Black Hawk Down

Produced and distributed in 2001 by Columbia Pictures, $95 million budget, color 35mm negative, 1.85:1 screen ratio, digital 8-channel sound, 144 minutes.

film trailer
Mark Bowden
Somalia 1992 - Africa map 2001

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"Black Hawk Down tells the story of the Oct. 3, 1993, raid by Army Rangers and the elite Army Delta Force to capture two deputies of the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in Mogadishu, Somalia. Although the deputies were successfully captured, what had been planned as a quick-hitting, hopefully antiseptic strike turned into a hard-fought 15-hour gun battle in which perhaps 500 Somalis and 18 American soldiers were killed and two of the fearsome, seemingly invincible Black Hawk helicopters shot down. Troops were sent there mainly to help the United Nations make sure that food supplies sent to the famine-stricken nation were fairly distributed and not stolen by the gunmen. After the battle, President Bill Clinton ordered a withdrawal from Somalia within six months. The film, which opens on Dec. 28 in New York and Los Angeles, marks the third life for this story. The first was in the immediate news accounts and the reaction to them, which focused not only on the casualties, but also on how the body of a dead American soldier was stripped and dragged about the streets. The raid was seen by many as a debacle, and an example of America's irresolution. Later, Mark Bowden, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, re-examined the battle in scrupulous detail, first for his newspaper and then in his best-selling book, Black Hawk Down. His reporting focused squarely on the battle and the soldiers, depicting them as valorous, well-trained and successful in the face of terrible complications. The story was compelling, but also enormously complicated. The raid followed a plan familiar to the troops: Black Hawk helicopters would drop the soldiers outside a building where they had been informed Aidid's men were staying. Some troops would seize the men while others guarded a perimeter. A convoy of Humvees would then rumble in from the outskirts of town and take everybody to safety. The operation was supposed to last an hour from start to finish; many men didn't even bother to carry canteens. But first one helicopter, and then another, was shot down. A pilot was dead; the other soldiers needed rescuing. The timing of the operation became disrupted. The convoy got misdirected. Aidid's supporters and this fight was in his stronghold rallied to the scene. The troops, by refusing to abandon the dead pilot, prolonged the fight, which led to the perception that the mission had failed." (quote from Malanowski)

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revised 1/18/02 by Schoenherr | Filmnotes