- Directed by Ridley Scott
- December 28, 2001
Based on the 1999 non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, this film tells the story of the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu.
Black Hawk Down is one of the finest war films of the past few decades and one of the best ever. I would rank it in the top ten for its characters, depiction of events, and even-handed treatment of the story which allowed the audience to draw their own conclusions. To me it is one of the most brutal war films of all time but what I appreciate the most about it is that Black Hawk Down does not glorify the violence. It does not exploit the gore that it shows. The gore just is.
The film itself raised some controversy. There were complaints and concerns issued, as is always the case it seems, over lack of nuance or license being taken with facts. Events, while dramatized were simply presented to the viewer in an as -it-happened manner. How do you do nuance like that? And this is a dramatic presentation. Do not expect 100% accuracy. Use the film as a starting point to learn more.
This is no “Go military!” or “Go America!” film. These are people fighting to survive and save their comrades. They are trapped in a chaotic situation in a country not their own simply doing their job.
Black Hawk Down dramatizes the events of that day. This is done in a brutal fashion that probably only Ridley Scott could do justice to. This is where Ridley Scott’s skill set lays. He has never done a happy romcom or screwball comedy in his entire career that I am aware of. His films tend to be darker and grittier and not nice.
There was a fantastic cast for its day in this movie. Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Ioan Gruffudd, Jason Isaacs, Tom Hardy (first film role), Orlando Bloom, Sam Shepard, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Kim Coates, Željko Ivanek, Ty Burrell, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ron Eldard, and Jeremy Piven all show up to one extent or another. Some have fallen from greatness. Others have continued to work steady if not their status maintained or even elevated.
There are several story threads weaving through this film. It is amazing that none of the characters involved really suffer. There is a character arc for all the central characters in their assorted stories. They just do not simply exist within the narrative of the film or of their particular portion of it. You feel their highs and lows. You are horrified when they die. And you feel their fear and everything they are going through.
You come to understand the multiple difficulties that were faced in this film. There is the political difficulty where when a problem is seen the military just simply cannot react. Only if they are being shot at can the intervene and the militia knows not to do that. There is also the difficulty in dealing with the local population. This is a war tour nation, and they do not want one more army in there. And when it comes to saving their own, the military just cannot start mowing down every civilian with a brick or a shotgun.
This is not a film where war is entertainment. These are not people on an adventure. They are at first just doing their job and then fighting to survive against impossible odds.
From a technical perspective this film is like few others. It attains a level of realism not often seen. It is not as if they had tool sets others did not. Ridley Scott just used them better. He punctuates the quiet with brutal action and then back to calm.
Black Hawk Down is an amazing film and a classic piece of movie making. Ridley Scott gave us a realistic fact-based drama that avoided sensationalizing the story. This is most definitely watch it!