Cast & Crew
On Saturday, 2 Oct 1993, restless American soldiers stationed at the temporary U.S. base at Mogadishu airport in Somalia, learn of a mission set for the next day. They are to capture warlord Mohamed Farah Aidid and others who have been attempting to stop the distribution of food following a time of famine in which more than 300,000 Somalis have died. Under the command of Maj. Gen William F. Garrison, a down-to-earth career officer from Texas, the men prepare for a potentially dangerous mission, but one that should take no more than thirty minutes. Rangers and Delta Force members are to be dropped into Mogadishu by Black Hawk Helicopters, capture Aidid and a handful of others from the designated site, then leave the area in Humvees which will rendezvous with them on the ground. Most of the men are anxious for the chance to go on a real mission, and spend Saturday evening amusing themselves, watching a video of The Jerk , talking and playing chess. Some are afraid, but the idealistic Ranger Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann thinks that their mission will help "The Skinnies" as they call the Somalis. A few soldiers write "death letters" to their families, which some think is unlucky. Shortly before 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Ranger Spec. Grimes, who frequently complains about being forced to work behind a desk because of excellent typing skills and an ability to make the perfect cup of coffee, is apprehensive after being told that he will be coming on the mission because another soldier has broken his wrist playing Ping Pong. Sure that they will be back before nightfall, some of the men leave night gear and canteens at the base, and as they fly toward the city, chat about how beautiful the blue water and sandy beaches of Somalia are. Passing over one area, they wave to a young boy on the ground, not knowing that the boy is using a cellphone to relay information about the incoming helicopters to Aidid's soldiers. A few minutes later, as the American Black Hawk helicopters hover over the drop site, automatic weapons and mortars are fired at them, causing the first casualty, Ranger Pvt. First Class Todd Blackburn, who sustains a serious injury when he falls to the ground. While some of the men, led by Ranger Lt. Col. Danny McKnight and Delta Sgt. First Class "Hoot" Gibson find the men they have been sent to capture and start to load them on one of the Humvees, extensive sniper fire increases and a Black Hawk flown by Chief Warrant Officer Cliff "Elvis" Wolcott goes down. Via television monitors at the base, Garrison surveys the situation and orders the men to go to the crash site, secure a perimeter and pick up survivors. Garrison then bitterly comments "We just lost the initiative." As various groups approach the crash site, the assault from the Somalis becomes more intense and many of the Humvees are unable to get through. Ranger Sgt. Dominick Pilla, who mans a machine gun on top of one of the Humvees, is the first man killed by gunfire. Meanwhile, the rigid Capt. Mike Steele orders Eversmann to head a group and go to the crash site. Eversmann and several other soldiers reach the site, but are trapped and forced to take cover in an abandoned building. As many more men are killed or sustain multiple injuries, another helicopter, flown by Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, is hit and forced down. Durant survives the crash, despite a badly broken leg, but cannot leave the helicopter. Hordes of armed civilians now take to the streets and run towards the crash sites, making Garrison realize that all helicopters and Humvees must pull back and regroup. He then sends word to the Pakistani army that also occupies the city that they must assemble as many armored vehicles as possible at Pakistani Stadium, which is located in a safe area of Mogadishu. By the early evening, some of the men still trapped begin to despair that they have been abandoned, but Garrison repeatedly issues orders that no man, dead or alive, will be left behind. By late evening, many of the dead and wounded arrive back at the airport base as more troops prepare a rescue mission. Several men who have sustained injuries, including McKnight, are determined to go back and rejoin the others. In a helicopter over the city, two Delta snipers, Delta Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Delta Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, repeatedly request permission to rescue Durant. Garrison finally agrees, after which Shughart and Gordon are dropped near Durant's helicopter and pull him to a safe place. As an increasingly large and hostile group of Somalis draws near, Shughart and Gordon are both killed and their bodies are grabbed by the frenzied mob. After Durant runs out of ammunition, he tries to hold onto a photograph of his wife and young child as the mob attacks him. His life is spared when one of Aidid's men stops them, saying he is wanted as a live prisoner. By early Monday morning, the armored vehicles depart Pakistani Stadium and additional helicopters leave the base. The ground vehicles approach the crash sites and reach the buildings, where pockets of soldiers are holed up. When the convoy reaches Eversmann and his men, they quickly evacuate the wounded and the body of a Ranger Cpl. Jamie Smith, a friend of Eversmann who died from a massive leg wound. There is not enough room in the armored vehicles to hold all the men, though, and many, including Eversmann, must run alongside, using the vehicles as cover. To the cheers of friendly Somalis and their fellow soldiers, the men finally reach Pakistani Stadium at 6:30 on Monday morning, sixteen hours after the start of their mission. As they rest, drink glasses of water offered by Pakistani soldiers and have their wounds tended, several survivors reflect that they did not become soldiers to be heroes. Grimes, who proved his worthiness as a soldier and survived the mission, is handed a cup of tea, and Eversmann sits next Smith's body and explains why he does what he does.
