“Black Hawk Down” (2001) 4.5/5 stars
“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
This ominous quote from Plato appears on-screen at the beginning of “Black Hawk Down”, but for many of the United States Delta Force soldiers and Army Rangers – sent to Somalia to stop a General Mohamed Farrah Aidid from starving his own people (300,000 up to that point, in fact) in 1993 – an escalated war was not part of the original plan.
Led by General William Garrison, the mission was to drop into the middle of Mogadishu and pluck a group of Aidid’s aides from an office building and get out of the city as quickly as possible.
One soldier said, “It’s going to be nothing.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
During the mission, one of Aidid’s fighters shoots down a U.S. helicopter – a Black Hawk – and in a matter of seconds, a small group of soldiers suddenly becomes infinitely more vulnerable.
It is up to a squadron to scurry through the treacherous streets of the Bakara Market to rescue their brothers in arms.
Concerned for the safety of all of his men, Garrison says, “The whole damn city will be coming down on them.”
Director Ridley Scott’s certainly delivers that ominous feeling throughout his 2 hour 24 minute picture.
This highly intense and extremely realistic movie captures this urban powder keg where American soldiers search through a maze of nondescript street corners while angry militia wait at seemingly every turn.
Scott and screenwriter Ken Nolan make smart choices with the material, as they introduce a barrage of soldiers to the audience.
There are too many characters to become completely individually invested in, but Scott throws us into the mix of this metropolitan chaos of bullets.
The cinematic effect is we, the audience, feel part of their company and almost like their brothers or sisters jammed into this apparently hopeless fight with them.
Interestingly, this 2001 film features a collection of relatively unknown actors at the time, but a pair of them – Eric Bana and “Modern Family” star Ty Burrell – have now grown into household names.
Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, and Tom Sizemore round out the impressive cast, as all the actors involved effectively play their part as soldiers fighting for the man next to them and “to leave no man behind”.
These familiar, but welcomed, themes for many war pictures particularly crystallizes in this film.
During combat missions, when the best laid plans go awry and hope is in short supply, fighting for each other becomes a bond very few people will ever experience.
Fighting for each other.
Never serving a day in the military, I certainly have not experienced that feeling.
On the other hand, after watching “Black Hawk Down” again, I was reminded how universal this internal mantra of the combat soldier really is.
As a person who loves movies, I cannot think of a better way to commemorate Memorial Day.