"We know that the road to freedom has always been stalked by death." ---HL Staff that went to Rome---

BIASES: mid 20s black male; frustrated screenwriter who favors action, comedy, and glossy, big budget movies over indie flicks, kiddie flicks, and weepy Merchant Ivory fare

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Black Hawk Down

MOVIE BIASES: Jeez, not another war movie. This better live up to the hype.
MAJOR PLAYERS: Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor), Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge), Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan), producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pearl Harbor), and director Ridley Scott (Gladiator).

After the romantic comedy, one of the most overdone genres in Hollywood is the war movie. Because it is so overdone, it's also one of the hardest genres to get right. With all the classic war movies out in the social consciousness - "Platoon," "Apocalypse Now," and "Full Metal Jacket" just to name a few - how does someone do a war movie that doesn't feel like a ripoff of every other war movie ever made? You hire Ridley Scott and make "Black Hawk Down."

Based on a true story from the best-selling book, "Black Hawk Down" explores a near-disastrous mission in Somalia on October 3, 1993 where nearly 100 U.S. Army Rangers, commanded by Capt. Mike Steele (a convincingly American Jason Isaacs), are dropped by helicopter deep into the capital city of Mogadishu to capture two top lieutenants of a Somali warlord. Of course, this quick, hourlong mission leads to a large and drawn-out firefight between the Rangers and hundreds of Somali gunmen, resulting in the crash of two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters in Mogadishu. The action centers on the heroic efforts by various Rangers to get to them, including Sgt. Eversmann (Hartnett), a young but capable soldier commanding his first Ranger unit named Chalk Four, who get pinned down themselves by intense street fighting from an enemy they had vastly underestimated. But throughout one motto drives them all: "Leave no man behind."

You would think that evaluating the talent in such a fast-paced movie as this one would be a difficult proposition, as lines get inevitably lost due to the roar of rotor blades and the fury of persistent gunfire. Instead, because of a movie like this, the action amplifies it. Aided with an all-star cast of testosterone, Scott gets sheer intensity from the performances of everyone, including Bana, Sam Shepard, and Tom Sizemore. Josh Hartnett continues to grow an impressive resume as his blankly all-American boy-next-door good looks translate into his performance of a young rook with big responsibilities on his shoulders. Ewan McGregor provides slight comic relief with an earnest portrayal (despite the shaky American accent) of a former coffeepot-watching desk jockey turned improbable combat hero.

But if it were any surprise, Ridley Scott rules this roost. With scarily intense action, "Black Hawk Down" has quickly wrest away the short-lived title of most inventive, exciting action sequences of the year from "Lord of the Rings." The action comes fast, furious, and with oddly breathtaking beauty (one sequence set to a Somalian chant almost seems to be dictated by the music instead complemented by it). Armed with a bang up musical score by Hans Zimmer (of course) gritty cinematography by Slavomir Idziak (Proof of Life), and Ridley Scott's unflinchingly artistic and in-the-line-of-fire direction, "Black Hawk Down," in all its graphic, visceral imagery, has done something that several movies have done before. It has made itself another war movie classic.

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