When a Black Hawks Goes Down, One Nation’s Heroes Rise Up
One mission, one hour, and then it’s over. It’s as simple as that. Well, if only war could be that simple, but it isn’t. Instead, these soldiers must scrap and claw for the next 12+ hours to see the light of day. Black Hawk Down, originally a book written by Mark Bowden, is directed by Ridley Scott and tells the true and suspenseful story of an attempt by US Army Rangers and a Delta Task Force to kidnap two important assistants of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid in the city of Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1993, Aidid had been radically dictating the city of Mogadishu, starving the people of Somalia by controlling imports and exports. He declared war on remaining UN peacekeepers, the ones that hadn’t been withdrawn since they had been stationed there to help stabilize the ensuing civil war. In the movie, the aforementioned American forces, one of them being Ranger Chalk Four led by Staff Sergeant Matthew Eversmann (Josh Harnett), are sent to capture Aidid’s assistants to eventually reach the man himself, but what follows is an overnight standoff with the initial mission in hindsight and their survival as the number one priority. With the motto “no man left behind”, the American soldiers face the task of saving possible survivors from two crash sites where Black Hawk helicopters had fallen, before they can head back to base.
The mission that (relatively) begins this movie is straightforward, meant to be pretty quick and easy. Just follow the marked car, effectively raid the building, capture the assistants, and drive right out with them in hand. However, Aidid's army proves to be well prepared such actions by American forces and pose a legitimate army to confront the Americans as they are ready for extraction. The Black Hawks that circle the city ensures the viewer that the men on the ground are safe and covered, but the opposite is true. The reliance of the Black Hawks represents the vulnerability of the forces in Mogadishu, because the helicopters are easily seen and pinpointed by any terrorists, but the helicopters in turn habe limited vision of the terrorists on the ground. Nervousness builds up each time a shot of the Black Hawk circling the town appears, because the viewer knows the probability of it being shot down by a RPG, especially after one Hawk had fallen. The anxiety that encompasses the viewer rises from the process of reaching the fallen Black Hawks, which is twice. The men face constant heavy fire as they attempt to retrieve soldiers from the fallen helicopters while undermanned, lacking ammo, and continuous treatment of the many injured. The successful reaching and rescuing of a survivor of one of the crashes by two soldiers is for naught as just minutes later the three men are overwhelmed and inhumanely killed, lowering the morale of the viewer as well as the soldiers. The music is well coordinated at points like these, emiting a deep and sad tone following the tension building music during the standoff that preceded these deaths. One of the best shots occurs during this scene, as the pilot survivor is isolated by the camera as he is ripped apart, hazing out the attackers. The film remains realistic and agonizing, as more people die from their injuries overnight and while transferring from their rescuing missions to the building that was made their base. UN help finally arrives in the morning, with the emergence of dawn displaying the emergence of help finally safety.
The film is climactic and powerful, touching the viewer on a personal level. With each yelp of agony, I continued to think to myself how although I was watching a hollywood version of the events that the film was based on, it was still something that happened in real life. I felt like I was watching war firsthand, and each death really hit home as if it was real. In reality, it is real, as young men have died and continue to die while fighting for our country. The actors display their emotions so vividly and authentically as they fight side by side and when they heal one another. Each actor plays their role so well, expressing their attachment to one another and truly giving the viewers a sense of the brotherhood these soldiers have with one another. The scenes containing soldiers receiving medical attention are powerful and even a little graphic, letting the viewer know just how serious these injuries are (one shot reveals a soldier’s thumb dangling off his hand). Sounds of RPGs exploding into buildings and bullets firing out of assault rifles ensure constant movement within the movie (the film won Best Sound Mixing at the 74th Academy Awards). Accordingly, scenes so silent that you could here a bullet drop are incorporated sparingly throughout the movie to tense the viewer as they try to predict when the next grenade will go off. As supported by the film winning Best Film Editing also at the 74th Academy Awards, each scene contains multiple shots from multiple angles that are mashed together to present a very detailed battle shot.
Black Hawk Down is a fantastic and striking film that will please almost all young adults and adults. Young action hungry kids would be heavily enticed by this movie, but not so much for other kids around that age. I believe almost any adult can enjoy this movie because regardless if they like action or not, the realistic relationships and emotional connections that the character's share throughout the improbable battle will appeal to one's genuine interest. Of course, teenage boys attracted to fighting and war will be fully engaged in this film. If you simply like action, or you are intrigued by historical events in American history, this movie is highly recommended.