BLACK HAWK DOWN – How Everything Changed

By Kevin Williams

Blackhawk Down Movie Poster

BLACK HAWK DOWN is a film that is definitely one of those “changing the channel and stop kind of films” that many people devour as often as they can.  Director Ridley Scott and Screenwriter Ken Nolan’s accounting of the terrible events and terrific heroism by American Delta Force and Army Rangers “gets it right” and delivers an amazing story that occurred twenty years ago.

Yes, it has been twenty years since (as of yesterday)… October 3, 1993 turned into one of the darkest days for America in this post-Cold War world we inhabit now.  For on that day and the next one, incredibly brave American soldiers sacrificed themselves in downtown Mogadishu, Somalia to capture some top lieutenants of the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.  Unfortunately for these brave men -  Murphy’s Law, over-confidence, poor planning and weak-kneed leadership from Washington undercut their mission and Americans got their first real glimpses of what would later become the Global War On Terror.

 

At BLACK HAWK DOWN’s beginning, Director Scott does an excellent job outlining the events leading up to American forces being in Somalia on a humanitarian mission began in the last days of President George H.W. Bush.  For those too young to have seen news reports of what happened and for those who forgot why America was there… the opening title cards (with a very respectful non-use of credits) are most welcome.  Only the words BLACK HAWK DOWN appear to remind you that you are watching a film.  The audiences quickly meets all the key players in the real events and the ones who will lead us through the film’s 144 minutes.  One of the best scenes, which begins a series of foreshadowings, is the one when General Garrison (played by Sam Shepard) sits with Atto, Aidid’s right-hand man (played by George Harris) and gets lectured on why America should leave Somalia alone and how it will end badly.  One gets the sense that this man knows what will happen before the General and the troops do.  When General Garrison informs his Staff and Unit Officers that the same “Washington” which is putting pressure on them to capture Aidid is the same “Washington” that won’t let them have light armor and AC-130 Spectre gunships for the raid, the film’s tension begins rises precipitously.

Rangers Going Down The Ropes BLACKHAWK DOWN

U.S. Army Rangers Arrive in Mogadishu
Courtesy, Revolution Studios

With much historical hindsight, the filmmakers are to be complimented for their unyielding use of the facts of what happened, how and why.  The cast and crew did a great job bringing the sense of American invulnerability, righteousness, outlook and unfortunate naivety to every scene.  Especially the first fifty-one minutes of this film.  We really were in a different world before the first Blackhawk helicopter was shot down with a Rocket-Propelled Grenade or (RPG).  Until October 3, 1993, most Americans had never heard of a RPG.  After BLACK HAWK DOWN, they would likely never forget that acronym ever again.  The pre-raid scene where the Rangers are removing body armor, leaving behind night-vision gear or filled water canteens while a Delta Force Veteran (played by Eric Bana) preps extra grenades bring on a sense of frustration.  Why weren’t these men better prepared and supported?  Irony to the max.

Ewan McGregor as "Grimes" in BLACK HAWK DOWN

Ewan McGregor in Black Hawk Down
Courtesy, Revolution Studios

The cast of BLACK HAWK DOWN is a who’s-who of early 2000 young male actors and vets.  The then-hot newcomer (and star) Josh Hartnett plus Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Jason Isaac, Tom Sizemore, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Orlando Bloom, Kim Coates, William Fichtner and Zeljko Ivanek underwent more than two weeks of Ranger/Special Forces training before shooting and it shows on screen.  On the last day of their week long Army Ranger orientation at Fort Benning, the actors who portrayed the Rangers received a letter which had been anonymously slipped under their door.  The letter thanked them for all their hard work, and asked them to “tell our story true”, signed with the names of the Rangers who died in the Mogadishu firefight (IMDB.com).

In BLACK HAWK DOWN, no moment feels false or unearned and that extends to the Somali Militia side as well.  The actor playing an Aidid Militia sergeant guarding Capt. Mike Durant tells the injured pilot, “Without victory, there is no peace” with such grounding that an audience feels that he may know something deeper which we don’t.  Such as maybe that we don’t really understand just why America is in Mogadishu instead another place that matters more.  That isn’t a political statement, but obviously there was a cultural and moral clash going on in Somalia that the United States didn’t realize the depth of previously.  It is a small scene, but delivers a very hard punch.

Many Americans remember the frightening and disgusting images of some of our dead soldiers being dragged through Mogadishu’s streets.  The filmmakers spare us those exact moments of death, but never let us forget the environment they occurred under and by whom.  What happened to those men in a visual way, portended the wars we have fought since and the enemy we face today.  The grounded helicopter scenes realistically display the heroic actions and impossible odds those pilots faced.  Viewers cannot escape the sense that these pilots and the 123 Rangers and Delta Force members faced evil and unnecessary death on the ground with thousands of Somali militia members gunning for them.

When Eversmann (played by Josh Hartnett) closes the film by saying to a dead comrade, “Everything’s changed.  I’ve changed,” it seems as if he is speaking not just for himself but for his nation several thousand miles away.  BLACK HAWK DOWN is a great film which indeed captures how and why we all changed forever on those two days in Mogadishu, Somalia.

BLACK HAWK DOWN is available on video on demand and on DVD at many retailers.  The film and its screenplay are based on the book, BLACK HAWK DOWN, by Mark Bowden

 

© 2013 The Willams View

Posted in: Entertainment, Reviews

About the Author:

Jennifer Williams is an accomplished writer, interviewer and critical reviewer having written about or covered many subjects of interests. Having graduated from Tulane University, La Salle University and New York University, Kevin's career background in Politics and Civic Affairs, Public Relations, Marketing, Non-Profit Management and Filmmaking have helped inspire much of her past artistic and creative efforts. Jennifer directed and co-produced the documentary feature film, Fear Of A Black Republican. Her latest film, Rebel Song, looks at a middle-aged American Celtic Rock band and the music inspired by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Rebel Song is expected to be released in 2014. In addition to The Williams View, Jennifer is also the Entertainment and Politics Editor for Politisite, a Contributing Writer for Townhall, Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Liberatchik and Hip Hop Republican. Jennifer has been interviewed or profiled across many Media outlets such as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, L.A. Weekly; Current TV, Christian Broadcasting Network, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera and BET News; radio programs ranging from National Public Radio, Voice of Russia - American Edition, the Mark Davis Radio Show, the Chris Stigall Show, the Steve Deace Show, the Bob Grant Show, Victoria Taft Show, to the Michael Eric Dyson Show and many others.

1 Comment on "BLACK HAWK DOWN – How Everything Changed"

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  1. Jack Gregory says:

    Mr. Williams,

    Your observations about this film are spot-on. It is too bad the political hacks in D.C. who sit behind a desk miss the point. This film underscores what is not exceptional about America …. we rarely take the time to have rubber hit road before we act. Sadly, we have allowed our strengths to become weaknesses inspite ourselves and our well intentions. Enough said. Keep up the good work. See you at the movies !!!

    Jack

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