Black Hawk Down

The Skinny

A powerful recounting of the 1993 U.S. military operation in Somalia in which two black hawk helicopters are shot down over the hostile city of Mogadishu

The Bottom Line

This is truly a “must see” film, even for the squeamish

The Full Review

While Black Hawk Down may not be the best American film of the year; it is certainly the most important one. Unfortunately, many people will avoid seeing this film for the very reason they should see it. Adapted from Mark Bowden’s best selling book of the same name, Black Hawk Down tells of the fateful military operation in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993 that resulted in the death of 18 U.S. soldiers (estimates of Somali fighters killed number as much as 1,000). What was intended to be a “routine” Special Forces operation to extricate the genocidal warlord Mohammed Farrah Aidid, turned out to be (or at least was perceived to be) a disastrous episode for the U.S. military that had wide-ranging implications for U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of the decade.

Director Ridley Scott‘s quasi-documentary approach to shooting the film lands the viewer directly in the middle of the action. The violence is relentless and for a punishing 90 minutes the audience has no place to hide. To suggest that an hour and a half of discomfort in a movie theater could offer even a taste of the true chaotic terror that those American soldiers endured for 15 straight hours would be laughable. But, it would be nearly impossible for those who choose to see Black Hawk Down (perhaps most for those normally too squeamish to see such a film) to leave the theater without having a greater appreciation and empathy for the young men and women who put their lives on the line each day protecting U.S. security interests (and do so whether they agree or disagree with U.S. involvement in any particular military action).

The film does not pretend that these soldiers were without flaws. It is made clear that seemingly minor mistakes by several of the soldiers could have, and in some cases did, lead to dire consequences. This somehow makes these soldiers and all that happened to them seem more real and perhaps allows us to believe the film’s lead character, played by Josh Hartnett, when, at the film’s end, he says, “Nobody asks to be a hero. It just sometimes turns out that way.”


Strong direction from Ridley Scott
Terrific cinematography from Slavomir Idziak and production design by Arthur Max
Strong cast (although the strength of the cast was relatively unimportant in this film)


One unnecessarily manipulative scene in which a soldier attempts to reach his wife at home by phone just before leaving for the military operation. The wife is scene entering the house as the soldier’s voice is heard completing his loving message on the answering machine (guess what happens to him).
May view some of the dialogue as a bit too preachy

Other Info

Nudity: None
Violence: Significant – some extremely graphic
Humor: Very little
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