In 1993, US soldiers attempted to capture the senior figures of a militia aimed at overthrowing the government of Somalia. But the operation went tits-up and the ensuing debacle - subsequently named The Battle of Mogadishu - left 19 American soldiers, and an unknown number of Somalis, dead.
All which suggests the potential for an interesting film. Unfortunately, someone asked Jerry Bruckheimer to make the film and we got Black Hawk Down (2001) instead.
Still, on the level it aspires too, Black Hawk Down is a marvellously effective piece of cinema. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film portrays conflict in a gruesomely visceral way. The violence is brutal, sudden, unpredictable, and confused. And you can imagine that war may actually, in some small way, be like this, probably only worse.
Also faultless is the amount of helicopter action. Indeed helicopters are central to the film (The title itself is a reference to the mission’s turning point).
But in the first half of the film it looks as if the film isn’t going to deliver. We see two Black Hawk helicopters shot down, but neither of the damn things explode. However, with members of the crew still alive US soldiers move towards the crash sites to try and rescue their stricken comrades.
After fighting their way to the one of the crash sites they find that the Somali’s have got their first. With no-one to rescue they plant a charge inside the wreckage of the helicopter to stop it providing anything of use to the enemy.
As the soldiers scuttle away a large shower of sparks fly into the air. Exploding Helicopter expected rather more. Surely there was some aviation fuel on board?
The second helicopter explosion is much more satisfying. After freeing a trapped crew member a soldier uses a grenade to blow-up the helicopter which explodes with a rich, amber-orange fireball.
Given the film features innumerable explosions it’s disappointing that the destruction of the first helicopter is fluffed. It’s even harder to understand when no less a figure than Ridley Scott is in charge of the film. However, his attention was clearly only momentarily distracted as the second chopper fireball is a fine sight for any aficionado.
Exploding helicopter innovation
It’s pretty unusual to see an already wrecked helicopter explode, however, Courage Under Fire currently lays claim to being the first film with this distinction.
Number of exploding helicopters
Two wrecked helicopters are destroyed.
Do passengers survive?
Yes, I’m pretty sure some do, however, the sprawling nature of the film made it hard for me to work out exactly who’d died and survived.
As befits a film entitled Black Hawk Down there’s a juicy helicopter crash scene to enjoy. After the whirlybird’s tail rotor is damaged, the pilot desperately tries to maintain control of the stricken aircraft. The scene is sound-tracked by ‘mayday’ calls and angry bleeping warning alarms.
Ewan McGregor plays Grimes a desk jockey who’s pressed into frontline service by the crisis. Exploding Helicopter has never been convinced that the Trainspotting star can actually act. And there’s more evidence where, where our Ewen’s extraordinary attempt at an American accent only serves to make him sound more Scottish.
“We got a Black Hawk down, we got a Black Hawk down.”
Eric Bana’s part was originally offered to Russell Crowe. However, he was unable to do the film and lobbied for Bana to get the part.
Review by: Jafo