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File:2001 Black Hawk Down 43.jpg

Black Hawk Down (2001) is a war film produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Ridley Scott and based on the book of the same title by Mark Bowden. It depicts the Battle of Mogadishu, a raid integral to the United States' effort to capture Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The movie features Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Glenn Morshower, and Orlando Bloom.

In a raid, a task force of Delta Force soldiers, Army Rangers, and Special Operations Aviation Regiment attempt to capture two of Mohammed Farah Aidid's senior subordinates in the Bakaara Market neighborhood of Mogadishu. The mission is led by Major General William F. Garrison and was supposed to take no more than one hour. The extraction by the Delta team is successful, but the Somali militia, armed with RPGs, shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, and the resulting rescue extends the mission to over 15 hours.


This movie contains examples of:

  • All-Star Cast: not many A-listers, but most people there are recognizable.
  • Anachronism Stew: Oakley Juliet sunglasses which weren't introduced until 1999.
    • The John Grisham novel The Client was not in paperback until the year after the movie is set.
    • Writing the names of the soldiers on their helmets, though this was done intentionally so the audience could keep better track of the characters.
    • Days of the New's "Die Born" which wasn't released until 2001.
    • Hoot, for at least a few scenes, has an M4 carbine. It wouldn't have even been designed until the year after the film's events. Hard to notice, however, as other such carbines in the Army's hands are period-accurate Colt Commandos.
  • Arc Words: "Nothing" / "It's nothing," and possibly "Don't go without me" are repeated throughout the movie.
  • Awesome Yet Impractical: The comm lines are highly secure. Too bad the delay caused by them cause the ground team trying to reach the downed helicopters miss their turns, over and over again.
    • Having high flying oversight from Orion P-3C spy planes: awesome. Having no radio communication with those planes: bad. The delay caused by getting the directions from the planes, to the Joint Operations Center, to the C-2 officers in the helicopter was more than a minute, and ended up resulting in the wrong directions (they were trying to direct the convoy to the wrong crash site).
  • Awesome Yet Practical: Two Delta Force marksmen kill many times their number of enemy forces on their own with only semiautomatic rifles and pistols, before one takes a random shot through the forehead, after which the other is finally overwhelmed.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: Complete with the actors being trained by actual Rangers and Delta operators, and some of the participants in the actual battle appearing as extras in the movie. (Amusingly, this would be how one Ranger ended up in the Screen Actor's Guild.)
  • Bald of Awesome: Captain Steele... the movie version, anyway. Opinions vary as to his real-life counterpart. (In the book, Delta SFC Paul Howe had a poor view of the Rangers, but especially of CPT Steele.)
  • Bang Bang BANG: Averted. The sound of the minigun is accurately portrayed.
  • Based on a True Story: Several notable things were changed for the movie, most concerning Eversmann. In real life he jumped on the convoy as it was pulling out the first time, and when it eventually returned to base, so did he. He did not participate in most of the combat depicted in the film, and his lieutenant, DiTomasso, was more important at the first crash site.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Happens to Gallentine, who loses a thumb in the process (it's only hanging on by shred of skin).
  • Bulletproof Vest: Played brutally straight. Armored plating only works if you wear it.
    • In one tragic case recounted in the book, this would prove to be the death of one Ranger who had been trying to emulate a Delta's method of taking cover without understanding the why of the method - causing the Ranger to expose his unprotected back.
  • Cast the Expert: In wide shots, those were actual Army Rangers fast-roping from UH-60s.
  • Catch Phrase: "Hoo-ah!"
  • The Cavalry: The Pakistani troops, who have enough sense to use heavy armored APCs in that firezone.
  • Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate: A heated argument between soldiers near the beginning of the movie over whether or not "limo" is a real word, regardless of its presence or absence in the dictionary, and therefore legal to use in a game of Scrabble.
  • Child Soldiers: One tries to shoot an American soldier, who conveniently trips at the right moment, causing the kid to shoot his own father on the other side.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel McKnight has a habit of walking round a war zone like bullets ain't flying all around him. Must be a symptom of the badass disease.
  • Completely Missing the Point: A kid is holding a cell phone up in the air so the militia officer on the other end of the connection can hear the sounds of the helicopters' engines as they fly over. One of the Black Hawk pilots sees him and thinks he's waving at them.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Justified because they're a Delta squad.
    • Later subverted when the two Delta marksmen are finally overrun.
  • Cool Guns: Whereas the Rangers have only M16s, some with M203 grenade launchers, M249s and in one case a M60, all with iron sights... the Deltas not only have different helmets and tactical vests but also "CAR-15s" (predecessors to the modern M4A1) with optics (mounted to the carry handle). One of the Delta marksmen carries an old-style M14 with an optic, and the other a suppressed CAR-15-type with optic and suppressor, both with camouflage paint schemes. Captain Steele and a Ranger medic also use a CAR-15-type with even shorter barrels, but theirs are black/grey and without any accessories.
  • Dawson Casting: 18-year-old PFC Todd Blackburn played by 23-year-old (at the time) Orlando Bloom.
  • Danger Deadpan: The pilots of Super Six-One calmly report that they're going down after the chopper is hit, and the co-pilot even manages to make a deadpan joke to the pilot. Mike Durant of Super Six-Four is portrayed as a lot more nervous, but his voice is still calm and even as he reports that the chopper is going down. Super Six-One wasn't as badly hit as Super Six-Four, where the helicopter was damaged, but then lost the tail rotor, while Six-One essentially had an engine get destroyed, but still had more control over the aircraft.
  • Desk Jockey: As the above shows, Grimes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: McKnight.

