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We were soldiers AND made a great film...
kingtanichi17 July 2003
Black Hawk Down is first and foremost an immensely effective war film, but beyond that, its one of the most subtly differently made war films ever. Most war films usually either have a single hero through whom we see everything (i.e. Platoon), or present us with a squad of soldiers, all of whom are identifiable "types" (i.e. Saving Private Ryan). Black Hawk Down takes a different approach, instead giving us a very wide array of characters, none clearly singled out as a hero or type to command the audience's attention. The general effect is to create that feeling of a team army that George C. Scott so ardently expounded to us at the start of Patton. Furthering this feel of military professionalism, the film never cheapens itself by putting too much emotional weight into one moment. The plot moves ahead at a constant pace, cutting from location to location, without slowing down to focus too much on individual soldiers. The effect is of watching documentary footage of a real military operation gone wrong. While the effect of this scripting approach may produce some detachment among viewers on the first viewing, it makes the film all the better on subsequent viewings.

And you'd better believe there will be subsequent viewings, because Ridley Scott has created one of cinema's all-time great pieces of eye candy here. The editing, cinematography, grading, scoring and visual effects all combine to leave a viewer just as drained upon leaving the theatre as these soldiers were on leaving Mogadishu. The intensity of this film's combat is easily equal to Saving Private Ryan, and leaves such pretenders as We Were Soldiers behind in the dust. Black Hawk Down lacks the former's emotional resonance, but unlike the latter, it thrives on the fact, creating a final product as mind-challenging in its construction as it is mind-blowing its visualization.
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One of the best war movies of all time
shades03312 January 2002
When talking about war movies, there are many great ones that immediately spring to mind. Since the 70's, three of them have formed a bit of a holy trinity: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. These three movies have set the bar for all other war movies that have come along since then. When it was announced that Gladiator director, Ridley Scott, would be adapting Mark Bowden's book, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, filmgoers knew that they would be in for a treat.

For whatever reason, I don't remember hearing much about the civil war in Somalia or about the Battle of Mogadishu on which Black Hawk Down is based. The plan seemed simple enough: the Army is sent into Somalia by the government to try to put an end to the Civil War. On October 3, 1993, a group of them were sent on a quick mission to capture the Somali warlord that had been running the country with an iron fist. It didn't take long for the operation to go completely FUBAR as two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down. Things went from bad to worse, as the Rangers found themselves surrounded by thousands of armed Somalis, whose only goal was to shoot any American soldier that invaded their space. After "stirring up the hornet's nest", the mission becomes a desperate attempt to maintain the Rangers motto, "Leave No Man Behind".

Needless to say, Ridley Scott has made the ultimate war movie with Black Hawk Down. Unlike some war films that temper the battle with slower character-building sequences, you have to wait only thirty minutes for the Rangers' mission to go into effect. And the action doesn't stop for the next two hours, as the rest of the movie is filled with flying bullets, explosions and bloodshed. The fighting is so chaotic that it is hard to follow the action and tell what is happening, at times, and it becomes almost too easy to become desensitized to the violence. By the third time someone yells "RPG's!" though, the entire audience knows to duck and cover their ears.

While the American soldiers go in with a solid plan, it doesn't take long for panic to set in, and pretty soon, you're not sure which side is more disorganized. It's amazing to watch what seems like thousands of extras playing the Somali militia swarming over the soldiers, and the action and camerawork is reminiscent of a video game as the soldiers try to escape their precarious situation through the streets of Mogadishu. As the movie progresses, the tension continues to build as the grim and unrelenting hopelessness of the situation sets in both for the soldiers and the viewer.

It's pretty amazing how much has been made of the 19 downed American soldiers when over 1000 Somali men, women, and children were killed during the raid. While the movie is clearly weighed towards the American perspective, I can't imagine how it must have felt to be the guy who gets to play "Dead Somali with a Gun #354".

Although characterization has always been used extensively in war movies to get the viewer to care about the characters, Black Hawk Down works better because, for the most part, the soldiers are personified as little more than grunts in the field doing the bidding of their superiors. At least the soldiers had their names taped to their helmets, so that this didn't have the problem of some war movies, where it's sometimes hard to tell who is who. Some of the best performances of the film come from Tom Sizemore as the gung-ho Lt. McKnight and Josh Hartnett, who plays the sergeant who leads the mission and feels personal guilt every time a man is lost. Sam Shepard also is excellent as Major General William Garrison, who sits back in the safe zone watching his doomed men be overpowered by the enemy. Eric Bana's part is small, but he has some of the best lines in the film, really driving home the point of why soldiers do what they do. Ewan McGregor's role is even more minor and insignificant, but his Trainspotting compatriot, Ewen Bremner offers the movie's little bit of comic relief.

As expected in a Ridley Scott film, the visuals and camerawork are stunning with the movie having a gray almost monochromatic look that makes the orange flames and red blood really stand out. As is typical in Scott's recent movies, there is lots of flying dust, rubble and debris mixed with slow motion shots of falling bullet casings and splattered blood. He also uses animals and non-military personnel well in some of the shots to show that this firefight is happening in the middle of a populated market district.

A big deal has been made out of the blood and gore in Black Hawk Down, but what is any true war movie without it? Though most of the graphic violence on display is not far beyond Saving Private Ryan, there is at least one visceral sequence that will make most people squeamish, unless they watch those operation shows on The Learning Channel for entertainment. Black Hawk Down is quite an achievement in creating a realistic representation of an event in recent history. Most of this movie leaves the viewer aghast and incredulous of what they're watching, and it's hard to believe that something like this could possibly happen. Technically, this movie is an amazing feat that gives the viewer one of the most realistic impressions of what it would feel like to be in the middle of a war, which makes the atrocities of the event seem all the more real.

In a genre that has brought out some of the best in directors and actors, Black Hawk Down is easily the best war movie ever made, and it has replaced A Beautiful Mind as my candidate for Best Picture and Director.

