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Archive for July 19th, 2022

Today’s review is for the war / military / combat movie:  “Black Hawk Down” (2001) directed and produced by Ridley Scott.  The movie is based on the 1999 non-fiction book of the same name by journalist Mark Bowden, about the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu, Somalia.  Being a “war” genre movie, the film features a large male cast, including Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Jeremy Piven, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Background:
Basically, Somalia (a country on the eastern tip / horn of Africa) has descended into a civil war and the United Nations has assigned “peace-keepers” to the area – presumably to protect aid workers in the distribution of donated food.  The local warlord declares war on the peace-keepers and some U.S. forces (Delta and Rangers) are assigned a mission of capturing two of the warlord’s top aides to gather information to be used to capture / kill the warlord.
The military command severely underestimates the resources required to complete the mission and the assigned forces do the same at their level.  They (the soldiers) believe the mission will be an “in and out” in a half hour and some fail to take standard operational gear (body vest / chest protectors and night vision head-sets).  The mission starts to go wrong almost immediately with the hostiles gaining warning of the action (although there is no indication they are aware of the mission objectives).
One of the “Black Hawk” helicopters is shot down by the Somalis and the objective becomes one of rescue as well as capture.  Unfortunately, the downed copter is not “near” the mission objective area, so the U.S. forces end up separated and then have to fight to rejoin forces, too.  Anyway, a mission which was supposed to take 30-60 minutes ends up lasting about 18 hours.  Of the 150+ U.S. soldiers involved, 19 are killed and 73 were injured / wounded.
Review:
So, is this a “good” movie?  Is it accurate?  Is it entertaining?  And, do I recommend it?  Yes;  I’m not sure;  too intense to call entertaining;  and, yes, I’d recommend this movie (with qualifications).
Is it any good?  As depicted “war” genre movies go, I think its a pretty good movie.  There is a definite sense of the “fog of war” – particularly in the relaying of information up and down the chain of command.  The action is continuous and slows only to increase the emotional tension of injuries or to high-light the significance of command decisions.  Every time there is a pause for a decision, you can (virtually) be assured there is going to be a problem later in the film.  In a real sense, this is a VERY accurate situation in combat – sometimes there are no (few) good options and you simply have to make a decision and live with (and react to) the consequences.
It the movie accurate?  Apparently shortly after its release there were a number of complaints about the film representations of the Somali people – not just the hostiles, but the people also.  No “real” Somalis were involved in the film.  There was also the complaint that although the film was putatively an “anti-war” film, it “supposedly” made combat out to be a heroic activity.  I didn’t come away with that particular reaction, but I could understand how some might.
I did not find the combat scenes to be particularly accurate.  I had two issues:  1)  Most explosives have a blast radius which kills or severely disables.  This film shows guys nearly hit by RPG (rocket propelled grenades) and they shrug it off and keep on fighting.  I don’t doubt they were “near” explosions (in real life);  just nowhere near as depicted in the movie.  2)  The men are repeatedly shown using their weapons on automatic fire.  I believe the standard issue for a infantryman is seven(7) clips (of 30 rounds).  Even if you managed to carry a double load, it would be VERY difficult to be engaged in an 18-hour battle and NOT run out of ammunition in the first two hours of constant enemy contact.  (And I’m being very generous with that time estimate.)
Entertainment value?  As stated above, I found it more “interesting” than “entertaining”.  I remember seeing this movie years ago and I found it unrealistic (then).  I recently got a few clips on YouTube, which prompted me to re-watch the film.  It was definitely better on this second viewing.  I don’t remember when I had the initial viewing and I was very hostile to “beat the drum” war movies in the aftermath to the invasion of Iraq.  My initial viewing was on DVD, not at a theater, so even then, there was some delay between the film’s release and my viewing.
Final Recommendation:
To paraphrase President Lincoln:  For those who like this kind of film, this is the kind of film they will like.
I would say as a purely action-based movie, it is strong to highly recommended.  If it was really meant to be an anti-war movie, it’s moderate to fail.  It simply doesn’t emphasize the mistakes / decision failures enough.  If it was meant to be a rah-rah military movie, it’s only moderate at best.  Heroic action doesn’t really sell when you are also showing comrades getting blown in half and bleeding out while someone is doing field-surgery under fire.  I don’t care how heroic the portrayals are…
Still, I give this movie a moderate to strong recommendation as a “war” genre movie.  If you liked “Fury“, “Saving Private Ryan“, “Zulu“, “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge Too Far“, you will also “like” this film.  If you are not into the genre, you probably won’t enjoy this film at all.
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I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.
    —     Eleanor Roosevelt
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On This Day In:
2021 Families
Every Now And Then
2020 A Message To Optional Trump Supporters (Basically Everyone)
2019 Bigger Jaws
On The Other
2018 Hoping For A Blue Wave In November
2017 Garden Dreaming
2016 Well, Maybe Not “No” Talent
2015 An Appetite For Life
A Trip To The Library
Great Expectations
2014 Pass The Soul
2013 Zapping Music And Art
2012 Not Quite Fantastic
That Kid Is Back
2011 Wolves At The Door
2010 I’m Feeling Patriotic… (Well, more than usual, anyway.)
Beating the Heat…

Read Full Post »

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