 Pilla: Colonel, they're shooting at us!

McKnight: *stares blankly* Well, shoot back!

  • Death From Above: The MH-6 Little Bird helicopters, which make gun and rocket attacks that kill literally dozens of militia.
  • Description Cut: "Convoy is encountering light resistance" (cut to the convoy getting shot up and blown up every which way)
    • Of course, consider that two years earlier, the Army was fighting massive battles with armored vehicles and rocket artillery in Iraq and Kuwait. Mogadishu was light resistance, just a whole lot of it, and they had left their armored vehicles behind.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Maybe. While the movie does depict heroism on the part of most of the soldiers involved, it also shows war as being extremely unpleasant.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: When Specialist Mike Kurth sees a woman about to pick up a gun. He yells for her not to do it...and unhesitatingly shreds her when she does.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: A Delta operator racks the charging handle on the Ma Deuce after he takes the place of the Ranger who was just killed.
  • Eagle Land: The Dragon sarcastically claims that all Americans are Type 1, who don't drink, don't smoke, and live long, healthy, uninteresting lives.
  • Elite Army: 18 Americans died. Contrast that with the 1000-2000 Somalis killed.
    • In fact, the mission is a textbook example in military operations: despite terrible odds, being horrendously outnumbered, undersupplied, and stranded in a location that was completely unfriendly, the Rangers and Delta still managed to successfully complete their mission (the capture of the high-value targets). They didn't leave Somalia because they failed, but because their success was considered too costly in political terms.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The bulk of the American units shown in the film; 75th Rangers, 160th SOAR, and Deltas.
  • Fake American: Much of the cast.
  • Fast Roping: The first sign there's something wrong is when one of the squad members attempts this trope but misses because the chopper had to dodge an RPG.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Mike Durant, who survives the conflict as a Somali hostage.
  • Fingore: Gallentine pretty much loses his thumb and just tapes it to his hand to keep it in place.
  • Gatling Good: The Little Bird and Black Hawk choppers are both equipped with miniguns, which basically shred their targets into meaty ribbons.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The mission was supposed to last thirty minutes.
  • Gorn: All the time, considering the fact that war isn't pretty.

  "There's a fucking ROCKET in him, sir!"

    • One soldier, in the middle of a firefight, comes across a fellow soldiers severed hand, and immediately blinks out of combat mode as he wonders what to do with it (he eventually stuffs it into a pocket). In the Real Life incident, the soldier knew who's hand it was, and put it into the pocket of the soldier that had lost it, causing a bit of a ruckus back at the base later when an unprepared nurse found it and freaked out.
  • Gunship Rescue: During the gun battle at night, where AH-6J Little Birds were called in to provide fire support -- shredding any unfortunate Somalis caught in their sights.
  • Headbutt of Love: Non-romantic example. At the end of the movie, two Rangers who have just returned safely to their base do this as a sort of manly, utterly exhausted alternative to a hug. In real life, when done with helmets on, this is known as "Turtle Fucking"
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The two Delta operators that go to help Durant take him from the chopper and place him in a nearby building, then go back to defend the chopper. This doesn't make much sense until you realize they didn't have enough men to guard the building. They were drawing the militia fighters away from Durant by using themselves as bait.
    • In the book, it becomes significantly more clear that they knew exactly what they were doing by going in on foot. They didn't have a chance of extraction by helicopter, and they were aware that the pilot (Durant) was unable to move fast enough to be extracted by foot. They went in knowing that there was a good chance they would be overrun by the hundreds of militia members they could see from their vantage point in the helicopter, and they did it anyway. There's a reason they were both awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.
  • High-Pressure Blood: In one gruesome scene, arterial blood sprays the faces of the team trying to treat it.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The recoilless rifle.
  • Hollywood History: While the movie is based on a true story, the movie removes any references that Malaysian Peace Keepers were also involved in the rescue of the downed Black Hawks. This angered the Malaysian government since the movie was implying the Malaysian did nothing when in reality Malaysian soldiers both fought and died together with their American counterparts in that rescue operation.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked by two Blackhawk pilots as argue over the legitimacy of the word "Limo" in a game of Scrabble:

