Black Hawk Down: SE Ridley Scott

By its very title, we know that Black Hawk Down is going to be about hardware. Director Ridley Scott pulls out all the stops in an attempt to make the gleam of twisted metal and the staccato bursts of gunfire the real stars of the show, and he does a fairly brilliant job of making it all ring like a fist knocking against a tank. But this is no action romp; this is a docudrama about the 1993 Somalia debacle in which American soldiers were trapped in the maze of Mogadishu during a fire fight nobody expected, making Scott’s mechanised poetics just this side of offensive. On the one hand, it offers a pornographic catalogue of choppers crashing and Americans ripped apart and terrorised, for artistic reasons so abstract as to be inhuman. On the other, it glorifies a military action that claimed humanitarian reasons but, it has been suggested, was really about turning on the tap to Somalia’s blocked oil reserves. Somehow, this didn’t bother me when I saw it in the early months after 9/11, but watching events unfold in another theatre of operations has made it a little hard to stomach. Scott turns in his best directorial performance since Blade Runner, but what he’s done is reduce complex politics to mush and linger lovingly over the damage hardcore weaponry can inflict — even Leni Riefenstahl might be shamed by this movie. One comes away from it disturbed, and not in a good way, that this is the sort of thing Hollywood thinks of as a contribution to the public record. An extended cut, with eight thoroughly superfluous minutes, the only extra is an episode of Frontline that takes the same party line but is more prosaic and thus, less offensive. (Sony)