The story of 160 elite U.S. soldiers who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large ... Read allThe story of 160 elite U.S. soldiers who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.The story of 160 elite U.S. soldiers who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis.
While most reviews seem to be of one extreme or the other, I think it is important to try and look at the film in the two ways that it should have existed and weight it up on that basis. First of all, as a war movie there is very little wrong with it. It is realistic and powerful and you do leave with the feeling of having been in a battle. The lack of characters is not a major problem as all is required that we know is that these are soldiers - not what family they have or what they are like as people. However this film would have been much better if it had been totally fictional and had existed just as a flag waving tale to American bravery and dedication to the fight.
Sadly this is not a fiction al story, it is based on a true story and it is a lesser film because of what it chooses to omit or spin in it's telling. Like I said, this was a very good film if you want a reasonably intense depiction of being in a battle, however it should have been an anti-war film, such were the lessons to be taken from the events of October 1993. However, because an antiwar film will never sell in post-11/9 America, the film cannot go down that road. While it is generally regarded that the US attempt to launch an attack in this way was foolish and that the result was a `fiasco' none of that is shown here. There is no room for comment on the wisdom of the action when there's cheering to be done. In fact at one point one of the characters even explains the events by just saying `sh*t happens'.
This is just one example of how blindly patriotic this film is. Does this take away from the impact of the film - no. Does it take away from how good a film it is - yes, and it should. The film never stops shouting about how heroic and upright the US soldiers are and, in fairness, those involved deserve respect. However the film ignores the fact that a significant number of those involved in the rescue and the fighting were actually Malaysian (who here are limited to serving glasses of water to the returning US soldiers. Given that the film lacks characters it would have been no problem to replace white US faces with Malaysian ones (they all end up covered in dirt and blood anyway!). However, to do that would have required the film to suggest that the US needs external help to bail it out - again not an idea that an audience would take.
While the film has no characters it is not a major problem, although I would have liked the US soldiers to at least not be all angels! The cast were mostly good despite not really ever having to act, I was surprised how many well known faces were involved - Bana, Harnett, McGregor, Sizemore, Fincher, Sheppard, Bloom, Piven and Coates to name a few. However there are no Somali characters to speak of (in fact - no Somalis at all! The extras were from other nations despite not looking anything like the people of that region). The film early on has Harnett's character express respect and interest in the Somali people, but the film doesn't. There is no back story about the country and there is nothing to suggest that this country is anything other than armed gangs of angry black people who are killing the good soldiers. An antiwar film shouldn't really paint one side good and the other bad in a situation like this, and that was the point I understood the film wasn't trying to be antiwar - it was pro-US.
It is a shame that the film spares no thought for these people - yes they killed the US soldiers, but the US killed over 1000 of them during the rescue mission. There's nothing wrong with the film bigging up the US soldiers, but to just totally ignore this fact other than a caption at the end is basic. The caption may as well have read - `1000 of them died too but they weren't American so f**k them.' The film's core is the dramatic and violent rescue mission and I can forgive them making it an `all-US' operation given the fact that it is an US film. However the film made a conscious choice to remove everything about the story that would be critical (which is a lot) of the US, for this reason it suffered a lot - a film that criticises politics and the whole idea of war does not have to do the same for the soldiers. These men deserve respect no matter how they got there - but the film wrongly carries this respect over to the whole concept and situation. This was a mistake.
I have gone on longer about the bad stuff than the good, so let me make it clear: this is a very good film if you are looking for a war film that is dramatic and very realistic. Scott is a good director and he does very well to make the audience feel like they are in the midst of a battle. I didn't want it to push an antiwar agenda but I didn't expect it to be as flagwavingly naive as this! Of course it did well - the audience wanted a film that supports the military, it's just a shame that they didn't just make up a story rather than taking a real one and doing it so badly. There are other people in the world and they are still people regardless of race or beliefs - that this film fails to take that into account is a major failing no matter how exciting or realistic it is.
- bob the moo
- Jan 18, 2004