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Black Hawk Down is a American war film co-produced and directed by Ridley Scott and based on the book of the same title by Mark Bowden that depicts the Battle of Mogadishumarker, a raid integral to the United States' effort to capture Somalimarker warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

The movie features Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Jeremy Piven, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Glenn Morshower, and Orlando Bloom. The film won Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Sound in 2001.


In a raid, a task force of Delta Forcemarker soldiers, Army Rangers, and Special Operations Aviation Regiment attempt to capture two of Mohammed Farah Aidid's senior subordinates in the Bakaara Market neighborhood of Mogadishu. The mission is led by Major General William F. Garrison and was supposed to take no more than half an hour. The extraction by the Delta team is successful, but the Somali militia, armed with RPGs, shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, and the resulting rescue extends the mission to over 18 hours.

The film follows many characters through the build-up, assault and rescue. It shows how Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann was placed in charge of Ranger Chalk Four, before portraying the raid and successful extraction of the wanted persons, and shows the first injury, as PFC Todd Blackburn falls from a helicopter as it maneuvers to avoid an RPG. This is the beginning of the indication that the troops are overwhelmed by the volume of enemy militia, and builds up to the two helicopter crashes: Super Six-One piloted by Cliff "Elvis" Wolcott, and Super Six-Four piloted by Mike Durant. Durant is taken prisoner after the two Delta snipers who requested to be inserted near the crash site of Super Six-Four are killed while defending him.

The film also follows two Chalk Four machine gunners who are supposed to return with the extraction team, but miss the humvees as they leave, and get lost. One of them is deafened by machine-gun fire, but they eventually make their way back to Eversmann. Cpl Jamie Smith attempts to rescue one of them, whose ammo pack was shot and exploded, but Smith is shot as well, and eventually bleeds to death as the Rangers attempt to give him medical care.

The film begins to reach its conclusion as the U.S. forces regain control with strafing runs by Little Bird helicopters, and a convoy of troops from the 10th Mountain Division, along with other United Nations forces(Pakistan Army and Malaysian Army), arrives to extract the wounded. Back at the base, Norm "Hoot" Hooten begins to restock on ammunition, preparing to go back out to rescue downed soldiers, and Eversmann tells dead Jamie Smith that he will fulfill his dying wish.

The film ends with text informing the viewer that "1000 Somalis died and 19 Americans lost their lives in the conflict. Mike Durant was released after 11 days of captivity. On August 2, 1996, warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid was killed in Mogadishu. General Garrison retired the following day."

Background and production

Black Hawk Down was originally the idea of director Simon West who suggested to Jerry Bruckheimer that he buy the film rights to the book Black Hawk Down: a Story of Modern War by Mark Bowden and let him (West) direct; but West moved on to direct Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) instead.

Despite Ken Nolan being credited as screenwriter, others contributed to it uncredited; Sam Shepard (MGen. Garrison) wrote most of his dialogue; Eric Roth wrote Josh Hartnett and Eric Bana's concluding speeches; Steven Zaillian re-wrote much dialogue; Stephen Gaghan contributed to the writing of the screenplay. Composed mostly of participant accounts, Spec 4 John Stebbins became the fictional "John Grimes", because Stebbins was convicted by court martial, in 1999, for sexually assaulting his daughter. Reporter Bowden said the Pentagon requested the change. He wrote early screenplay drafts, before Bruckheimer gave it to a screenwriter; the PoW-Captor conversation, between pilot Mike Durant and militiaman Firimbi, is from a Bowden script draft.

For military verisimilitude, the Ranger actors took a crash, one-week Ranger course at Fort Benning, Ga.; the Delta Force actors took a two-week commando course, from the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, at Ft. Bragg, N.C. Ron Eldard and the actors playing 160th SOAR helicopter pilots were lectured by captured aviator Michael Durant at Fort Campbell, Ky. The U.S. Army supplied the matériel and the helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment; most pilots (e.g. Keith Jones, who speaks some dialogue) participated in the battle on October 3-4, 1993. Moreover, a platoon of Rangers from B-3/75 did the fast-roping scenes and were extras; though none of them had served in the original battle they have since served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of Black Hawk Down was photographed in the cities of Rabatmarker and Salémarker in Moroccomarker; the Task Force Ranger base sequences were filmed at Kénitramarker. The film features no Somali actors.

In order to keep the film at a manageable length, 100 key characters in the book were condensed down to 39. A large number of the actors who played American soldiers are actually from different countries. The list includes: Ewan McGregor (Scottish), Eric Bana (Australian), Kim Coates (Canadian), Ioan Gruffudd (Welsh), Ewen Bremner (Scottish), Jason Issacs (English), Zeljko Ivanek (Slovenian), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Danish), Tom Hardy (English), Matthew Marsden (English) and Orlando Bloom (English). When Orlando Bloom auditioned for the role, he informed the casting directors that he knew what it was like to break his back (as he had done so only a couple of years before when climbing out on a drain pipe from a friend's flat). His character in this movie breaks his back after falling from the helicopter.

On the last day of their week long Army Ranger orientation at Fort Benningmarker, the actors who portrayed the Rangers received a letter which had been anonymously slipped under their door. The letter thanked them for all their hard work, and asked them to "tell our story true", signed with the names of the Rangers who died in the Mogadishu firefight.

The film features soldiers wearing helmets with their last names on them. Although this was an inaccuracy, Ridley Scott felt it was necessary to have the helmets to help the audience to distinguish between the characters because they all look the same once the uniforms are on.