Rating: 10 out of 10
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A very American war story directed by an Englishman
DesbUK19 March 2005
I've been watching this movie and its accompanying extras on DVD this week for the first time and I thought is ironic that this very American war story should be directed and produced by an Englishman (Ridley Scott) and have a large number of British actors cast as the American servicemen (Ewan McGregor, Jasson Issacs, Hugh Dancy, Euan Bremner, Orlando Bloom.) I suppose it's the equivalent of Steven Spielberg directing a film about the Battle of Goose Green during the Falklands War and casting Americans as members of the Parachute Regiment.

Scott's movie is quite brave in that it has no major stars and no central character (unlike, say Tom Hanks in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or Mel Gibson in WHEN WE WERE SOLDIERS). It's also largely free of the clichés of the genre: no soaring John Williams score accompanying shots of the flag fluttering in the sunlight; no scenes of the families back home. Instead its all about the logistics and the absolute horror of battle. This is the best combat footage since ZULU way back in 1964, a film which it resembles. In Scott's commentary description words, it is 'Anti-War but pro-military'.
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one of the best ACCURATE war movies
Daniel Berman3 March 2005
Unlike most of the war movies of our time, Black Hawk Down sticks to the facts about what happened in Mogadishu and doesn't romanticize the story. To support this observation, the viewer will notice that there is not really one main character. This shows that the film focuses more on what happened in Somalia instead of on the characters personality and/or struggles. Another important aspect of the film that makes it so great is the cinematography. Not only was the setting of the film accurate to the real thing, but the way that the movie was filmed is great because it seems like someone is running along the battle scene getting everything on tape. In addition, the film contains small aspects that one may not notice that are important to the situation in Mogadishu. For instance, the bullet shells that fell from the firing helicopter fell into one of the soldiers' vests, and he scrambled to get it out because of how hot it was. This small detail makes the movie that much more realistic. To conclude, Black Hawk Down is a great movie that is both an eye opener that sticks to the facts as well as a quality film. I recommend this movie to any war-film fan, as well as anyone that likes watching movies in general.
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Tells it like it is
BettieTeese26 November 2004
I'm not a fan of war movies usually,but when i sat down to watch Black Hawk Down,i couldn't turn it off.Heres a war movie which doesn't sugar coat.There is no crappy dialogue,no soppy love story tie ins,just the real deal,brutal battle scenes,the gruesome reality of war.Black Hawk Down is based on a true story,the bloody battle at Somalia and it leaves one drained.Its confronting,and exposes war in its true light-there's nothing glamorous to see.In two hours and a bit the viewer is able to imagine being there at the horrible battleground,and suffering like the soldiers did.It really makes you appreciate how lucky we are to be in a free country,relatively peaceful,and not having our lives threatened every second of the day.Everything about BHD is right; the setting of the film,the Somalians,the American soldiers going through hell,the brutality,the battle,the

fatalities.Not for the faint hearted,or weak stomached,but a truly powerful,compelling motion picture.Ridley Scott takes the viewer on an imaginative journey through Black Hawk Down and appeals to our emotions.A brutal,yet bearable war film.
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I Felt Like I Was in that Black Hawk
ptheus18 January 2002
Black Hawk is quite simply the best movie of the year (2001) and the best war movie I have seen. It's an astonishing achievement that puts you right in the middle of the hellish horror faced by U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993. Every explosion startled me and filled me fear, every gunshot felt like it was whizzing right by me, every mistake or unforeseen event had me on the edge of my seat with stress and anger. I felt as though I had been transported to Mogadishu for 2.5 hours and plopped in the middle of the ambush faced by the 100 or so U.S. Rangers and Delta Force Troops as they set about to capture a Somalian warlord responsible for stealing Red Cross food shipments in his starvation-ravaged country. I really felt this movie, it was tangible to me; the confusion, the fear, the sense of dislocation and horror the soldiers must have faced. At the end I was emotionally and mentally drained.

Ahh emotions, a subject of much debate where this movie is concerned, at least among some critics. While the reviews for Black Hawk Down have on average ranged from "Good to Excellent," there has been persistent and growing criticism over the lack of clearly drawn out characters that the audience could connect with, the lack of historical context, and the fact that movie is all action, with no heart, with no point-of-view. Well I think those who criticize the movie on these grounds, have completely missed the point of the movie, and are flat-out wrong. It is a movie told from the soldiers point-of-view, pure and simple. This is not a political movie, this is not a movie that needs cheap sentimentality or conventional emotional "hooks" for the characters. As much as I liked Saving Private Ryan, the overly sentimental framing device used by Spielberg, really annoyed me. It felt like he was pandering to the audience just a little bit, and it wasn't necessary. Well, there's no pandering here, no cheap sentimentality in Black Hawk Down, just the horrible, gruesome, disorienting reality of modern combat. I didn't know anyone who worked in the World Trade Center, but I was moved to tears by what happened to them on Sept. 11 and that's the way I felt today in the movie.

As far as I am concerned there was plenty of emotion in Black Hawk Down, plenty of "choke-up" moments, or moments when I was moved by the unbelievable courage shown by the soldiers as they faced an almost hopeless situation. I'm not sure how anyone could not be moved by seeing these 18-25 year-old men trapped in the horror of a Civil War that had no bearing on U.S. National Security. As portrayed by the amazing ensemble cast, these men (really boys in many cases) showed the full range of emotions that our soldiers must have gone through, not to mention the fear and confusion of their situation. To me the cast standouts were Josh Hartnett (boy has he got BIG FUTURE STAR written all over him) as Staff Sgt Eversmann and Australian actor Eric Bana as Sgt 1st Class "Hoot."

