ACTION: “Black Hawk Down” is one of the most action-packed war movies you can find. Once the Battle of Mogadishu begins, there is hardly a dull moment. The fact that the Somalians were high on khat probably explains the intensity of their action. The movie is like watching the results of hitting a bee hive if the bees are on drugs. “The Hurt Locker” is more suspenseful than action-packed. The set pieces mostly involve men vs. inanimate objects (IEDs). Sadly, the bombs are not on khat. There is the sniper scene, but it is, after all, a sniper duel. Great scene, but not much action. If we accept suspense substituting for action, we can appreciate THL more.
Score at the end of the first period: BHD – 10 THL – 8
SOUND AND SPECIAL EFFECTS: BHD is a big budget movie by Ridley Scott who knows something about blockbusters. The helicopter ingress is an homage to “Apocalypse Now” with all the best sound effects available. The use of satellite imagery to bring variety to the views is well done. The shots of the Black Hawks going down are amazing. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Sound. It was nominated for Best Cinematography. THL had a much smaller budget, but the effects are still outstanding. The opening bomb explosion is jaw dropping. It won for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It was nominated for Best Cinematography. However, it is more character driven than effects-laden.
Half time score: BHD – 19 THL – 16
SOLDIER BEHAVIOR: BHD spends a good bit of time with the soldiers before the battle. The banter seems realistic. The emotions as they prepare for potential combat rings true. The chaos of urban combat is reflected in different coping mechanisms. Not everyone is Rambo. The role of peer pressure and comradeship in motivating American soldiers is clearly apparent. The film also does a great job depicting the natural tensions between different units. The Delta Force and Rangers have different philosophies and SOPs. This is reflected in the leadership conflicts between Steele and Fichtner. THL confines itself to a limited range of soldiers – bomb disposal techs. The main character is supposed to represent a typical maverick, adrenaline junky of a bomb disposer. His loose cannon behavior and disregard for common sense safety protocols makes his actions seem unrealistic. The other two members of the team are more believable. Mackie is justifiably incensed by James’ recklessness and even considers fragging him. Eldridge is appropriately confused by the power struggle going on between his superiors. This dysfunctional team is probably not typical. I hope.
Score at the end of three periods: BHD – 28 THL – 23
EDUCATIONAL VALUE: BHD tells the story of the Battle of Mogadishu. This battle was fought in Somalia which is in Africa. Strike one as far as American knowledge. It was part of a humanitarian effort involving the United Nations. Strike two. We lost. Strike three. This was a battle that deserved historical recognition. In particular, Shugart and Gordan (Medal of Honor recipients) deserved their portrayal. The movie is also outstanding as a lesson in what not to do in urban combat. THL gives the audience a look into the world of bomb disposal. These incredibly brave soldiers deserve recognition. The film does an excellent job depicting the situation in Iraq in the period after major combat operations ceased. You learn a lot about IEDs. However, as a tutorial on how bomb disposal works, it takes some liberties for character development.
FINAL SCORE: Black Hawk Down – 38 The Hurt Locker - 31
the sniper scene from BHD
the sniper scene from THL