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Black Hawk Down

The true story of an elite group of U.S. soldiers whose peacekeeping mission to Somalia turns deadly when hostile civilians mount an unexpected attack.


It's 1993, and a group of some 150 elite Delta Commandos and Army Rangers are on their way to Mogadishu, Somalia, to hunt down a warlord who has been intercepting international food shipments intended for starving Somalis. Their mission is to capture the warlord's aides at a home in an area heavily controlled by his people. The plan is to drop in via helicopter, secure the area, storm the house, grab the aides and get the hell out. They figured the job would be easy enough, only taking about 90 minutes or so...but what they didn't plan for was thousands of angry civilians up in arms over what they saw as America's intrusion into their internal affairs. First one, then another, helicopter is shot down as the area is swarmed, and suddenly the peacekeeping mission becomes one of war as the soldiers must rescue their downed comrades. What begins as a 1-1/2 hour operation becomes an 18-hour fight for their lives, as the outnumbered Rangers and Commandos must stay alive against overwhelming odds in the country's most hostile region until they can be rescued.


Unlike too many action films in recent years, this film downplays the role of each soldier. Too much individual characterization can get tiresome, and in a movie like this who cares about the background and personal issues of each and every soldier in the battalion? Save us the sap, please. What you want to see is what producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Ridley Scott do best--hardcore action, not Oscar-winning drama. Black Hawk Down treats these soldiers more as a collective group with something to do rather than individuals with something to prove. Several of these guys will be familiar from other war movies. Josh Hartnett, William Fichtner, Tom Sizemore and a few others were all in Pearl Harbor earlier this year. Hartnett is the Rangers' leader; Sizemore's a hard-boiled lieutenant colonel; Ewan McGregor pops up as a paper-pushing Ranger who leaves his desk for combat. The dialogue is the usual macho stuff and none of the actors stands out as especially unique, but that's the idea--it's about the mission, not the men.


Clearly, this movie isn't as much about the acting as it is about the amazing battle scenes, which comprise the bulk of this movie. Director Scott captures to a tee the confusion, disorientation and utter hell these soldiers unwittingly found themselves in. The film's realism is technically brilliant and perfectly orchestrated, from the rooftop firefights to the hand-to-hand struggles aboard whirling choppers to the ground fire combat scenes against mobs of pissed-off Somalis. Hawk is so believable, so unrelenting, so carnage-laden, you almost feel like you're watching a movie filmed the very day the actual events unfolded eight years ago. It's brutal and often difficult to watch, yes, but also moving and sadly heroic as well. Bruckheimer, who worked hard to get the historic minutiae of the Pearl Harbor battle just right for that film, has the science of detail down pat. Everything in this movie looks great, right down to the actual Ranger extras and real Black Hawk helicopters.

Bottom Line

Comprising two hours of the most vivid, intense battle scenes you'll ever see, Black Hawk Down is a thrilling, chilling cinematic achievement not to be missed--if you can stomach it.