Black Hawk Down, 2001.
Directed by Ridley Scott.
Starring Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, and Sam Shepard.
If you missed Sony’s fabulous 4K Ultra HD edition of Black Hawk Down in 2019, here’s a chance to nab it again in a handsome SteelBook package. You get the theatrical and extended versions of the film, a code for digital copies of both, and tons of bonus features. Highly recommended for fans of the film.
Based on a true story, Ridley Scott’s 2001 film Black Hawk Down tells the story of a raid gone awry in Mogadishu, Somalia. It was supposed to be a 30-minute mission to grab some prisoners from territory controlled by warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and return them to a location secured by US troops and UN peacekeeping forces.
Unfortunately, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and several soldiers were killed or wounded, turning a supposedly simple operation into an hours-long ordeal that stretched into the next day. Separated from each other and under constant fire by militants, various soldiers try to secure the two crash sites and live up to the motto “no man left behind.”
Josh Hartnett plays the primary role of Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann, who is tasked with leading men into a hostile situation for the first time. Ewan McGregor is Specialist John Grimes, a desk-bound soldier pressed into duty because of an injury to someone else.
McGregor’s Trainspotting co-star Ewen Bremner has a role too, as does Tom Sizemore as no-nonsense Lieutenant Colonel Danny McKnight, Eric Bana as Delta Force member Norm “Hoot” Gibson, and Sam Shepard as Major General William F. Garrison, who oversees the operation from a central command point.
Eversmann is more or less our primary protagonist, an idealistic young commander who has a hard time dealing with his men getting injured or killed. If anyone has an arc, he does, as he finds himself dealing with the realities of modern warfare, which often consist of highly trained troops going up against guerrilla forces who try to make up for their lack of sophistication with fanatical devotion to their cause.
The militants’ fierce desire to control the two helicopter crash sites is testament to that, as they throw dozens and dozens of men into a meat grinder; they die left and right until finally they can overwhelm the few Americans trying to defend themselves. One American soldier is captured, although he remains that way at the end of the film, with a text epilogue explaining what happened later, including his release.
The main thing Black Hawk Down has going for it is its brutally realistic depiction of combat. The main thing against it, however, is a relentlessly violent story that leaves very little room for character development, along with a portrayal of the militants as fanatics without delving into the dynamics that created the situation. Personally, I have mixed views on the film, although I didn’t mind revisiting it for this review.
This new SteelBook edition is, as far as I know, the same one issued by Sony in 2019, with 4K UltraHD and Blu-ray discs housing the movie and another Blu-ray for the bulk of the bonus features. There’s also a code for a digital copy of the theatrical and extended versions; the latter adds about eight minutes of footage to the film and is available on both movie discs via seamless branching.
No new extras were created for this release, although what’s here is plenty for fans of the film. Here’s what you’ll find:
• Three commentary tracks: Mark Bowden, who wrote the book on which the movie is based, chats with screenwriter Ken Nolan for one track, while another features director Ridley Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the third has veterans from the actual military operation in Somalia. All of them are worth a listen, and the third one is particularly interesting as the veterans discuss the differences between fiction and reality in the movie.
• The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down (151 minutes): Charles de Lauzirika serves up another of his in-depth, very worthwhile documentaries. It’s a carry-over from the original DVD edition way back when studios were willing to put money into these kinds of extras. I’m glad it’s been preserved.
• Black Hawk Down On the Set (24 minutes): Scott, Bruckheimer, and many members of the cast pop up here to talk about how the real-life incident was translated to a movie.
• The History Channel: The True Story of Black Hawk Down (91 minutes): If you’re interested in a deep dive into the real-life incident, this is well worth 91 minutes of your time.
• Frontline: Ambush in Mogadishu (55 minutes): This report originally aired on PBS and as such, it has more of a “just the facts” approach compared to the History Channel documentary, which had to be sensationalized a bit for mainstream network TV. Rather than repeating the same territory, this one is a good companion piece to the previous bonus feature.
• Question & Answer Forums (32.75 minutes): Scott, Bruckheimer, and various cast members appear in three different interview sessions that were held at BAFTA, American Cinematheque, and the Editor’s Guild.
• Target Building Insertion (6 minutes): There are tons of harrowing scenes in this movie. First Assistant Director Terry Needham provides commentary over one of those scenes, a key one in the film, as shown from six different angles.
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes (20 minutes): Available with optional commentary from Ridley Scott, this excised footage is interesting, but none of it feels like it should be reinstated into the movie.
• Designing Mogadishu (13 minutes): Morocco stood in for Mogadishu, and this is a look at how the location was transformed.
• Ridleygrams with Commentary (7.5 minutes): Scott’s storyboards are compared against the finished product.
• Jerry Bruckheimer’s On-Set Photography (5.5 minutes): I’ll admit I didn’t know Bruckheimer is a big photography guy. This is a quick look at that interest, along with still photos he shot on set.
• Invisible Design/Title Exploration with Commentary (3.5): These extras are so comprehensive that even the movie’s title sequence gets some love.
• Image & Design (29.5 minutes): This is a four-part series of video galleries with commentary.
A music video, the theatrical trailer, TV commercials, and photo galleries round out the platter. It’s quite a meal.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★★ / Movie: ★★★★