Black Hawk Down is a great movie, and it is an important movie. It is the story of courage and heroism against nearly insurmountable odds. What happened in Somalia was a foreign policy failure for the U.S., but the actions of the soldiers sent into battle that October day were anything but failure. That there were not more casualties is a credit to them and ultimately a credit to all of us.
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So many elements combine to make this movie good.. especially the music
GridGirl0331 August 2002
I've just got this movie on DVD - I did see it on the big screen and it blew my mind. Being from Australia we had practically no idea of what was going on in Somalia, and after seeing this movie and then reading the book - it is an eye opener.

Now that I've watched it a few more times, I've noticed one thing with this movie. The music. Aside from the story and the cinematography and the editing which all are so well done that you feel like you are there with them; the music is a big contributor to the feel of the movie, and in my opinion, more so than in a lot of films.

It is very subtle, it has taken me 10 viewings to even notice there was music there. It really helps create the atmosphere, going from lighthearted, almost fun in the beginning with various rock/pop tracks into deep and moving operatic styles as the story progesses into the war and further.

It is the top of my list of favourites for many reasons, but I think mostly it is the way the whole package comes together to tell the story of what happened that makes it so good.

Well worth viewing many times over.
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It`s An Account , Not A Statement
Theo Robertson18 September 2003
I vividly remembered the news reports in October 1993 of the body of an American serviceman being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu following the battle there . A couple of years later my interest of the battle was rekindled by an edition of the BBC`s excellent history show TIMEWATCH that spoke to the survivors of " The biggest firefight involving American troops since Vietnam " , so when Mark Bowden released his book BLACK HAWK DOWN I opened the first page and found myself unable to put it down , and when I heard Ridley Scott was going to bring Bowden`s book to the big screen I was looking forward to seeing it

I did enjoy the movie and have to take issue with some of the comments raised . First of all people complain about events and incidents being changed , I know how you feel but with any adaptation there`s bound to be bits condensed , the only real criticisms that can justified is that this film version totally negates the Somali point of view ( For those of you who haven`t read the book Mark Bowden writes his account in a similar subjective manner Corneilus Ryan wrote his trilogy - two of which THE LONGEST DAY and A BRIDGE TOO FAR were made into blockbuster movies - dealing with the last months of the war in Europe ) but Bowden`s book is an account of the battle of Mogadishu , that`s what it is - An account that doesn`t really concern itself with wider issues like politics or anti-war sentiment , so it seems churlish to complain about concepts like character development because that`s not what the story is about . I`ve also heard teenage girls complain that Orlando Bloom doesn`t get enough screen time and that they found it too violent . I`m sorry to hear that girls , hopefully next time you go to the cinema you might like to find out what you`re letting yourself in for . As for the rest of the screenplay it is accurate right down to the friction between the Deltas and the Rangers and the fact the Americans were actually rescued by a UN force composed of Malaysians and Pakistanis

Ridley Scott rightly deserved an Oscar nomination with BHD . It`s his movie and he surpasses anything Spielberg achieved with the overrated SAVING PRIVATE RYAN . War is hell and this is a film of stark and haunting imagery of victims of famine , of mutilated soldiers and civilians . Both editing and cinematography are superb with many great scenes like the small stream of American soldiers walking up the street while on the other side of the houses a massive torrent of armed militiamen are walking in the same direction . My only real complaints of what`s on screen is Ewan McGregor`s awful American accent ( It`s especially so when you stop to consider that most of the cast aren`t played by American actors )and Hans Zimmer score resembles that of most of his other movies , but I shouldn`t nitpick because I found this Scott`s best film alongside GLADIATOR
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shea_bennett6 October 2002
When you break it down and look at it both honestly and cynically (assuming that that is possible for a minute), there are really only two kinds of war movie: pro and con. The underlying theme of virtually every war movie - particularly since APOCALYPSE NOW - generally comes down to an analysis of the 'value' of war, of its worth. It's pointlessness, or its need. Is the action of battle warranted because of the attempt to find peace, or is war never justifiable, no matter what the intention?

Pro or con?

What is interesting is that since the Second World War, this underlying message that is found in nearly all war pictures has slowly changed from the former to the latter. This again is generally shaped in two ways. Either we see the play-by-play results following the issuance of what appears to be a bizarre and foolhardy set of orders from high command (i.e., APOCALYPSE NOW or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN). Or we get a glimpse of being right in the action as it all falls apart: hearing the bullets whizzing past our noses, reeling from the impact of RPG's and gazing blankly as the bodies begin to mount (PLATOON, say). BLACK HAWK DOWN, directed by Ridley Scott and accurately following the true story of the best-selling book by Mark Bowden, very much adopts the latter perspective.

On October 3, 1993, a small unit of U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force troops were dropped by helicopter into hostile territory in Mogadishu, Somalia, with what is perceived to be a straightforward mission: the capture of two lieutenants of the Somali warlord, General Aidid. The unit is under command from Major William Garrison (Sam Shepard), and headed by Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann (Josh Hartnett) in his first direct experience of frontline leadership. He also has a personal goal - to ensure everyone comes back alive.

Yet, these things are never as easy as they appear - hence the development of the book and the film - and when 18-year old frontline rookie Todd Blackbird is injured early on, the entire mission begins to fall apart. More U.S. troops are injured, and when Somalis down two Black Hawk helicopters, the mission changes completely: it's now a rescue operation.

And for about ninety minutes, you are subjected to some of the most intense, disturbing, graphic, violent and chilling pieces of conflict representation that you will ever see. Remember the Omaha Beach scene in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN? That was about half an hour long. Think of something three times that length, yet more 'realistic' and with (thankfully) no flag-waving. That is the gist of BLACK HAWK DOWN.

Ultimately, one hundred-and-twenty-three U.S. troops were involved in the Mogadishu conflict. Nineteen were killed, and one thousand Somalis also perished.

