Black Hawk Down is based on journalist Mark Bowden's account of the disastrous US raid on Mogadishu during the civil war in Somalia in 1993. Intending to capture two key lieutenants of the warlord Aidid the Americans, who were there as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, targeted a specific building in the labyrinth of the city. But during the raid on October 3rd which involved a combination of the army's top units - Rangers and Delta Force, a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. In the frenzy to help the downed crew another Black Hawk was downed, ground forces were trapped in hostile areas, it was truly the chaos of war.
Talk about visceral filmmaking, Ridley Scott drags us into war on the ground so that you feel the bullets hit the seat next to you. Almost documentary-like in its treatment, there are no real leading characters, although you can spot Josh Hartnett as an idealist, Ewan McGregor as a desk jockey eager for action and Eric Bana as a cool dude from Delta Force. It's a relentlessly gruelling experience with the filmmakers not letting you off the hook for a moment. You can see that some people might think it jingoistic in that the Somali situation is very sketchily presented, but in effect the film's not about the reality of the situation, it's about the meaning of the experience for the guys in it – as Bana's character says near the end, 'it's all about the guy next to you'. It's a fine achievement from Scott.