 Wolcott: You touch my limo and I'll spank you, Night Stalker. You hear me?

Durant: Yeah. Promises.

    • An inevitable Truth in Television if you hang out with military personnel long enough. It has been described as "A very homoerotic game of chicken."
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: A Somali boy and his father attack a Ranger from both sides. The Ranger slips and falls, and the boy (shooting from the hip) shoots his own father.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Somalis keep their AKs on full-auto and tend to not aim all that much, whereas Delta Force and the Rangers take decently aimed single shots most of the time. The sheer number of Somalis makes this "spray & pray" strategy more effective than it would be otherwise.
  • In Harm's Way:

 Hoot: When I go home people'll ask me, 'Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, are you some kinda war junkie?' You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is.

  • Instant Death Bullet: Heavily subverted. The bullets used by both Delta and the Rangers were a new "penetrator" type, essentially light armor-piercing rounds. They had a particular tendency to not kill people who were hit by them, as the bullet wounds ended up being through-and-throughs, instead of the rapidly expanding or tumbling effects usually observed by full-metal-jacket rounds. According to the book, it was extremely common to shoot three guys, only for two of them to get up and drag the third out of the combat zone.
  • Kill'Em All: Many people die. In the real conflict 19 18 Americans died, but manage to take between 2000 and 10000 Somalis with them.
    • 18 Americans died in the actual conflict. The epilogue lists one more person
    • Note to self: Don't fuck with Delta. (According to the book, the two Delta marksmen may have personally killed as many as twenty to twenty-four Somali gunmen with their rifles and pistols before being overrun.)
      • Though Delta and the Rangers were responsible for a number of kills, they also had significant air support (Black Hawks with gatling guns and, later,the Little Bird gun runs that accounted for significant portions of the damage. Even the M2 machine guns on the HMMVW's were responsible for heavy Somalian casualties: crew-served weapons are responsible for most fatalities in modern warfare.
  • Kinda Busy Here:

 Lt. Col. Mc Knight: How are things going? Things okay there, Struecker?

Sgt. Struecker: (Racing his Humvee down a city street while bullets ricochet all around) I don't wanna talk about it right now, Colonel. I'm busy!