Unlike RYAN, BLACK HAWK DOWN doesn't build up a core group of characters, focusing on their emotional makeup and depth. No. Instead, we barely know our 'heroes', with very little time devoted to each characters motivation or purpose. And this is a good thing. At first, you find yourself a little bewildered by the sizeable cast, and this isn't helped by the many distant POV scenes that found this reviewer wondering just who he was seeing living and dying. But surely that is an important and crucial element of war - you're involved in these suicidal missions with men you barely know. You don't have time to share your life-stories. You may have only met that week, that day, or within the last hour. And then it's full on.

We get snippets of character data: Eversmann's entire focus is on not letting the team down; Specialist Danny Grimes (Ewan McGregor), for so long tied to his desk simply because he excelled at typing; and Delta Sergeant 'Hoot' Hooten (Tom Sizemore, soon to be playing Bruce Banner in THE HULK), wise despite his years, somehow making more sense of the nonsense than anyone else.

But any characterisation is underplayed and to the point, which is how it should be. The fresh-facedness and naivety of the troops is key to the success of the film, and of the emotional impact therein. As the errors and bodies mount, we get to see the horror of the conflict - the carnage and devastation, relentlessness and never-ending waves of Somali forces - directly through the eyes of the U.S. Rangers and Delta Force squad. I was somewhat stunned by the impact of the movie, both in the way the action grips you and shakes you violently until you want to let go, and in the occasional and very touching soft moments. Indeed, the action is so intense that I found myself at times glazing over, thinking of something else, and with hindsight I put this down to some kind of need for an emotional release; certainly, I cannot fault the film in that sense. It was simply a case of 'too much.'

Throughout the movie both the acting and direction are superb; Ridley Scott has an eye for detail and filmography that is probably unmatched. Even his lesser efforts like HANNIBAL are beautifully shot. And BLACK HAWK DOWN is one of his best efforts to date.

The musical score is also superb, and I was encouraged to hear the Stone Temple Pilot's CREEP near the beginning of the flick. I believe this is the first time I have heard a STP song in any movie.

What is also very welcome is the lack of U.S. nationalism in this picture. Of America saving the day. Unlike, say, brother Tony Scott's TOP GUN - which yes, was making a different point entirely (i.e., let's make some money and recruit some boys to the Navy at the same time) - this isn't about the might of the U.S. There is no wake-leaving in BLACK HAWK DOWN. Real people made mistakes, and real people died.

Speaking of Tony Scott, however, my only minor quibble was Sam Shepard's performance. He was probably in the wrong movie, as all his mannerisms (especially the way he took off his sunglasses in that quick-draw kind of way that stereotypical military types always seem to do) appeared to me to come straight out of TOP GUN. He was a little too 'bleh' for my tastes. For all I know William Garrison could have been exactly like that, but it still seemed a little Hollywood.

I also wasn't completely comfortable as to how the Somalis were portrayed; this movie wasn't really about good versus bad in my opinion, but on the face of it the U.S. are the bad guys here. At least inasmuch as they were at fault. Comparisons are made with Vietnam both in the unnecessary involvement of the U.S. in the Somali civil war, and in the end credits of the film where we learn that the Medal of Honour was awarded to two U.S. soldiers for the first time since the Vietnam conflict. Yet, throughout the film the Somali are seen in only two ways - either a relentless force of bloodthirsty killers, or a simple people trying to stay out of the way. Now yes, this may be what it really was like - I cannot say because I wasn't there - but the overall message didn't fit well with me. They seemed too one-dimensional, a bit TOO bloodthirsty, and that left a bitter taste.

Also as mentioned above the film is often confusing during the extended battle scene, and warrants more than one view. As the blood and dirt begins to pile, you will find yourself wondering who you are looking at, particularly when the perspective is on several soldiers from a distance. But that can be forgiven. This isn't PREDATOR, and while that film is outstanding as a piece of science fiction, it made a great effort to separate the marines so that the viewer would have an easy time following each one.

That, of course, isn't real life, and BLACK HAWK DOWN is, perhaps, as close as we've come yet to an accurate capture of the true feel of war.

Rating: **** 1/2 (out of five)
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Excellent War Movie (very realistic and true account of War)
Ratnajit Mukherjee4 July 2008
I have seen many War movies and I am myself a very die hard Military Technology Enthusiast but I have hardly seen any movie which is as correct as this one. This movie simply gives you the feel of the actual action which went on during this battle.

Everything from the way the soldiers moved, took their position, fired from covered positions, gave covering fire to each other, the use of Explosives including grenade and the way they captured strategic places even without much help from Air Force gave a true and absolutely realistic view of Real Time Urban Combat. It shows that Humvees are not impenetrable and the Soldier manning the machine gun post is extremely vulnerable from Roof Top Fire. Again the way Small Arms like the LMG & UMG were used were impressive and the tactics used by Special Forces to fend off attackers and secure the perimeter was true to all my knowledge.

I appreciate the Director and actors to carry out this War Movie with such accuracy. If you are a Defence Enthusist this movie is must watch and if not then too one must watch it to understand is WAR is nothing less then HELL.

Since this based on true incident let's pay respect to those who sacrificed their lives and salute those who have lived another day to fight.
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A gritty and good acted war movie
Sonava25 March 2011
Black Hawk Down, co-produced and directed by Ridley Scott, is based on a true story taking place in Somalia, Mogadishu in the early '90s. Elite forces were sent there to participate in a UN peacekeeping action and the task was to abduct two of Farrah Aidids, a Somalian warlord, lieutenants. But it proves more difficult than they previously had thought after two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and in turn led to a fiasco, a failure that has devastating consequences. Starring as Eversmann is the well-known actor Josh Hartnett, from Lucky Number Slevin. Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) plays Danny, a tough and fearless sergeant, and as the comic relief is Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting).