Brendan Sexton Iii
Brian Van Holt
Abdibashir Mohamed Hersi
Mohamed Essaghir Aabach
Said Arif Ahmed
Karen M. Baker
Pier Luigi Basile
Tarik Ait Ben Ali
M. Najib Benfares
Kimberley Ann Berdy
Alex Corven Caronia
Toby E. Cook
Ian John Corbould
Paul Grant Corbould
John Robert Cox
Ana Bulajic Crcek
Dean De Leo
Robert De Leo
Dino R. Dimuro
Antoine L. Douaihy
William F. Dowd
Bruce [l.] Fowler
Elton John Garcia
Francisco Paco Garcia
Capt. Nabil Ghiadi
Tami R. Goldman
Gregory J. Hainer
An opening title card on the film reads, "Only the dead know the end of war-Plato." According to a 17 December 2001Time magazine article, the print shown at the film's press preview bore a different inscription, a quotation from T. S. Eliot that read: "All our ignorance brings us closer to death." Although there are no opening credits prior to the start of the story, several title cards are presented, with each offering information on the setting or historical background of the real life event on which the film is based. As noted in one title card, the film begins on 2 October 1993.
According to historical sources, the background to the incident, sometimes called "The Battle of Mogadishu," began in 1991, when a large-scale civil war erupted in Somalia following the ouster of long-time dictator Siad Barre. During the bloody civil war between the Somali National Movement and warlord Mohemed Farah Aidid, among others, and the simultaneous famine that took place over the next two years, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Somalis died. UN peacekeepers were brought into Somalia in late April 1992, following a ceasefire.
On June 5, 1993, after a massacre of twenty-four Pakistani troops, the UN issued a resolution to apprehend those responsible. On August 8, 1993, four American soldiers were killed by a Somali detonated land mine, and by late Aug, 440 American elite troops from Delta Force and the U.S. Rangers were sent to Somalia under Maj. Gen. William F. Garrison's command, with a mission to capture Aidid. As noted in the film, when the proposed three-week mission was still unresolved after six weeks, pressure was put on Garrison to complete the mission as soon as possible.
The mission that comprises the bulk of the film took place from mid-afternoon on Sunday, October 3, 1993 to early morning on Monday, 4 Oct, and lasted for approximately eighteen hours [sources variously list the duration as sixteen to twenty hours, but within the film it lasts sixteen hours]. Although the mission was to capture Aidid and top lieutenants, Aidid was not apprehended, and in the film, it is unclear whether Aidid himself or just his cohorts were the intended targets.
Eighteen Americans were killed and eighty-four were wounded during the operation. While most sources indicate that the exact number of Somalis who died during the incident cannot be confirmed, it has been variously reported that between 350 and 1,000 died. Although not explicitly shown in the film, the bodies of fallen American soldiers were carried by a mob through the streets of Mogadishu, after which photographs of their mutilated bodies were shown in news media throughout the world. Many news sources about the incident have indicated that, following the operation's failure, there was a greater reluctance during the late 1990s to have the U.S. become embroiled in other international peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item on January 22, 1998, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Touchstone Pictures had recently acquired screen rights to the as yet unpublished Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden. In addition to the rights to Bowden's non-fiction book, Bruckheimer and Touchstone also acquired the rights to a series of articles written by Bowden for The Philadelphia Inquirer. The news item noted that Bowden was signed to write the screenplay and Simon West was slated to direct. By September 8, 2000, as reported in a Hollywood Reporter news item, Ridley Scott was in negotiations to direct the film and Ken Nolan had been assigned to rework Bowden's first draft screenplay. After Bruckheimer moved his company to the Sony/Columbia Pictures lot, the $90,000,000 production was scheduled for filming in Morocco, where Scott had recently shot much of his 2000 release, Gladiator (see below).
Unlike the book, there are no back stories for the main characters and only allusions to decisions "in Washington" that May have hampered the mission. The film's cast was multinational, and all who portrayed Americans assumed appropriate accents for their roles. In most cases, the actual names of men involved in the mission were used. The onscreen credits list all of the Americans by one-word character names, usually the surname.