The set was constantly bothered by stray dogs running into shot. Ridley Scott kept them in because he liked the authentic feel of their presence. Eight dogs were adopted by various members of the production and were eventually brought back to the US with them.

In the scene where the Black Hawks are one minute away from reaching Bakara market, a Ranger can be seen holding 'The Client', a novel by John Grisham which was published in 1994, while the film is set in 1993.

At Bakara Market, a Moroccan street sign is revealed which depicts 'Tidarine Street' in Arabic and French.

Ewen Bremner partially lost his hearing because of all the gunfire. He did recover however.

The photo of a wife and child that one of the soldiers is looking at is actually a photo of Eric Bana's wife and child. The props department forgot to take a photo of a wife and child with them, so they asked Bana's wife and child who were traveling with him if they could use a photo of them in the movie.



Box office performance

Black Hawk Down had a limited release on December 28, 2001, opening to only four theaters, but it still earned $179,823 in its first weekend, for an average of $44,956. On January 18, 2002 the film had its wide release, opening at 3,101 theaters and earning $28,611,736 in its first wide release weekend to finish first at the box office. As it opened on the Martin Lurther King holiday, the film earned an additional $5,014,475 from the extra day of the long weekend. Black Hawk Down would go on to finish first at the box office for the next two weekends. When the film was pulled from theaters on April 14, 2002, it had grossed $108,638,745 domestically and $64,350,906 internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $172,989,651.


The film received many positive reviews from critics. It has a 76% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a normalized rating of 74 on Metacritic.

Black Hawk Down won the following awards:
  • 2002 Academy Award for Best Editing (Pietro Scalia)
  • 2002 Academy Award for Best Sound (Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, Chris Munro)
  • 2002 Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA for Best Sound Editing - Effects and Foley, Domestic Feature Film
  • 2002 Harry Award

It was also nominated for the following awards:
  • 2002 Academy Award for Best Director (Ridley Scott)
  • 2002 Academy Award for Best Cinematography (Slawomir Idziak)
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for AFI Cinematographer of the Year (Slawomir Idziak)
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for AFI Director of the Year (Ridley Scott)
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for AFI Editor of the Year (Pietro Scalia)
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for AFI Movie of the Year (Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott)
  • 2002 AFI Film Award for AFI Production Designer of the Year (Arthur Max)
  • 2002 MTV Movie Award for MTV Movie Award Best Action Sequence (First helicopter crash)
  • 2002 MTV Movie Award for MTV Movie Award Best Movie
  • 2002 WGA Award (Screen) for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published (Ken Nolan)
  • 2002 Teen Choice Award for Film - Choice Actor, Drama/Action Adventure (Josh Hartnett)
  • 2002 Teen Choice Award for Film - Choice Movie, Drama/Action Adventure
  • 2002 Golden Reel Award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors, USA for Best Sound Editing - Dialogue and A.D.R., Domestic Feature Film
  • 2002 Golden Trailer for Best Drama
  • 2002 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Ridley Scott)


Soon after Black Hawk Down's release, the Somalian Justice Advocacy Center in California denounced what they felt was its brutal and dehumanizing depiction of Somalis and called for its boycott.

In a radio interview, Brendan Sexton, an actor in the movie, said that the version of the film which made it onto theater screens was significantly different from the one recounted in the original script. According to him, many scenes asking hard questions of the U.S. troops with regard to the violent realities of war, the true purpose of their mission in Somalia, etc., were cut out. Sexton wrote an article in 2002 where he maintained that Black Hawk Down failed to explain the reasons behind the Somali population's opposition to the U.S. military presence in their country:

In a review featured in The New York Times, film critic Elvis Mitchell expressed dissatisfaction at the film's "lack of characterization", and noted the film "reeks of glumly staged racism". Owen Gliberman and Sean Burns, the film critics for the mainstream magazine Entertainment Weekly and the alternative newspaper Philadelphia Weekly, respectively, echoed the sentiment that the depiction was racist but Jerry Bruckheimer, the film's producer, rejected such claims on The O'Reilly Factor, putting them down to political correctness in part due to Hollywoodmarker's liberal leanings.

Critics also charge that the African American actors chosen to play the Somalis in the film do not in the least bit resemble the racially unique peoples of the Horn of Africa nor does the language they communicate in sound like the Afro-Asiatic tongue spoken by the Somali people. The abrasive manner in which lines are delivered and the film's inauthentic vision of Somali culture, they add, fails to capture the tone, mannerisms and spirit of actual life in Somalia.

Shortly after the film's release, author Mark Bowden, who wrote the screenplay for Black Hawk Down, told a newspaper that the character played by actor Ewan McGregor is based on Ranger John Stebbins, "but Pentagon officials asked his name be changed in an attempt to keep his shame [a 30-year sentence for sodomy with a child under 12 and rape] a secret". Instead, the name was changed due to "creative reasons".

Malaysian military officials whose troops were involved in the fighting have raised complaints regarding the film's accuracy. Retired Brigadier-General Abdul Latif-Ahmed, who at the time commanded Malaysianmarker forces in Mogadishu, told the AFP news agency that Malaysian moviegoers would be under the wrong impression that the real battle was fought by the Americans alone, while Malaysian troops were "mere bus drivers to ferry them out".

General Pervez Musharraf, the former President of Pakistanmarker, similarly accused the filmmakers of not crediting the work done by the Pakistani soldiers in his autobiography In the Line of Fire: A Memoir:



  1. Bowden 1999 pp. 101-103
  2. Bowden 1999 pp.293
  3. Black Hawk Down - Rotten Retrieved 8-11-2009
  4. Black Hawk Down - Retrieved 8-11-2009

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