The actual script is based from a book by Mark Bowden, a soldier who wrote it while he was in Somalia and it explains partly of why we get to see the U.S. point of view, which to me tend to be somewhat patriotic in these cases. When the bullets whiz past helmets, and the grenades explodes in the battlefield, you feel very much that you are there without getting hit. Elite units stood side by side when hell broke loose, and together achieve their goal - to overthrow the dictator. The idea to leave someone on the battlefield did not exist, it was one for all - all for one.

From a realistic way the film works very well, like when guts and body parts fly off from bodies, but I am slightly hesitant about the way Somalis was portrayed. Were they really a faceless evil enemy through and through? I got the impression that Somalia was ruled by criminals, drug addicts, drug dealers and murderers. In one scene the Somalis attacks one of the helicopters and they looked like a horde of ants looking for their prey. If it was a Somali film instead, it would probably look quite different compared to this American bias. Sure, all the historical facts is not always easy to get in a reality-based film and I accept that.

Some scenes are very daring and are nicely assembled. The color has a mostly somber gray tone, and the barren, cold realism that the film shows is great executed. The war "only" lasted in hellish 15 hours resulting in 18 dead and 73 injured U.S. soldiers and hundreds of dead Somalis.
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great battle scenes; wafer-thin characters
Roland E. Zwick20 July 2002
In October 1993, Americans watching their TV sets at home were shocked to see the bodies of a handful of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. What had begun as an effort to bring humanitarian relief to that war-torn country almost a year earlier had somehow turned into a political quagmire out of which it was becoming more and more difficult for the U.S. forces to extricate themselves. `Black Hawk Down' is Ridley Scott's nightmarish vision of that fateful day when the mission turned suddenly and hopelessly wrong.

Based on the novel by Mark Bowden, `Black Hawk Down' is a technically astonishing look into the savagery and horror of modern day warfare. Rarely have the resources of filmmaking been used so effectively in conveying the intensity and brutality of life in a combat zone. It's small wonder that the film received Academy Awards for its extraordinary editing and sound. Using every technical trick at his disposal, Scott has managed to plunge us right into the heart of the action, making us feel every explosion and hear every bullet as it goes whizzing past. Like the characters, we often find ourselves disoriented by the confusion of the scene, yet Scott also manages to keep the action geographically coherent most of the time. This he does by providing aerial views of the scene that let us know where the men are in relation to their surroundings.

What Scott is not able to do quite so well is to keep the characters themselves sufficiently differentiated to make them matter as much to the viewer as they probably should. We tend to lose the men in the mass of confusion, with each character looking pretty much like the next and being afforded very little opportunity to step to the forefront of this massive canvas and distinguish himself. In all fairness to the filmmakers here, one should note that this seems to be a trait peculiarly endemic to war films in general (the fact that combatants are all dressed alike doesn't help this situation much either). In the last decade or so, special effects artists have come so far in being able to recreate the graphic realism of the battlefield setting that writers no longer feel the need to provide much in the way of characterization to go along with the action scenes. More and more the fight sequences are being asked to carry these pictures alone. This was the case with the recent `We Were Soldiers' and it is the case here as well. Perhaps because of the nature of the true-life events being depicted here, Scott felt no need to ease up on the accelerator much in getting his story told. However, we do feel as if it would be nice to be able to distinguish his characters from one another and to get to know them a bit on a personal level. In a way, one appreciates the fact that the filmmakers have chosen to feature less well known actors in most of the roles. That heightens the realism factor since we don't feel as if we are watching movie stars playing the part of common soldiers. In that respect, the anonymity works well. Yet, I wonder if using familiar faces might not have helped a bit in allowing us to focus better on the characters as individuals, permitting us to catch our bearings a little more frequently so that we might be better able to distinguish who is who at all times.

This is not to say that `Black Hawk Down' does not provide a number of emotionally stirring moments throughout, particularly as we see the young men dying heroic deaths. Even given the minimal dialogue and character development, we do come to understand the sense of camaraderie that drives these brave men to do what they do.

As a result of this imbalance between the dazzling special effects and the wafer-thin characters, `Black Hawk Down' is a great technical triumph but a less-than-great (though still damn good) film overall.
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An Ill-Considered Movie about an Ill-Considered Raid
Mark Hale15 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Letting Jerry Bruckheimer produce this movie was a mistake. Bruckheimer's gift is the creation of stupendous summer blockbusters with good guys, bad guys, mad stunts and huge explosions. I can understand him wanting to handle more serious material to gain credibility but "Blackhawk Down" is not one of his better films.

The movie has won quite a few technical awards. Ridley Scott's direction is fantastic, and the special/sound effects are well-rendered. The movie cast are top-notch and do an admirable job. What lets the movie down is the script.

In "Blackhawk Down" the Somalis of Mogadishu are portrayed as a baying, faceless mob. Little or no effort is made to explain why both civilians and militiamen reacted so violently to the botched US "Gothic Serpent" raid depicted in the movie. A previous US air attack in downtown Mogadishu had killed many tribal elders and innocent civilians. This generated a lot of public support for the armed militias. Ordinary Somalis began to look to the warlords for protection from what they saw as unprovoked American attacks.

No distinction is made between the Somalis caught up in the fighting and the combatants. No accurate figures exist for the number of Somalis killed during the fighting although the movie estimate is 1,000. It is unlikely that all of this number were Somali militiamen. Many ordinary Somalis were caught up in the streetfighting, pinned down and killed by fire from both sides. No records were kept at the time but aid agency estimates put the number of Somali civilian dead and wounded as high as 3,000.

While "Blackhawk Down" is meant to be a tribute to the courage of the US soldiers who fought and died in the 1st Battle of Mogadishu, it is also guilty of lazy racism and a selective, revisionist view of events. The Pakistani UN forces (who provided rescue vehicles and troops for American casualties) are depicted as surly and uncooperative in the movie. Pakistani UN forces were not afraid of a fight in Mogadishu and had lost 24 men killed in a single action against Somali militiamen before the American raid was launched. The Malaysian UN element is not mentioned, despite providing additional rescue vehicles and troops for the evacuation of US casualties.

