Black Hawk Down is one of my favorite movies of all time—no question about it. The film was directed by Ridley Scott (who also directed Gladiator starring Russell Crowe) and was based on Mark Bowden’s book, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. I was lucky enough to read the book before seeing the movie. According to conventional wisdom, reading the book first usually leads to being disappointed with the film and its content and portrayal of events. However, I have never been much for conventional wisdom. Bowden’s book is outstanding and so is Ridley Scott’s film. As far as I am concerned, in the inevitable book vs. movie comparison, it is a horse apiece.
Black Hawk Down creates what veterans of the battle describe as a very realistic representation of combat conditions. Because the film puts you the viewer in the middle of the battle experience, the harsh violence of the movie seem all the more realistic and also justified, not gratuitous. One of the most remarkable things about Black Hawk Down is that in spite of the chaos created by what many have termed “the fog of war” represented on screen, the film vividly maps out the soldiers’ strategies and tactics. Director Scott frames the action so precisely, and through such perfect camera angles and placement, we are able to follow all of the action on screen, almost as though we, ourselves, are participating in the battle. Most, if not all other directors, could not pull off this kind of controlled chaos–chaos that would have led to a very baffling movie experience. Clearly, every last detail of this film has been thoroughly choreographed and intricately planned.
The film is based on the true story which takes place in Somalia, 1993: A small team of Army Rangers and Delta Force Troops on a peace-keeping mission, attempt to help avert mass genocide and to protect Somali citizens from barbaric acts of violence and the various militias that run the country. When one hundred American soldiers are sent into Mogadishu to arrest a handful of influential militia leaders, they find themselves in the midst of a battle no one anticipated or envisioned. Each soldier is confronted with the realities and horrors of combat as they protect each other from the surging ranks of hostile Somali forces. Black Hawk Down is a relentless, harrowing, and true story of bravery, in the face of war.
Black Hawk Down comes from a genre that has brought out some of the best in directors, writers and actors, yet against all of this competition, the movie is easily the best war movie ever made. Yes, I know it’s a bold statement, but I said it, and it’s out there now. Also, what many “non-believers” of the Black Hawk Down experience seem to forget, among other things, is that the film did win an Academy Award for best sound. I can’t believe I didn’t mention that earlier.