Past and Prologue: The Films of Ridley Scott

Black Hawk Down

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Black Hawk Down
Ridley Scott, 2001
USA | Format: 35mm | 144 minutes

Nominated for four Academy Awards (including Best Director) and winner of two (for Best Editing and Best Sound), Scott’s visceral, body-shock docudrama about the U.S.-backed invasion of Somalia in the early ‘90s set a new gold standard for cinematic depictions of men in war. Adapted from Mark Bowden’s nonfiction account of the ill-fated “Battle of Mogadishu,” the film takes us play-by-play through a violent standoff between U.S. Army Rangers and Somali insurgents that erupts when one of the Rangers’ helicopters crashes deep within the city center. Mapping every detail of the terrain with astonishing verisimilitude, Scott follows the frantic, often chaotic efforts by which ground and air forces attempt to rescue the downed men amidst heavy enemy fire. Graced with a superb ensemble cast that includes Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard, Black Hawk Down finds Scott powerfully revisiting a favorite theme--the futility of war--and, while never taking an overtly political position, implicitly questions America’s self-appointed role as global peacemaker. Released in theaters mere months after 9/11, the film seems even more timely now than it did then.

Black Hawk Down begins with a quotation from T.S. Eliot: ‘All our ignorance brings us closer to death.’ By the light of its flash-bang grenades, this movie seeks to banish some of that darkness. It offers a paradigm of what war in the 21st century is going to be—modernism run amuck as it defends itself against primitivism, innocence savagely fragmented in incomprehensible combat. Black Hawk Down makes that point without preachment, in precise and pitiless imagery. And for that reason alone it takes its place on the very short list of the unforgettable movies about war and its ineradicable and immeasurable costs.”
 —Richard Schickel, Time

“A triumph of pure filmmaking, a pitiless, unrelenting, no-excuses war movie so thoroughly convincing it's frequently difficult to believe it is a staged re-creation.”
 —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Series: Past and Prologue: The Films of Ridley Scott

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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