IMDb is perhaps the wrong place to make political statements, but "Blackhawk Down" is little more than a gung-ho propaganda film in the tradition of such dire revisionism as John Wayne's "The Green Berets". It can be viewed as a gritty and realistic depiction of urban combat against incredible odds. However, it is also guilty of concentrating solely on the experiences of US troops without explaining why they were there.

"Blackhawk Down" relies on the biased (after 4 US journalists were killed in riots in Mogadishu) American media perspective of events in Somalia far too much. Its one concession to reality is the admission that the "Gothic Serpent" raid should never have been launched.

Jerry Bruckheimer is a great producer and Ridley Scott is a fine director but "Blackhawk Down" is little more than a skewed snapshot of a greater tragedy. It is one of the few war films that I wish I had never seen.
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As an intense war movie it really works. But as a true story it is jingoistic and about as selfless and giving as masturbation
bob the moo18 January 2004
In Somalia, warlord Farah Aideed controls the people and uses hunger as a weapon by stopping UN food supplies reaching his people. The US military tries to usurp the rule of Aideed but, after 6 weeks, he is still in power and the US demands faster action. When the military are informed of the location of two of Aideed's top men a mission is put together to catch them. However, when one of the Black Hawk helicopters is hit and crashes, several soldiers are left behind enemy lines, starting a battle for survival and rescue against the hordes of 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.
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does anybody know?
magnificent_magenta10 February 2002
while i was watching black hawk down, i was thinking that the movie was very pretty, very pleasant to watch. afterwords, though, i'm feeling a bit dissatisfied. i remember as we were leaving the theatre my friend was crying and that made me angry because i felt as though she was crying for the wrong reasons. the movie did have a strong emotional effect, but i believe it was very selfish. there were 19 american soldiers who died, and that is terrible. but a thousand somalians died. the movie listed all of the americans who died, and glorified their efforts to do...well... something. but what about the somalians? some died with no memory of them whatsoever. and what did the soldiers die for? after the movie, the reason wasn't really any clearer. it reminds me of sept. 11th, because so many people have an emotional reaction, but so few really know why or how or what. they just see death and feel sad. but there is such thing as injustice, and fault, and cause. this movie did a wonderful job of portraying the confusion of war. perhaps the fact that i don't really know what it was all about was the point, the point maybe being that war is pointless, meaningless. but i still will feel dissatisfied. the film should have tried harder to educate in my opinion.
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American propaganda delivered well by a British director
fatih-1824 March 2009
Nothing short of American war propaganda. Americans are portrayed as like Jesus in the bible, sacrificing themselves to save the world, or so they'd like us to believe.

Somalians are portrayed as barbaric cave-men, who are killed like flies without a worry in the world or fear of any consequences, where as Americans are firstly injured then die a dignified death, thinking of their loved ones and families back home.

I couldn't believe that this movie would have us believe that herds of Somalians would walk into American fire, well after all they are savages aren't they, well at least that's the message conveyed in the movie.

Reality is Americans shot and killed Somalians indiscriminately in 1994. When their lives were in danger they used human shields to protect themselves. Even before the events depicted in this movie, the Americans blew up a building killing numerous Somalians, many of whom were elders from Aidid's group, gathered to try and negotiate a peace deal with the UN.

Facts don't account for much these days, especially when it comes to goading the world into an endless war that only benefits a selected few. Clearly Hollywood is certainly one of these selected few that I speak of.
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high beams in a thick fog
Jonny_Numb27 May 2003
I find it ironic that many of the comments being circulated from outside (rather luckily, I'd say) the hornet's nest of U.S. news media are doling out the most thoughtful and reasonable opinions on why "Black Hawk Down" is such a rank slice of flag-waving propaganda. Those who say, in so many words, "leave your politics at the door" are the ones who are missing the point of a democratic society--even in something as simple as film criticism, dissent is not a privilege, but a right for all people who disagree with the preset opinions of others.

"Black Hawk Down" is a film that offers up an indistinguishable cast of characters, Army men devoid of personality but all trailed by gold haloes (heavy irony here, as one reviewer mentioned, one soldier is presently in prison for rape), as they carry out a rescue mission that goes awry (although the plot becomes a moot point even before the troops arrive), which turns into the type of loud, exploitative, and soulless bloodbath we've come to expect from the prolific, oh-so-patriotic Jerry Bruckheimer. (At least "Con Air" had John Malkovich for comic relief.)

Inking his soul over to the devil, Ridley Scott employs the mandatory, quick-edit style of pretentious music-video directors the world over, and rather than drawing interest into the almost nonexistent story, instead makes the film bomb even harder. The shameless cliches that are trotted out do nothing to build the characters (the phone call that came one ring too late; the 'kissing of the family picture', etc.), therefore it is impossible to relate to or care about anyone, even more so when they choke out the typical "Tell my wife and kids..." line.

On the other side of a particularly one-dimensional, racist "script" are the Somalis, who are presented with even less personality than the soldiers--their video game objective is to yell, wave automatic weapons, and act like utter psychopaths. What better way to establish the Good Guys, eh? Just give the Bad Guys even less personality! Personality is overrated, anyway--especially when the gory consequences of war are shoved in your face with unflinching horror! BHD piles on the gore, mostly for dramatic effect, but since the characters are such cliches, it becomes pure shock value...gore for gore's sake. I've seen better, more justified use of the red stuff in Lucio Fulci films.

