Few recent films can match the visual and audible mastery of Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. From a spatial standpoint, it’s directed perfectly, Scott’s camera fluidly roving through the hyper realized streets of Mogadishu, Somalia with a clear sense of purpose and craftsmanship. As the large team of Army Rangers and Delta ascend on the war torn city, Scott’s hypnotic images of helicopters drifting through the smoke-filled air produce a feverish reaction flushed with horrific excitement, as if you were going into battle with them. When the RPG’s start exploding and the rapid gunfire etches a presence on every wall in sight, the film never wavers in it’s dedication to the conflicted American soldiers at it’s core, establishing a swift pace even in the down time usually reserved for the audience to catch their breath. Black Hawk Down never lets up, pushing for a sense of realism and grit which can be felt with every casualty (and there are a lot of them), and failing miserably when it attempts to sneak in elements of War film cliches in between the carnage. Some of the action scenes have so much going on it takes multiple viewings to get a sense of the layering involved. But Scott almost completely dismisses Mark Bowden’s source material when it comes to the Somalian perspective, throwing in a few scenes of political banter between a captured helicopter pilot and a Somali militiaman to appease those wishing for a dimensional native presence. This phony attempt at showing both sides doesn’t work, a grave misgiving which taints an otherwise fascinating and expertly directed film. Black Hawk Down could have been a masterpiece of American sacrifice and third world plight and how the two are often tragically intwined, but instead it settles for a beautiful, haunting look at the familiarities of modern warfare, no matter the cost.