Black Hawk Down is one of those brilliantly realised films that will nonetheless depress the hell out of you.
Ridley Scott expertly tells the story of a botched mission in civil war torn Somalia, albeit from a decidedly pro-US perspective, where a supposedly simple extraction turns into a running battle with literally thousands of casualties – most of them native Somalians.
USA! USA! USA!
In 1993 Somalia was gripped by starvation, corruption and poverty. Foreign aid helped in the early stages, then slapped its collective palms together and left. Quick as a flash the evil Somali militia move in to kill the remaining peacekeepers and once again restore havoc to the unfortunate locals.
Standing off to the side are the US soldiers charged with observing only. Despite their training they are ordered to watch on passively as the atrocities are committed around them, only firing when fired upon.
It all begins when a Black Hawk helicopter crashes to earth in slow motion after a lucky hit. I am not sure when choppers joined dolphins and horses in the genre of ‘things that can only be filmed in slow motion’, just know that they are now.
The US forces are hastily summoned to rescue the survivors stranded deep in hostile territory, outnumbered by a poorly trained but heavily armed for howling for blood.
What ensues is a running battle between the US group of not thousands vs an incredible number of interchangeable and apparently easily replaceable Somalians. The casualties mount, mostly non-US of course, (which despite being apparently true to the real life events is no less tragic and ignored here), with occasional white guy deaths when things get a little repetitive.
I can’t help but think that a million chickens with a million AK47s couldn’t drop more than a dozen and a half soldiers, but the small print shows that the body-count was an eye opening 18 (US) to 1,200 Somalians.
In 1993 the events apparently took place over a nine hour span, the film version runs 150 minutes but is still grueling and hard to endure – a scene where a field surgery is required to locate a soldier’s femoral artery still makes me cringe just thinking about it.
Black Hawk Down is an especially authentic feeling film with an all star cast of the now (well then – the film is 12 years old) and the future. Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, William Fichtner and Orlando Bloom represent the (2001) ‘now, and Tom Hardy, Ty Burrell and the Game of Thrones guy are the future.
Like Hotel Rwanda, Schindler’s List and Tsotsi, Black Hawk Down is hard going, but should nonetheless be required viewing for anyone who considers themselves an adult.
Final Rating – 8.5 / 10. Yet another Great film based upon unfortunate world events from our recent past. Hopefully these type of events dry up, I would rather miss out on excellent films than continually be reminded that such regrettable and heinous acts are being perpetrated somewhere on the globe.