Unlike "Apollo 13," this is not a "successful failure," but became a success (financially, that is) by being such a typical exercise in Hollywood sensationalism. Riding high on the wave of nationalism, revenge, and general intolerance brought about by the 9/11 tragedy, BHD arrived at an opportune time, and gave audiences exactly what they wanted--a sink-your-claws-into-the-armrest propaganda film where the U.S. Army's angelic duty boils down to blowing away foreigners (a testament to this film's racial and nationalistic bias is the fact that 19 American soldiers died in contrast with 1,000 Somalis). As if this shallow exercise in war pornography couldn't attest to its own ulterior motives, many critics hailed BHD as "the best war movie ever," among other ostentatious remarks, right as the full-speed "War on Terror" campaign was gripping this country (makes you think, doesn't it?). As for myself, I could only raise a skeptical eyebrow at the proceedings, as I pondered U.S. foreign policy, racial stereotypes through the years, and Hollywood's ability to make a mint by ignoring history. This forum seems divided--as is the case in America right now--between gung-ho 'patriotic' comments and dissidents. To disparage the flag or this film is unpatriotic--but is it patriotic, then, to accept everything you see and hear without question? Or is it more patriotic to bask in the jingoistic arrogance of BHD? If you believe that to be true, then by all means see this movie. As for everybody else, "Bowling for Columbine" will soon be out on video.

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Fantastically filmed war movie(inspired by true events, which makes it even more unbelievable)
MovieAddict201617 July 2002
Black Hawk Down(2001) is truly a great war movie. Filmed extroirdinarally with gritty action scenes, this movie is (one of) the best war movies I've seen since Saving Private Ryan.

The movie is based(noticed BASED, which the director admitted they filled in A LOT of gaps they had no info on)on true events of a small force of soldiers going into an african town to take out a leader and his men, whom are blocking all food from a close town. Even food America sends over, we learn, they take as theirs. So one bad thing leads to another, and the ride they came in on, crashes, hence the name Black Hawk Down.

While I thought the film was a little of a copy off of SPR, with the camera movements, to the filming style itself, did not hinder this movie's effect on audiences at all. The pain, and whole torturous hours those soldiers were without help was shocking. It leaves you sitting in your seat after it's over, thinking what it must of been like, every second they were in theiir, always fighting. Getting this movie will pay off. I guarantee it-moviecritic2003
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Say again... Why is this movie bad?
Borut_Z25 April 2004
In my opinion, this is the best movie about war ever made. It surpasses even such masterpieces as Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan or Stone's Platoon. Reading comments on this website, I came to conclusion there is no middle way (there are exceptions, of course) with this movie; or you love it or you hate it. Well, I love it. I can't agree with arguments given by people who hated it, furthermore, I can't even understand most of them, which mainly are:

A - Movie is too one-sided. Now, I never saw a war movie where both sides would be equally presented. In Saving Private Ryan we don't get to know Germans. In Platoon we don't get to know Vietcong. In Thin Red Line we don't get to know Japanese etc, etc. In a battle, you take care about yourself and your comrades, not about a person who is shooting at you, whether you will make his children orphans or not. There are complaints that Somalis are presented as angry, blood-thirsty mob. Well, according to the book, they did act semi-suicidal, without any knowledge about combat tactics, so on numerous occasion they ended up shooting their own people. No wonder why number of their casualties was so high.

B - Movie is flag-waving, recruitment ad, pro-war. First, to let you know, I'm NOT an American. Sure, it's patriotic, but what's wrong with that? I always thought patriotism is a value. If someone is confusing patriotism with nationalism, that's his problem. Some say it didn't address bigger picture, why Americans went in Somalia in the first place. But BHD didn't have these ambitions. It's about brotherhood in arms, not political thriller about US foreign policy. Like Bowden stated in his book: "Soldiers cannot concern themselves with the decisions that bring them to a fight. They trust their leaders not to risk their lives for too little. Once the battle is joined, they fight to survive, to kill before they are killed." It seems some people refuse to realize the movie is telling a story of America's elite soldiers in that particular event, from their point of view. However, there is a subtle message about uselessness of US engagement in Somalia, it's just not in a form of some angry speech, given by a bitter soldier. I also don't understand how this movie is pro-war. Don't know about you, but I wouldn't put images of Rangers being blown to pieces in a recruitment ad if I would be making one.

C - Poor character development. Now, I can partly agree with this statement, but it's necessary to point out, movie isn't a character study. Sure, Hartnett has a leading role which should be more developed, but movie is more focused on course of battle in Mog as such, on showing a perspective of many involved, so there really isn't much room for detailed personal portrait. Some say, it's hard to identify with characters when we know so little about them. In this movie, this doesn't seem to be the case. I found BHD very emotional movie. Acting is very good, facial expressions and acts of soldiers showed us anxiety, fear, courage, sacrifice, grief etc. For many, Eric Bana as Hoot was too Rambo-type, but his character is based on real-life Delta who really was a tough guy (read the book). The music was also excellent to spur on emotions.

Of course, movie isn't perfect, but show me the one which is. US soldiers are just too nice, you-gotta-love-them types, dialogue is poor. But apart from that, it's visually perfect, as realistic as it gets, pure chaos and confusion, just like war really is. Most of the time it's like documentary. Sometimes images say more than a thousand words. Here, they say more than enough.
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Don't Be Fooled
darth-chico19 January 2002
Despite many reviews attesting to the greatness of this film and many awards and nominations it has and will receive, this movie is shallow, tawdry, Hollywood trash that profiteers off the lives of 19 American soldiers and over a thousand dead Somalians. It is no more an anti-war movie than Gladiator is an anti-Gladiator movie. I will hand it to Ridley Scott (who is English, if that matters) he has found a way to turn violence and death into Hollywood gold. He is an excellent director, and here he steals from Kurosawa's playbook using maps, diagrams, and aerials to keep the troop positions coherent, while at the same time showing the bloody chaos of war. I suspect this film will make a lot of money and will rake in the Oscars, which is sad. Aside from it's direction, it has little value. The writing and acting are poor, the film is riddled with cliches, out of place comic relief, and attempts at subtlety that beat you over the head. The subject matter has been covered much better in other films. I suggest the John Sayles film 'Men With Guns' for a better depiction of the perpetuation of violence in the third world. What bothered me most was the phony sincerity with which the film depicts death and war. Unless you enjoy seeing people get killed there is little entertainment. The film begins with a quote from Plato, which, contains more truth and depth than the entire film that follows it.
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One of Scott's best films, but not quite on my top 10 list for 2001
MisterWhiplash21 January 2002
Ridley Scott seems to have a knack for high intensity in movie-making (Gladiator, Blade Runner, Hannibal and Thelma and Louise among others come to mind) and Black Hawk Down, a war picture set in Somalia, is another prime example of his knack. Black Hawk Down is a war movie that does something I haven't seen much (or dare I say haven't seen at all) which is not going directly into the battle scenes, but instead keeping the audience in check with how the soldiers are reacting and feeling and never diverging much from the action. It is a daring move by Scott.

