Black Hawk Down is a war movie that is based on the book of the same name by Mark Bowden. I myself have not read the book, but I can definitely understand how it can potentially translate well to film. The book is based on an actual event that involves military intervention in an effort to simultaneously help people in dire need and to stop an enemy who is responsible for the crisis. Certainly, people who enjoy war movies, particularly those depicting intense violence, should be able to enjoy Black Hawk Down.
The movie does a nice job providing the background for the story. In 1992, the presence of warring clans in Somalia resulted in famine and thousands of deaths from starvation in that country. This prompted a U.S. military effort in 1993 to capture Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the oppressive warlord behind this humanitarian crisis. After this introduction, there are scenes of U.S. soldiers in training and spending moments in their barracks, followed by a mission briefing based on crucial intelligence about the whereabouts of Aidid. Then, about half an hour into the movie, the mission begins.
The moments during the approach towards Aidid are gripping and suspenseful. Certainly, anyone who has never served in the military can experience the tension of the situation while watching this film. Many times, there’s a sense that one wrong move can be fatal. It’s even more tense when Somalian gunmen are aware of the American soldiers’ arrival and get ready to fight back. Once the battle begins, it’s an all-out scramble for survival, with both sides firing at each other from all directions. And this already dangerous mission takes a turn for the worst, when one Black Hawk helicopter crashes, then another, resulting in the additional task of rescuing survivors.
The story of this film follows a simple three-act format: preparation for war, the war itself (the main part of the movie, which includes fighting, rounding reinforcements, and taking care of the wounded), and the aftermath. This may not be one of those war movies whose plot includes more than just warfare, but that’s OK. It’s still an engaging and tense war movie that shows the life-and-death risks that soldiers assume in the battlefield. It’s also worth noting that this film was released a few months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a time when Americans saw greater importance in their military. While Black Hawk Down is not related to 9/11, it’s still relevant for that time, because we get to see the sacrifices made in war.
All in all, this movie is very good. Again, it’s a war film that realistically presents the experience of battle. Ridley Scott should be proud of directing this film, and the ensemble cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Ewan MacGregor, Tom Sizemore, and Eric Bana is great here. Is it the best war movie ever? Hard to tell. But I can honestly say that it’s among the really good ones. It’s an entertaining visual spectacle as well as a vivid illustration of being in war, whether in Somalia or elsewhere.
Anthony’s Rating: 9/10