View Date: January 19, 2002

Rating: ($$$$ out of $$$$$)


Josh Hartnett SSgtt Eversmann
Ewan McGregor John Grimes
Tom Sizemore Lt. Col McKnight
Eric Bana Sgt 1st Cl Hooten
William Fichtner MSgt Paul Howe
Ewen Bremner Spec Shawn Nelson
Sam Shepard Major Gen Garrison
Gabriel Casseus Specialist Mike Kurth
Kim Coates Wex
Hugh Dancy Sgt 1st Class Schmid
Ron Eldard CWO Mike Durant
Ioan Gruffudd Beales
Tom Guiry SSgt Ed Yurek
Charlie Hofheimer Corporal Jamie Smith
Danny Hoch Sergeant Dominic Pilla
Jason Isaacs Captain Mike Steele
Zeljko Ivanek Harrell
Glenn Morshower Coll Tom Matthews
Jeremy Piven CWO Cliff Wolcott
Brendan Sexton III Pvt 1st Kowalewski
Johnny Strong Sgt Randy Shughart
Richard Tyson SSgt Daniel Busch

Directed by:
Ridley Scott

Written by
Mark Bowden (book)
Ken Nolan (II) (screenplay)
& Steven Zaillian (screenplay)

Related Viewings:
Three Kings (1999)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Courage Under Fire (1996)
Casualties of War (1989)

Official Site:
Black Hawk Down

Related Links:
Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc
Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War

Also see my reviews at:


Cast information and links courtesy of logo.gif (2059 bytes)

Go To Reel Rambling Page



Black Hawk Down

Move over Private Ryan, Ridley Scott has just done Spielberg one better, an unenviable feat to say the least.  With Black Hawk Down, Scott has created the most frighteningly, yet amazingly recreated war sequences ever put on film.   Just imagine the first 20 minutes of Ryan, multiplied by 6, and given a deeper focus of complexity.  While the film is betrayed at times by its clichéd script, and the dramatic license taken is a little emotionally manipulative, the final effort is still one that leaves a sense of awe, respect and admiration, not just for the creators of the film, but for the soldiers and ideals so powerfully depicted. 

It is both frightening, and shocking, how quickly that important events can fade from our memory.  Two years removed from the Gulf War, the nation had entered into another peacekeeping mission, in the African nation of Somalia.  The country was in the midst of a famine of “Biblical proportions” and was under the dictatorial control of warlord Mohammed Aidid.  The United Nations sent in food and supplies to help the 300,000 innocent Somalis affected.  Once the country was back on its feet, a small contingent of peacekeepers was left behind to help maintain order, and Aidid targeted them, thus creating a hostile environment.  This story, based on the best selling book by Mark Bowden, tells of one of the more infamous occurrences during the mission.  It started as a raid on a meeting of political dignitaries of Aidid, which was scheduled to last 30 minutes, but due to several mitigating circumstances (including a fallen soldier, and two downed helicopters) ended up costing 18 American lives, and leaving several soldiers pinned down in Mogadishu for almost 15 hours.  More details on the book, the soldiers, and the aftereffects are available in the “Related Links” section on the left hand side of the page. 

Having not read the book, I cannot compare, but I’m told that it takes the same, detailed minute-by-minute retelling that the movie does, also jumping around to several stories and people all during the same timeframe.  This may cause confusion or frustration for some, who either get lost in the shooting, or just mixed up as to which camouflaged, buzzed haircut, soldier they are following.  But I feel, being a veteran of a much less violent Desert Storm operation that this effectively reflects the mass disorientation, and maddening sense that the soldiers here, and in any kind of armed conflict, must have experienced.  The way that Scott and cinematographer Slavomir Idziak captured this must truly be seen, to be awed.  The choreography and direction of having several different things occurring, in several different perspectives and areas of the scene, is truly a marvelous experience, even sans the gunfire, blood, vehicles, explosions, and troop movement.  All of those combined, with a reasonably solid script, make this one as close to a “You are There” experience than most of us will ever want.  My only minor complaint involves the sometimes predictable side stories (involving a new troops introduction, a last minute phone call, and a letter to the parents, not to mention half of the generals “leave no man behind” dialogue) I do not know if these were actual occurrences, or Scott, Bowden and Zailian took dramatic license to go for the sympathetic effect.  This brings into question my whole, does life imitate art, or vice versa debate.  Do people say and do things because they saw them on TV or the movies, or do the movies do these things because they think its what people would actually do, or at least want to be done.  It’s hard to say, and a never ending debate, but in this film, those little occurrences, only mildly taint the overall magic, and frightening reality of the films experience. 

Unfortunately, the performances save Hartnett, Sizemore, McGregor and Fichtner (that still leaves over 15 focused speaking roles) go unnoticed, or blend into things too much to really single out.  By reading the credits afterwards, I learned that Ron Eldard, Jeremy Piven and Brendan Sexton were in the film, but I could barely tell you where. None of these really stand out, as they are, as soldiers are, a part of a cohesive team.  Each has a part, a job, to fill and do, and sometimes its not as important whom the person is, as to how they contribute to the team.  This is the case in this multi talented, effective cast, which does bring a bit of heart and realism to a painful piece of history.  

Ultimately, Black Hawk Down is a brutally realistic depiction of warfare; its heroes, their triumphs, the losses, the sadness, and the overall emotion of the situation.  This will be as close as most of us will ever come to real warfare, complete with the bullets, the blood, the confusion, the chaos Amidst the predictability and emotional manipulation of recent cinematic efforts, it seems that the art of film making often gets lost amongst the attempt to present a universally crowd-pleasing product.  Filmmakers are storytellers, just as authors are, and their goals are similar.  Each creates a story, whether the basis is factual, or generated in the mind of the teller.  They attempt to take us into their world, and give us a complete experience, using every available method.  With Black Hawk, Scott has returned to the forefront of visual storytellers (after his Hannibal debacle) and has given a nation a reminder that soldiers and heroes have existed around us for ages, all we need is someone to bring the story to our attention and give it due justice in telling.  

This was a part of our history that a lot of people may have forgotten, and others would like to forget.  But for the sake of patriotism, and national unity, we cannot, and shall not, thanks to Ridley Scott’s amazing vision.  I was a soldier, serving during this time, and only in reflection and research, did I recall and recount the details of this small dark slice of American history.  George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Sometimes it takes the story telling medium of the movies, not just books, to remind, recount, reflect and respect the participants, and the repercussions of our past discretions.  Let Black Hawk Down stand as a reminder that America is not a perfect country, but will always be a proud, patriotic one.  

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