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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Black Hawk Down is a 2001 war movie based on the true story of the bravery and grave danger faced by American Special Forces while at war against a brutal warlord and his militia amidst the civil war-ravaged Somali capital Mogadishu. The first 45 minutes or so sets up the context, introduces the officers and soldiers, outlines their mission, and then the next 90 minutes are essentially a nonstop battle of American infantry and helicopters against armed and desperate Somali militia men and boys. The movie does not shy away from war violence -- casualties, blood, and graphic injuries are a constant. Surgery in the midst of battle is performed; soldiers are cut open and entrails are exposed. A nearly cut-off finger dangles from a hand. Frequent profanity, including regular use of "f--k" and its variations. What emerges overall is the bravery and selflessness of the soldiers in the midst of a battle unexpected in its ferocity, as well as an attempt to go beyond simplistic "good versus evil" dramatizations that have historically typified war movies.
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What's the story?
In the early 1990s a humanitarian crisis in the country of Somalia brought international attention to the region. On October 3, 1993 the United States military sent approximately 120 members of US Special Forces to capture the warlord General Aidid or any of his top lieutenants. This supposedly quick operation turned into a two-day frantic mission and withdrawal. BLACK HAWK DOWN depicts the costly rescue attempt by US Rangers and Delta Operators sent to retrieve men trapped when their black hawk helicopters were downed. Trapped in a Somali war-zone, the soldiers struggle to regroup, save their wounded, and avoid the sights of a frenzied and armed militia. Through hostile fire, already injured men re-enter the war-zone in a valiant attempt to "leave no man behind."
Is it any good?
Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator), BLACK HAWK DOWN is a fast-paced trip through blood and guts. Scott's desire for realism comes through in the film's connections to the real US Rangers. Many of the pilots used in the film participated in the actual 1993 conflict. The film does a fine job of creating viewer sympathy for its characters.
Although the action scenes truly serve as the leading lady, the film uses recognizable celebrities to create identification with their characters. Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Sizemore provide known faces to a few men caught in the chaos. The film was rewarded for its dramatic battle scenes with Academy Awards for Best Sound and Best Editing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about issues regarding life, death, war, and honor. Why did the soldiers return to the ground to continue fighting? Do you think it was right to send soldiers there in the first place? How may this conflict relate to ones in the present? Parents may also want to discuss this film's historical accuracy by comparing it against a documentary that covers the same events.
How is this similar to and different from other war movies, past and present?
How did the movie attempt to provide context for the tremendous problems in Somalia, and how the United Nations and the U.S. military attempted to address the situation?
- In theaters: January 1, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: June 11, 2002
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore
- Director: Ridley Scott
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character Strengths: Courage
- Run time: 144 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language
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