I just wonder why Ridley Scott wrote in this character. Maybe he’s supposed to represent something. Awesomeness, perhaps.


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