Blackhawk Down cast: Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, and Ron Eldard director: Ridley Scott 144 minutes (R) 2001 Columbia Tristar NTSC video rental RATING: 9/10 reviewed by Jen Johnston

The war film takes an exceptional cast to fly. To truly triumph the audience must become attached to the soldiers and spend their time championing the heroes in the darkness. This is why Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line was such an incredible vehicle, showing you the horrors of battle without falling back on gore like Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Jim Caviezel’s tortured soldier in Malick’s epic moves you more with a mournful gaze than all of Spielberg’s guns and bombs. In its genre I thought The Thin Red Line would never be surpassed. I was very wrong. Blackhawk Down (based on the book by Mark Bowden) focuses on the story of a group of young American soldiers in Somalia in 1992. They are sent on an “easy mission, to capture dignitaries of the Somalia militia.” Assured the entire job won’t take more than an hour, they find themselves in a 37-hour firefight.
Every performance in this film is amazing. It’s rare to see a movie where the cast gels together so brilliantly. You can’t help but be charmed by each and every member of this motley crew. Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) tugs at your heart as the young Sergeant Eversman. In this one film he shows more emotional range than most actors do in five. Suddenly finding himself in a leadership position, the inexperienced army ranger digs up the inner strength to lead his team of friends straight into hell. He truly lets the character’s mettle shine through, putting the safety and sanity of everyone else before himself.
Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Shallow Grave) puts in a shining, ego-less turn as Grimes, the company clerk. Proving the old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’, Grimes laments to a new recruit that his “rare and mysterious typing skill” keeps him from battle; only to turn around and find himself in the position of replacing a member of Eversman’s squad. Combining a facade of bravado, with an inner core of 90 percent courage and 10 percent pure terror, McGregor challenges his stereotype of being an action hero to play this young soldier with a mature sense of realism.
The other cast member that I must comment on is Ron Eldard (The Last Supper). He portrays pilot Mike Durant, a soldier with a family to lose but who follows the most dangerous orders without question. I would be challenged to find a moment in film as moving as the scene where the militia are surrounding Durant, and his only thought was to grab for the photo of his love and child. The determination he displays, blended with just a touch of desperation is overwhelming. Here, like Caviezel, is an actor who can communicate volumes without saying a word.
The last 30 minutes of this film become less about the heroism of these young men, and just overwhelm you with the senseless loss of lives. Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien) has spun glimpses of heroes, unlike Spielberg’s jingoistic band, Scott’s soldiers are all too human, making Blackhawk Down the new standard for the war film genre to live up to.