War movies produced by Jerry Bruckheimer tend toward pretty-boy jingoism — the synthetic apple pie of ”Top Gun” and ”Pearl Harbor.” A scan of director Ridley Scott’s work turns up armed-forces fetishism (”G.I. Jane”), glammed-up pornography of violence (”Hannibal”), and maximally zingy heroics (”Gladiator”). This is all to say that Black Hawk Down, their adaptation of Mark Bowden’s insightful book, was destined to do nothing more complex than shine glossily and bellow ”Gung ho!”
The title refers to the film’s real stars, two U.S. helicopters shot down in Somalia in 1993. America’s involvement there began as an aid mission, changed into a raid, and disintegrated into debacle — a muddle the movie pays lip service to on its brisk way to slick combat scenes. Scott’s camera captures the soldiers’ crew-cut heads glistening under the sun in a way that evokes both recruitment ads and a J. Crew catalog. With the possible exception of the boyish GI played by Josh Hartnett, the men are almost completely interchangeable — total effacement of individuality being reserved for the Somalis, reduced, like so much else here, to adrenaline-rush fodder.