  • Loads and Loads of Characters: For a two hour long movie.
  • Manly Tears: Near the end of the film, one of the Deltas is loading up to go back out to try to rescue those still out there (such as Durant) and Eversmann starts to do the same only to be stopped by the Delta who tells him he works better alone. As the Delta soldier walks away, the stress of battle finally hits Eversmann and he weeps visibly.
  • The Medic: Two of them during the battle, one of whom, notably, was an Air Force Pararescueman in Real Life.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: The massive amount of civilian casualties mentioned in the book are only depicted in the film by a single shot of a man carrying his dead child.
  • Military Maverick: Special Forces units. The book details how these could cause friction with more conventional units... which ended up having some negative consequences in the field.
    • Ironically, the 75th Ranger Regiment is a special operations unit too, just (according to the book) not viewed then as high on the totem pole. The trope was subverted though in the movie by the SOAR ("Night Stalkers"), who come off as relatively "conventional" in appearance.
  • Must Have Caffeine: A group of Rangers and Delta operators are bunkered up inside of a building, besieged by Aidid's militia. Grimes copes with the stress of the situation by finding a coffee pot somewhere and brewing some coffee, which he offers to one of the Deltas.
    • Foreshadowed, of course, by Grimes' rant in the beginning of the movie about how he has spent his entire career in the Rangers making coffee during various important military campaigns. Despite being involved in the worst of the fighting, Grimes is still making coffee during the Battle of Mogadishu.
      • "Grimesy, you are squared away!"
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: The Somalians are referred to as "Skinnies" by the Rangers, as they apparently were in real life. While many assume that this refers to the malnutrition of the locals, it's a reference to Starship Troopers, which is a popular book among the battalion and on the reading list at West Point.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The movie's Catch Phrase: "Leave No Man Behind."
  • Not So Different: One of the Somali commanders tells the POW Mike Durant that about Americans and Somalis. According to him, despite the differences of the political systems of USA and Somalia, they're both militaristic nations who use violence to solve their problems, and they'll always use it, no matter how much they both want peace.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: General Garrison wanted light armor and gunship support[1] for his men, but the request was denied so they were stuck with Humvees, Black Hawks and Little Birds.
    • The Quick Reaction Force is portrayed this way in the movie, when, upset that they were not informed of the raid, it takes them a little longer than it should to get all their forces assembled. In Real Life, they were informed of the raid, and were scrambling to get to both crash sites the second they were called (which was mere minutes after the first crash), but due to the Somalian Militia blocking off roads and setting up ambushes, they had to go all the way around the city, which took several hours. They were truly distressed that they weren't able to get to either crash site sooner.
  • Oh Crap: The look on the Aidid militia officer's face when he realizes Delta has commandeered his recoilless rifle and are pointing it at him.
  • One-Woman Wail
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted, as a man who got shot in the leg dies painfully (both for him and the viewers, the scene they try to stop him from bleeding out from the femoral artery is really graphic).
  • Pistol Whip: One of the Somalis that captures Durant uses his AK-47 as a makeshift club and smacks him across the face with the stock.
  • Retirony: According to the book, most of the men in the platoon were just married, intending to marry, intending to get a new job or a promotion, a new father, an expecting father, etc. Justified in that these are all young men, who would naturally have plans for the rest of their lives.
  • Rock Beats Laser: We occasionally see the Somalis' low-tech tactics. To neutralize the speed advantage of Helicopters, they'd just have someone hang around near the American base and set a tire fire when a large group left, to act as a warning.
  • Running Gag: Grimes keeps getting shot with RPGs. Okay, so it's not a funny running gag. (In the actual campaign, Stebbins really did find himself near far too many explosions. Each time, his squadmates though he was done, but each time he managed to survive somehow. He eventually makes it out of the combat zone with a badly injured foot.)
  • Scenery Gorn
  • Soldiers At the Rear: One soldier has always been away from the fighting, a fact he says isn't his fault. It's because he has a rare and valuable skill beloved by the corp that keeps him busy: He can type.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Averted. One character is left mostly deaf for the rest of the movie after a 5.56mm M249 squad automatic weapon is fired from within a foot from his head.
    • Subverted at another point in the film; Grimes barely dodges a Somali RPG and is knocked off his feet and partially buried by the dirt churned up by the blast. When a Delta digs him up, the viewer sees things from Grimes' perspective, including temporarily distorted audio due to the blast momentarily deafening him.

  Grimes: I can hear bells ringin'!

  • Stock Shout Out: It's hard to find a First Person Shooter in a modern setting that doesn't have a reference to this movie somewhere.
  • Title Drop: "Black Hawk down, we have a Black Hawk down."
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: All of them, specially Durant, who is taken prisoner.
  • Truth in Television: The film is based on true events, so every trope depicted is pretty much true.
  • Unflinching Walk: Everytime McKnight's convoy stops, he gets out and strolls around, apparently oblivious to the bullets flying past his head, to find out what's wrong.
    • In the commentary it's mentioned that McKnight figured if he's gonna die then he's gonna die and there's nothing he can do to stop it, so he sees no point in cowering or ducking.
    • The book mentions that he was furious that the convy kept stopping, since everytime it stopped, the Somalians would ramp up their fire. It was more dangerous to stay in the humvee, than it was to try to get it moving.
  • Unperson: The character of Grimes was created to replace John Stebbins. They renamed that character, since Stebbins is serving 30 years for raping his own pre-teen daughter.
  • Urban Warfare: One of the few modern depictions of this trope prior to works based on the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • Verbal Tic: The Rangers tend to use "hooah" almost as a punctuation mark, which is Truth in Television, as "Hooah" can, depending on context and tone, mean anything and everything except "No."
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: One of the Delta operators tells Grimes to "Stay off the walls" with no explanation. If you are leaning against a wall in a firefight, two things might happen: Bullets striking the wall at a shallow angle might end up traveling along the wall and hit you, or an explosion will go off nearby and the wall will shake hard enough from the recoil to violently smash into you.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: "The only way to negotiate is to kill."
  • War Is Hell
  • Zerg Rush: The only strategy of the Somali warlords.
    • Some of them tried to prevent it but the Somalians quickly lost control of their own people in some cases, leading to the rush. Most of the mercenaries, who were responsible for shooting down at least one Black Hawk, were more tactical.

Notes

  1. notably an AC-130
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