Black Hawk Down
It seems that a slew of war film are coming out this year - besides Black Hawk Down, there is also Pearl Harbour, Behind Enemy Lines, We Were Soldiers and Windtalkers being the most noticeable. Black Hawk Down is based on the bestselling book by Mark Bowden, chronicling the events of October 3rd 1993 which took place in Mogadishu. Before getting lost in the actual events that took place, let's focus on Ridley Scott's movie adaptation.
October 3rd 1993 - Mogadishu - a group of US Army Rangers and Delta Special Forces Commandos are assigned a mission to capture an aide of Somali warlord Muhammad Farrah Aidid. Heavily armed with state of the art weapons and equipment, the Rangers abseiled down from Black Hawk helicopters into the very heart of Mogadishu. Shockingly two of the Black Hawks were consequently shot down by RPG grenades fired from the mast of Somali soldiers below. As a result, what should have been a mission that lasted no more than 90 minutes turned out to be a nightmare 17 hour trip as soldiers trying to rescue the downed helicopter crews are themselves surrounded by thousands of militia. More soldier are sent to rescue them in turn, unfortunately they too are helplessly out numbered. Once the bullets start flying, politics go out of the window and for the soldiers involved it becomes keep shooting until the cavalry arrives. The story is one of survival - plain and simple.
Ridley Scott has made a powerful but very flawed film. The action is virtually uninterrupted gunfire for three-quarters of the film. Sounds great but it lacks the idealism of Saving Private Ryan and results in action which although is exciting is really confusing. Blood flies and body parts are sprayed everywhere as bullets and grenades come from all corners. The numbers of the US soldiers just don't seem to add up to the total of survivors and killed-in-action, but it could be due to the fact most of the soldiers blend into each other - they all have crew cuts, helmets on and are wearing the same uniform, therefore are difficult to tell apart.
The performances are good, Tom Sizemore plays the same character he played in Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbour - the tough as nails and the ever dependable soldier. Apart from the main cast, the other soldiers are also played by familiar faces, but naming them is much more difficult. Josh Hartnett shows surprising depth as Sergeant Matt Eversmann. Eric Bana as Sergeant 1st Class Norm Hooten really stands out as the ultra-hard and bad-assed Delta Force member. Shame he is one of the two main characters that do not exists in real life. He is actually an amalgamation of several member of the Delta Force unit. The other character changed for the film was Grimes, played by Ewan McGregor. Grimes was based on Specialist John Stebbins, who was the Rangers company clerk. Stebbins had never fired a weapons at an enemy before and generally made the coffee during the Gulf War. He was actually a replacement for one of the other Rangers who broke an arm and to everyone's amazement he was outstanding in the Mogadishu battlefield. Stebbins was knocked off his feet four times by rocket propelled grenades and broke his ankle resulting in his earning of the Silver Star. So why did the film makers change the heroic Stebbins character into Grimes? Unfortunately in 1997 Stebbins was not-so-heroically convicted of raping a child and is currently serving 30 years in Leavenworth military prison.
Black Hawk Down is an entertaining film, and will probably do better at the box office because of the current world situation. The ending is a little too 'American' though but overall one of the most realistic war films to date. Interesting Note: Unsaid in the film is the fact that the man who was credited for training the Somalians who attacked the American soldiers was Osama Bin Laden.
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