Reel American HistoryHistory on trial Main Page

AboutFilmsFor StudentsFor TeachersBibliographyResources

Films >> Black Hawk Down (2001) >>

Black Hawk Down was well received by most American moviegoers and critics. It was released at an important time in American history (just a few months after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks), and the film displayed a renewed sense of patriotism with its gritty, realistic portrayal of war. Some critics questioned the necessity of the brutality shown in the film, while others praised the film’s frank portrayal of war. Almost universally praised were the cinematography, the talented direction by Ridley Scott, and the musical score. Black Hawk Down was an accomplishment in film that left audiences across the country thinking not only about their brothers, sisters, and countrymen at war, but also about themselves.

Clark, Mike. "'Black Hawk' turns nightmare into great cinema." USA Today 28 Dec. 2001. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/2001-12-28-black-hawk-down-review.htm
Clark speaks highly of the special effects of the movie: "Black Hawk's knockout photography, editing and sound are all state of the art," adding that "the ensemble performers (Tom Sizemore, Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, William Fichtner), in contrast, are effectively subordinate to the material." He rates the movie highly, referring to it as a "likely Oscar nominee."
Ebert, Roger. "Black Hawk Down." rogerebert.com. 18 Jan 2002. 4 Nov. 2007. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20020118/REVIEWS/201180301/1023
Ebert, a famous authority on movies, gives the film five stars. He says that the movie does an accurate job at portraying the hour-by-hour chain of events during the mission. Ebert mentions that Ridley Scott does well at showing the audience a comprehensible tale about war. He compliments the actors, the cinematography, and the screenplay. He concludes by stating that the movie is different from other war movies in that it focuses more on the troops themselves than on the war.
Foden, G. "You can't diddle with the truth." Guardian 11 January 2002.
"Black Hawk Down's success lies in its drawing attention to the whole notion of representation. The action switches between the helicopters themselves, the screens of the Joint Operations Centre (JOC), and men on the ground in vehicles. The JOC is able 'to watch the whole thing like a football game,' says Scott."
Graham, Bob. "Mission Accomplished: 'Black Hawk Down' a brutally effective depiction of Somali Battle." San Francisco Chronicle 18 Jan. 2002. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/01/18/DD192063.DTL
Graham praises the filmmaker's ability to present a brutal yet heart-wrenching film to the country during wartime (shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks). He believes that there is an important message of brotherhood portrayed that leaves the audience in thoughtful silence.
Howe, Desson. "'Black Hawk' Down and Dirty." Washington Post. 18 Jan. 2002. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2002/01/18/AR2005033115955.html
Howe praises the film for its "compelling account of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu" and the harsh realism it displays. Howe describes the plot of the film, highly praising the film's grandiosity and scope, as well as its "exquisite cinematography," "stunning montage," and "pulsating score."
Mitchell, Elvis. "Black Hawk Down: Mission of Mercy Goes Bad in Africa." New York Times 28 Dec. 2001. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/28/movies/28HAWK.html
Mitchell's review is predominantly negative. While acknowledging that "establishing mood through pictorial means is the director Ridley Scott's most notable talent" and praising the film's "visceral excitement," Mitchell criticizes the film for its repetition, shallow characters, and "glumly staged racism."
Monbiot, G. "Both Saviour and Victim: Black Hawk Down Creates a New and Dangerous Myth of American Nationhood." Guardian 29 January 2002.
"Black Hawk Down looks set to become one of the bestselling movies of all time. Like all the films the British-born director Ridley Scott has made, it is gripping, intense and beautifully shot. It is also a stunning misrepresentation of what happened in Somalia."
Schwarzbaum, Lisa. "Black Hawk Down." Entertainment Weekly. 10 Jan. 2002. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,192671~1~0~blackhawkdown,00.html
Schwarzbaum describes how the events of September 11th shape our interpretation of the film: "Certainly those who troop to theaters for Ridley Scott's square-jawed, gung-ho-istic combat saga about a real-life 1993 U.S. military mission gone horribly wrong in Somalia now watch this story, about American soldiers fighting and dying in a land they may not understand, with reformatted hearts and minds."
Sterritt, David. "'Black Hawk Down' Offers Actions, Not Insights." Christian Science Monitor. 18 Jan. 2002. 4 Nov. 2007. http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0118/p15s01-almo.html
Sterritt's review highlights the negative aspects of the film. Sterritt focuses on his dislike for the brutality displayed in the movie and the portrayal of war as an inescapable aspect of life. He is also dissatisfied with the use of clichés and believes the viewers deserve better in a movie.
Travers, Peter. "Black Hawk Down." Rolling Stone 31 Jan. 2002. 4 Nov 2007. http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/5947085/review/5947086/black_hawk_down
Travers writes about Hollywood's reluctance to release war movies following the September 11th attacks, for fear that audiences would not want to see graphic depictions of battle. The few movies that dared to open, however, did very well. Travers commends the film, saying that it deserved more awards, and praises the actors portraying the real men fighting on the front lines.

See Also

Cox, A. "Black Hawk Down: Shoot first, don't ask questions later." Independent 12 January 2002.