Black Hawk Down (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you aren't already familiar with it, Black Hawk Down is the Ridley Scott (Gladiator) movie about a bungled US military action in Somalia in the early 90's. Elite special forces troops were sent on a special urban mission against a local warlord. The expected a brief in/out and found themselves in a battle for their lives against local troops. The embarrassed US suffered numerous wounded men, lost lives, and the grounding of two of their vaunted Black Hawk helicopters.


It's not a typical movie, or even a typical war movie, in that we don't really build up much identification with the characters and there isn't any plotline other than the real events. The whole point of the film is to show exactly what it felt like to be there at that moment in history. Like the historical moment, it is bloody, chaotic, noisy, confused. The film is punctuated by constant gunfire. The medical emergency procedures are portrayed graphically.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Theatrical trailer(s)

  • On the set featurette

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

This isn't really my kind of movie, but it makes a strong, emotional presentation. It is as good as any movie I've ever seen at making you feel like you are really right there in the action. I was especially impressed by the choice of music, which consisted of various mournful ethnic folk ballads, including some Arabic music written and performed by Omar Sharif.

The DVD is disappointing. The film looks great, but I expected a multiple Oscar winner (two wins out of four nominations which included the prestigious one for Best Director) to come out on a DVD loaded with special features. For example, a documentary about the real events and the film's accuracy would have been interesting. Unfortunately, there is only a backstage featurette, not even a commentary track.

The Critics Vote

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Daily Mail 4/10, Daily Telegraph 6/10, Independent 7/10, The Guardian 4/10, The Times 5/10, Evening Standard 7/10, The Express 8/10, The Mirror 4/10, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.9/10 (top 250 or all time), Guardian voters 6.8.
  • with their dollars: a mid-level hit that will pay out eventually, but did not do so at the box office. Made for a lavish $95 million, it grossed $108 million in the USA.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Awesome, nail-biter of a film that really brings the audience into the action, despite the fact that we know the real-life outcome in advance. Powerful musical score. No crossover to mainstream. You either like war films or not. If you do, this is a great one, if you don't, it is a pure war film that makes no attempt to woo non-believers with irrelevant love stories or any other such thing.

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