Heroes of the Zeroes: Black Hawk Down
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.
“Black Hawk Down”
No film from The Zeroes — hell, maybe ever — more forcefully imparted the horrors of war as thoroughly, coherently and hauntingly as “Black Hawk Down.”
Ridley Scott’s 2001 film depicted 1993’s Battle of Mogadishu, a mission in Somalia that devolved into the most intense combat that American military had seen since Vietnam.
Two helicopters were downed, 73 American soldiers were wounded, and 18 American soldiers and more than 1,000 Somalis died. (A scene in which Somali children shadow-play beside retreating U.S. soldiers suggests the perpetuation of this vicious cycle.)
Scott achieves procedural perfection unrivaled in war films — technically virtuosic and polished but neither jingoistic nor glamorous. And even in its hellish wash of heightened tension, what’s happening to whom, and why they’re on the move, is impeccably clear. It’s hard to imagine many new-guard filmmakers capable of Scott’s precision here, with a directing turn justly nominated for an Oscar.
And yet “Down” speaks to a soldier’s instincts toward fortitude and fellowship. When bullets whiz past your head, all that matters is the men beside you and the man you are. Heroism is but happenstance. Leave no man behind. (“Down” closes with Joe Strummer’s particularly stirring version of “The Minstrel Boy,” an ode to wartime courage.)
Yes, these soldiers encounter moments of doubt and ideological differences among themselves. But Ken Nolan’s screenplay develops duty and brotherhood over any tangible political discourse. Even justified wars run rampant with monstrosities, and “Black Hawk Down” showed just how critical camaraderie can be in conquering them.