War Stories: Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down Exemplifies State-of-the-Art War Simulation. (Film)

By Arnold, Gary | Insight on the News, February 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

War Stories: Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down Exemplifies State-of-the-Art War Simulation. (Film)


Arnold, Gary, Insight on the News


In October 1993, u.s. troops were in Somalia to enforce a U.N. humanitarian and peacekeeping expedition to alleviate the mass starvation caused by political corruption and anarchy. Embarked on what was planned as a swift, daylight abduction of a local warlord in the center of the city, about 150 U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force commandos and helicopter crewmen lost the element of surprise and found themselves surrounded by thousands of armed militia spoiling for a fight.

Two Black Hawk helicopters used to ferry troops to the target were disabled by rocket-propelled grenades, and they crashed in the streets a mile or two apart. The helicopters became magnets for both Somali mobs and U.S. rescue efforts that continued into the next morning, with one crash site a kind of "Alamo" defended by surviving Rangers and Special Forces operatives.

The battle, which cost the lives of 18 servicemen, was chalked up prematurely as an American debacle, especially after President Bill Clinton withdrew troops in the immediate aftermath. In retrospect, it has acquired considerable patriotic vindication. The turnaround was hastened by Mark Bowden's best-selling nonfiction book detailing the firefight, which clarified the gallantry of the Rangers and Delta Force. This process likely will be confirmed anew by the dynamism of the movie, which inserts its audience into the violence of war in exceptionally gripping ways. Black Hawk Down approximates total immersion in a baptism by fire.

Moreover, the war against terrorism has given the film added resonance. Osama bin Laden took some credit for the marksmanship that brought down the Black Hawks in Mogadishu. In retrospect, the struggle on that day can be seen as the first battle of the war that literally hit home Sept. …

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