Black Hawk Down 2001 Movie Scene Josh Hartnett as Eversmann with the rest of his squad flying in a helicopter

Black Hawk Down [2001]

I distinctly remember watching this movie for the first time back in 2001. It was an experience I will never forget. Never before have I seen such a masterfully directed, emotional, and action-packed movie. Black Hawk Down is a gritty, realistic, and unflinching war movie based on true events. It follows around 100 U.S. Army Rangers on a deadly mission in Somalia. They soon find themselves in a desperate situation that’s about to get even worse.

Featuring a runtime of two hours and twenty minutes this is a war epic that you’ll remember as long as you live. And not once during those two hours and twenty minutes will you be bored. Something that becomes quite obvious when you realize that the director is Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, The Gladiator). Black Hawk Down has probably the best opening scene I have ever seen. While almost unnoticeable music starts appearing in the background, a quote emerges from the darkness: Only the dead will see the end of the war – Plato.

And then that Somalian folk song truly starts and you’re transported to this war-torn country in an instant. The haunting song Hunger is performed by a Senegalese singer, Baaba Maal, in his Pulaar language. It perfectly captures all the suffering, hope, and perseverance of the people in Somalia. And I don’t even know the lyrics to it. I wanted to open with my ignorant phonetic rendition of the song because I sang it so many times before and it means so much to me.

While I was transcribing it just now, tears just started rolling down my face as I started to fully comprehend the amount of suffering and just plain old evil on display here. What follows is my clumsy phonetic rendition adjusted for English speakers. If you know where I can find the lyrics in the original Pulaar language, please let me know in the comments.

Ardun ya karye lee meideema. Egen ananlalaya, gurnam poytza te dunyaa.
Di byaa te me gumye paladee iontee palade iontee.
Ke le nimsa yetarkee django django. Ardunum yamin koy me notee balal.
Karye ni golbei dima hege nananlalaya.
Dibya te me goomyen goomyen goomyen goomyen goomyen fala de iontee.

Baaba Maal – Hunger

Right after this song, the sheer scale and quality of the cinematography hits you like a freight train. You see hundreds of extras, helicopters, and weapons, and everything looks authentic as shit. At that moment in time, you realize that this is going to be a stunning movie. Black Hawk Down is actually the first and still the best modern warfare movie. Over the following two decades, we’ve seen a number of movies get really close to it. I think the best examples are Lone Survivor and 13 Hours. I would also like to mention a couple of underdogs, Mosul, and the simmering but equally terrifying Kajaki.

Of course, if we’re talking about movies about WWI or WWI, we also have All Quiet on The Western Front and 1917. Finally, there’s only one movie that can stand up to Black Hawk Down and that’s Anthropoid, also based on true events. Moving on, this is a gritty and brutal movie featuring some pretty graphic scenes. There will be nasty kills, explosions, severed limbs, and all the horrors that war can muster. As someone who’s always ranting about American imperialist politics and their horrific military engagements around the world, I will stay silent now. I will let the movie speak for itself and you know where I stand. 

I always think of those poor soldiers sent to the meatgrinder by evil politicians and powers that be. They’re just trying to get back home safely and many of them will not be so lucky. And this is where Black Hawn Down shines offering a narrative not focused on a single hero but a lot of different soldiers. And while Josh Hartnett as Eversmann was kind of in the focus, what about Eric Bana as Hoot or Ewan McGregor as Grimes? What about fucking Ewen Bremner as Nelson? As you can see the cast of this movie is stellar and very diverse. And by that, I mean the entire cast, as I’m sure you’re going to recognize most of them.

They were working with an even better script full of memorable lines. From “somebody mount that fifty” to “we just lost the initiative”, some these lines are timeless. Or how about Captain Steel’s hoo-ah? The story unfolds in real-time making the atmosphere incredibly intense as we follow this operation turn into a disaster. The scenes in the U.S. camp also feel authentic. The jokes, worries, and a sense of impending doom were preparing you for what was about to come. And before I even realized it, I wrote so much about Black Hawk Down. And yet, I feel I’ve only scratched the surface.

The way the camera moves and zooms out to aerial shots, showing us exactly where we are. And then descending into the thick of it with handheld action shots. I almost forgot to tell you that it’s actually based on a non-fiction book of the same name written by journalist Mark Bowden. If you want to know more about what actually happened you check out this article about the Battle of Mogadishu. We got a black hawk down, we got a black hawk down…

Director: Ridley Scott

Writers: Mark Bowden, Ken Nolan

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, Ron Eldard, Kim Coates

Fun Facts: Ewen Bremner who plays Nelson in the movie says to his mate Twombly not to shoot too close to him because he will go deaf. In real life, Ewen temporarily lost his hearing because of all the gunfire during the filming.


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