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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 10:06 GMT
Black Hawk focuses on war
The film is the true story of a 1993 US mission in Somalia
The film is the true story of a 1993 US mission
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

If words like harrowing, intense and gory put you off a film, go and see Harry Potter.

Black Hawk Down is about one thing and one thing only - war.

More specifically, it is about one doomed mission, the true story of what happened when crack US troops launched a fraught mission to capture warlords in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 1993.

Josh Hartnett plays the central character
Josh Hartnett plays the central character
Eighteen US commandos and Rangers and around 500 Somalis died, and pictures of two US soldiers being dragged around the streets by Somali mobs sent shock-waves back to Washington and around the world.

The film tells the story with surprisingly little US bias, and is a gripping, close-up vision of the battle that began as a snatch mission and turned into a fight for survival.

So close-up, in fact, that you will feel like you have been under sniper fire for two hours yourself when you stagger out of the cinema.

Many will find it too much to handle - but others will like its engrossing, realistic portrait of battle.

That is to say, realistic in the Saving Private Ryan sense of the word.

Ewan McGregor: Plucked from behind a desk
Ewan McGregor: Plucked from behind a desk
Director Ridley Scott has no qualms about showing a US soldier, barely alive, with both legs blown off, or the bloody details of an improvised operation on a table in an abandoned building.

Thankfully, he stops short of showing the two soldiers being dragged around after being captured.

Ewan McGregor is the best-known name to appear, playing a company clerk who has to learn to survive after being plucked from behind an army desk where he was known as the base's best coffee-maker.

If the film has a hero, it is the young Sergeant Matt Eversmann, played by rising star Josh Hartnett, who is forced to lead his own team for the first time.

At first, it seems like he might choke under pressure as things start going wrong around him.

Jerry Bruckheimer (left) produced and Ridley Scott directed
Jerry Bruckheimer (left) produced and Ridley Scott directed
The rest of the spotlight is shared among a host of other actors, who are a mixture of young faces teetering on the brink of stardom and more hardened war film veterans.

Australian Eric Bana, soon to become a big name as The Hulk, is fantastic as the cynical war junkie who puts down Eversmann's ideals of being able to make a difference.

"Once that first bullet goes past your head, politics go right out the window," he says.

And that happens pretty quickly.

As the troops are rounding up militia prisoners, one Black Hawk helicopter is shot and crashes on the other side of the city.

That means the soldiers on the ground have to make their way through narrow, hostile streets to rescue their countrymen.

Massacre

When another chopper goes down and crowds of gun-waving Somalis set up roadblocks, the mission becomes one of rescue and survival.

Some say the event should be seen as a massacre of Somalis, not a feat of survival by US soldiers.

But many of the characters we were introduced to at the start of the film do not live to be part of the end, and Scott does not aim to glorify the US soldiers' adventures.

The film does not give the impression of a victory or a defeat - just a good, harrowing, intense and gory story.

Black Hawk Down is on general release from Friday 18 January


More on US war movie Black Hawk Down from BBCi Films War torn
Read BBCi Films' review of Black Hawk Down
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