In "Down", a somewhat large group of soldiers are sent to the heart (or mindless brain) of Somalia to capture 2 lieutenants in regard to a civil war going on in the country that has taken 300,000 lives ("it's not war, it's genocide" comments the major general played by Sam Shepard). At first notice it seems like they can get in and out of the mission in a few hours...but then everything goes wrong. The Somalians start a near unstoppable attack on the U.S. soldiers, shooting as many as they can and sneaking out from roofs and sides like cockroaches. It becomes a chaotic day and night for the soldiers as they try to stay alive while waiting for extra troops to come in to rescue them that could take time to get there.

Outside of the couple of flaws in the film (at the end it tells that 18 U.S. soldiers died in the attack but if you don't keep exact track it will seem more/the cinematography is alright however the editing cuts too much in the action and tension), Black Hawk Down is quite the war picture, one that will be memorable in years to come as the most accurate depiction of what went on with us in Somalia in 1993. Kudos to Scott and the cast; Ewan McGregor gets the highest praise from me if only for giving an amazing American accent. A-
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mm-3920 January 2002
This movie is a factually based, and done in a way of a real life documentary. My friend Tony told me about the book, and its pretty close to the movie. There is a mention(very lightly) about not having heavy armor, from what Tony told me because it would look bad on CNN, and if I remember right this event cost Bill Clinton about 17 points in the polls, he would have lost the election if it was called right away. I don't think CNN will affect foreign policy again, when they called for the US to help out a country, and Bush being ex CIA chief just wanted to convoy some food and get the hell out. This movie shows why. It's not a action movie I would call it more of a war/horror movie. We see what army life is about, how well trained the special forces are, and the confusion, and horror of war. The film is one constant feel of fear. It was accurate, but according to Tony left some of the grimmer parts out. Where the troops got lost because the city has no street names, a lot of women and children died because the war lords used them as shields, and spotters. You really feel bad for the men, and it must have been an eternity for help to arrive.
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War is hell
jotix10024 January 2002
This film is more realistic than the tepid pictures that were produced in the Hollywood of World War II. You have to give credit to the director, Ridley Scott, to come out with a winning movie that is totally engrossing and that keeps you at the edge of your seat all the time. The only sad part is that we never get to know the feelings on the Somali people that battled the American power to the bitter end. So in that sense, this film is a one-sided account of what went on, told to us from the American viewpoint, which is well and good, but we never get to hear from the other side, except the short scene from one of the Somali warlord and General Garrison.

This film is released right smack at the height of the Afghanistan conflict in which Americans are facing "the evil enemy", according to our president. In the case of the Somalian involvement, it was supposedly to help the Somalis regain peace from the warlords that dominated the country. The parallel with the war in Afghanistan is somehow similar as we are still battling the same type of enemy in a divided country, dominated as was Somalia by warlords that are more interested in the domination of the poor and defenseless people than in achieving democracy and freedom for the people of the country.

What doesn't make sense at all is why didn't the Black Hawks attack from the air the thousands up in the roof, thus providing cover to the troops on the ground. In fact, the whole nature of the fighting is a bit of a puzzlement because if the intention was to kidnap the kingpins of the conflict, we only succeeded in putting our troops in harm's way and to have 19 men killed, when maybe they would have had a better chance if they had better cover from the same Black Hawks the enemy keep downing.

The cast is very good. I never did like Josh Hartnett, and frankly, he is not a good actor. He doesn't show any emotion. The rest of the cast is great with actors of the stature of Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, William Fitchner and the rest. As an ensemble they interact very well and you believe they are the people involved in the original conflict.

The gory details of war are realistically handled. The script by Ken Nolan serves the director very well even though, as pointed out at the beginning it's only one-sided, since the enemy then, as it is now is composed of people, as presented in the film, so horrible, they're very easy to hate.

In spite to these misgivings, the film is so fast paced that almost 2 hours and a half pass by so quickly, we don't even feel it's that long. Mr. Scott gives us here his own take of the Somalian conflict in very cinematic terms.
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Just another soulless Bruckheimer movie
zeki sadic6 February 2002
Great cinematography and explosions overkill, with no character development and no real story to keep you interested for the duration of the entire show. Just a collage of fast-moving sequences, like war is suppose to be filmed like a television commercial.

This is not a war movie - just a piece of propaganda, that wants to show that the blond, brave and blue eyed americans will always triumph over the underdeveloped brown-eyed savages. But hey - if you are american and in desperate need of a 'high-five-let's-kick-some-behind'-fix you will probably like this movie. Just don't expect it to portray history, and please, before calling this "a great war movie" or worse "the best war movie ever made," go watch 'The Longest Day', 'Die Brücke', 'Full Metal Jacket', 'Das Boot', 'Patton','Apocalypse Now' or 'Stalingrad'- just to name a few.

On a positive note: 'Black Hawk Down' was better than 'Pearl Harbor', but only slightly.
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