Friday, October 5, 2012

Black Hawk Down

Truly Great Films #13

An incredible movie that 
takes 'based on actual events
to a whole friggin' new level...

First things first. Occasionally a film comes along that is no fun at all, but still must be seen. 

I've read the book - Black Hawk Down: a Story of Modern War - twice, an excellent unbiased account by Mark Bowden.

Jerry Bruckheimer bought the rights and hired Ridley Scott to direct. (Scott is also on Truly Great Films with Gladiator, released a year earlier) 

Make no mistake, though, this extremely accurate film is realistic and depressing.

There are excellent performances by Eric Bana, Josh Hartnett, Sam Shepard, William Fichtner, Tom Sizemore, Orlando Bloom and Ewan McGregor.

McGregor's character had to be changed after the actual soldier - SPC John Stebbins - was convicting of sexually assaulting his daughter.

Black Hawk Down got excellent reviews but had a lousy release date of December 2001 to make it eligible for the Oscars. The wide release was pushed back to January 11th, 2002.

I'm sorry to say that if not for the superb skills of Bowden as a writer and Scott as a director, nobody would know what the brave men of our armed forces went through trying to feed a starving nation in a sad African country ruled by fear.

Black Hawk Down tells the story of the Delta, Ranger and 160th SOAR forces deployed in Mogadishu, Somalia to capture a terrorist - and self-proclaimed president - named Mohammed Farah Aidid. 

Aidid had controlled the citizens by capturing food shipments in the port, using starvation as a weapon.

In 1993, the death toll stood at 300,000, the UN was tired of Aidid's shit and installed a huge peacekeeping force based at Mogadishu's airport.

After the bulk of UN personnel were withdrawn, Aidid and his militia declared war on the UN soldiers left behind.

Enter the US Army.

The film depicts the failed operation to raid a secret meeting that Aidid's top aides would be at, but as we know, things went to hell in a handbasket.

I learned something interesting the other day unrelated to this film. Russia has made 100 million AK-47 assault rifle and 9 million RPGs. And they all seem to be in the hands of the people living in Somalia.

Indeed, it's one thing to go into a country where nobody likes you, it's quite another to go into a country where everybody hates you and is very well armed.

And by everybody, I mean everybody...women and kids included.

Black Hawk Down, shot on a budget of only 92 million, manages to show this factor, and the incredible use of helicopters in modern combat.

They use the large Black Hawk as an effective troop transport, and the small - but very lethal - MH-6 Little Bird helicopter as close-support assault weapon with an awesome amount of firepower.

The 160th Night Hawks supplied the helicopters for Black Hawk Down - as well as the pilots. In fact, all of the actors went through vigorous training with soldiers that were actually in Somalia for the operation.

Many of the actors bonded closely with the soldiers, and those soldiers also did the stunts in the film, such as the fast-roping.

There is no happy ending in Black Hawk Down. The Battle of Mogadishu claimed the lives of 18 American soldiers, with 73 wounded and 2 Black Hawk helicopters destroyed.

Over 1,000 Somalians died, with about 3,000 wounded - although no one knows the exact figure.

The men of the Battle of Mogadishu

I highly recommend that you watch the movie, or read the book. It is a sad part of our history, but the tale should be known.

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