Within the film, as noted in reviews, clarity for the audience necessitated that names are displayed on each soldiers' helmet, although in reality, soldiers would not display their names thus. Within the film, dialogue and situations parallel portions of the U.S. Ranger's Code, especially in the recurring theme, used in the film's key art, "Leave no man behind," which in the code is stated as "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy..."
The film's end titles state that it was made on location in Sale and Rabat, Morocco. Various trade paper news items and press releases in the AMPAS library production file for the film indicate that the U.S. Military Base in Mogadishu was created at a Royal Moroccan Air Force field at Kenitra, twenty miles north of Rabat. The closing titles also thank and acknowledge the contributions of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, The Government of Morocco, The Governor and the People of Sale and the Centre Cinematographique Marocain. The producers also acknowledge the support and cooperation of the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Army in the making of the film. Footage from The Jerk (1979) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992), which was shown on television while the soldiers prepare for their mission is acknowledged in the end credits as being shown courtesy of Universal Studios Licensing, Inc. and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. respectively.
The end titles include the following dedication: "For My Mum, Elizabeth Jean Scott, 1906-2001." Several additional end title cards briefly detail the results of the operation. Some of the title cards relate the following information: eighteen Americans (whose names are listed) lost their lives during the incident; as many as 1,000 Somalis died; Sgt. First Class Randy Shughart and Master Sgt. Gary Gordon, who attempted to rescue downed helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant, were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the first soldiers to be so honored since the Vietnam War; Durant was released after eleven days in captivity; Garrison accepted full responsibility for the action; Aidid, who was not captured during the operation, died in 1995, after which Garrison retired from the Army. In March 2002, it was widely reported by source organizations that a GPS (global positioning satellite) device belonging to downed pilot Gordon was found in Afganistan, in a cave that had recently been cleared of Al Queda fighters; those reports, however, proved untrue.
A Los Angeles Times article of November 5, 2001, reported that several of the military personnel who appeared in the film were currently serving in Afghanistan. The article also revealed that, although filming was almost completed before the events of 11 Sep, an epilogue was being added to the film to discuss the Somalian incident and how it contributed to U.S. reluctance to become involved in later international conflicts. However, the Hollywood Reporter review of the film stated that "In order to address less-than-subtle suggestions made by the film that the country's involvement in the Somalia conflict May have been ill-advised and/or poorly planned, a number of corrective, post-Sept. 11 sentiments have been clumsily grafted onto the back end, with awkward results." This material was not included in the viewed print, however, and according to an article by Bowden in the December 28, 2001 Los Angeles Times, was cut just prior to the film's Los Angeles and New York limited release openings.
A documentary dealing with the historical incident, called "Ambush in Mogadishu," was broadcast on the PBS series Frontline in 1998. In addition to being nominated by AFI as the 2001 Movie of the Year, AFI nominations were also received by Scott as Director of the Year, Janusz Kaminski for Cinematography, Pietro Scalia for Editing and Arthur Max for Production Design. Black Hawk Down was also included in the Ten Best lists of Time, Rolling Stone, National Board of Review, Screen International, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News and USA Today. The film received an Academy Award for Best Editing and was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Directot, Best Sound
Nominated for the 2001 Award for Best Production Design in a Feature Film - Contemporary from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Art Directors/ Art Directors Guild (ADG).
Nominated for the 2001 award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published from the Writers Guild of America (WGA).
Nominated for the 2001 award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing - Feature from the Cinema Audio Society (CAS).
Nominated for the 2001 award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America (DGA).
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2001 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of the 2001 Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature - Drama, from the American Cinema Editors (ACE).
Winner of the 2001 Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing - Effects & Foley, Domestic Feature Film by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).
Released in United States Winter December 28, 2001
Wide Release in United States January 18, 2002
Project acquired in turnaround from Touchstone Pictures.
Feature screenwriting debut for Ken Nolan.
The reported budget for the film was $92 million, but documents made available to prospective buyers of the Revolution library revealed that the actual budget was $110.5 million.
Completed shooting June 29, 2001.
Began shooting March 8, 2001.
Released in United States Winter December 28, 2001
Wide Release in United States January 18, 2002
Nominated for five awards, including Movie of the Year, Director of the Year, Cinematographer of the Year, Editor of the Year and Production Designer of the Year, at the 2001 American Film Institute (AFI) Awards.