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Black Hawk Down

IT'S COMPELLING because this is not just a film - it's a statement! Of a country that holds itself responsible as a watchdog for the atrocities in the rest of the world - in the third world to, be more specific. This is a film that can be taken any which way your sympathies are — in the futility of war and the killing of innocent people or in the belief that such incidents are indeed necessary to fulfil certain principles and attitudes.

``Black Hawk Down''... memorable war film.

Winning the latest Oscar for the Best Sound and Editing, Black Hawk Down, put simply, is about 20 hours of a mission where bravery, compassion, partnership and teamwork make you want to applaud. It makes you recall other heroically made war films that remain etched in memory because of these very same qualities.

But then Black Hawk Down has the advantage of superior technology which makes for some truly stupendous photography (Slawomir Idziak) whether it is the dusty, brooding, poverty stricken representations of Somalia in the East African region, the flight of black choppers over azure blue sea or the actual combat itself.

The film is based on the book- ``Black Hawk Down- A Story Of Modern War" which the Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden wrote after years of research and a trip to Somalia. It is a true event, which has been recreated on celluloid by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Blade Runner) known for his realism and pure filmmaking. The narrative is sombre, matter of fact with dialogue kept to the minimum allowing the film to show combat in as professional a manner as possible.

The film extols the sheer professionalism of America's Delta Force in the unforeseen disaster of 1993 Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia. In that battle, 18 Americans died and more than 70 of them were injured. On October 3, soldiers on a U.N. Peace Keeping Mission were to drop in by helicopter and abduct two top assistants to the Somali warlord, Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The effort was supposed to take no longer than 45 minutes - soldiers didn't even bring their water canteens or night vision goggles figuring they won't need them. Few hours later men were dead and several injured with countless Somali casualties.

The film also portrays with candour what went wrong. One of the first rangers out of the helicopter missed the rope and fell to the ground below and the ground convoy got hopelessly lost in the debris-strewn streets of the city. One black hawk copter was shot from the sky, and then another. What follows is the desperate fight to survive and preserve a creed they take seriously — ``never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy."

There are some truly powerful visuals in the film - a chopper pilot captured by a raging mob, the bloody struggle to save the life of a soldier whose artery has been severed, and the troops in Mogadishu fighting with equal fervour and dying like flies. Actors for this film trained at three army installations before they went to Morocco to shoot the battle scenes. And those who portray helicopter pilots went through the grind on simulations at Fort Campbell and those playing the army rangers received instructions at Fort Benning to provide that touch of realism to their characters. Art director Arthur Max has done a brilliant job of recreating the battered Mogadishu in Morocco

Considering its brutal visual imagery with so many gory sequences - it's a battle without visible turning points, a battle in which the hero is the group whose members become so grime smeared and blood splattered that the audiences cannot identify the players - the violence in the film is not really exploitative.

Many complex issues emerge about the very presence of the U.S. in a country quite outside its ambit; about what really constitutes heroism; on whether the mission that left so many dead was a triumph at all because the mood is far from it... and so on. The line at the beginning truly sums up the poignancy of the film ``only the dead have seen the end of war." ``Black Hawk Down" is a Columbia Pictures release - an organisation committed to bringing good cinema to audiences around the world.


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