When I go home ...and people ask me: "Hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? You some kind of war junkie?" I won't say a goddamn word. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand it's about the men next to you. And that's it.
— SFC Norm "Hoot" Gibson
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, Kim Coates, Ewen Bremner, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Glenn Morshower, and Orlando Bloom among many, many others.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.
Actually Pretty Funny: The first thing CPT Steele does after catching Sgt Pilla doing imitations of him is to acknowledge to the other Rangers of how funny it was. The second thing he does is put Pilla into a headlock and walk off with him explaining why he shouldn't undermine his authority like that.
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.
And the Adventure Continues: At the very end of the film, Hoot is grabbing a bite to eat and gearing up to go back into the city on another mission, presumably to look for Durant, the helicopter pilot who was taken prisoner.
Hoot: Hey, we started a whole new week! It's Monday!
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).
BADASS: Every single named character gets at least one moment, either big or small (eg. Not allowed in a warzone with a cast? Take your knife out and get ready to cut it off so your CO gives you permission to go anyway.)
Special mention goes to Hoot and McKnight who both seem to have come down from Valhalla itself to take part in in this battle.
Gordon and Shughart both received the Medal of Honor for their parts in defending Super 6-4 from militia. Unlike much else in the movie, this was filmed almost exactly as it happened in Real Life.
Even the bad guys sweat pure badass-ness. Aidid's Lieutenant comes off as entirely unconcerned by being captured and held prisoner by the Americans, seeming to look at it as a mild but unavoidable inconvenience. The Dragon who leads the militia not only rocks the Badass Bandolier, but is scary enough enough to chase off the armed mob before they could kill a crippled American pilot, and goes on to give his own Breaking Speech after having him taken to (relative) safety.
Badass Boast: Subverted/Mocked. Just about every character that makes one gets screwed by it. The Rangers in the hangar (preparing for takeoff) tell Grimes to leave his night vision goggles and canteens behind since they're not going to be gone long enough to need them; the strike force is so tough that no possibility of mission failure enters their minds. (Granted that the mission as planned was supposed to take only 30 minutes, but military planning is supposed to be about preparing for the worst-case scenario.) They also tell him to leave the rear steel plate out of his Kevlar vest; he will only need it if he is running away from the enemy. The Rangers spend much of the movie surrounded and taking fire from all sides. The very worst Badass Boast comes from Private Blackburn, who tells Grimes, "I'm here to kick some ass." This is completely subverted as he misses the fast-rope after an RPG forces the Blackhawk to juke, falls from the helicopter, breaks his back, and is evacuated on a Hum-Vee without firing a single shot in battle.
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 (its actual rate of fire and lethality, however, are grossly inferior to the real thing).
Hoot: When I go home ...and people ask me: "Hey, Hoot, why do you do it, man? Why? You some kind of war junkie?" I won't say a goddamn word. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand it's about the men next to you.
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. Also, PFC Grimes is a fictional composite. The real PFC Stebbins on whom "Grimes" is based was later convicted of a distasteful crime. The Pentagon requested that Stebbins not be mentioned in the film.
Bash Brothers: Grimes and Sanderson develop this relationship. Twombly and Nelson are forced into it when the convoy leaves without them. And of course, the kings of this trope are the late Shughart and Gordon.
Be Careful What You Wish For: Grimes complains about sitting at a desk during major US Ranger conflicts. He finally gets his chance to go into combat... and gets hit by an RPG blast a few minutes in for his troubles. It only gets worse for him from there.
BFG: Two are featured in the film: A recoiless anti-tank rifle used by the militia and later by Delta Force, and the M-2 .50 Caliber machine guns on the Humvees, affectionately known to the US armed forces as the "Ma Deuce".
Bittersweet Ending: The battle went horribly wrong (and caused Bill Clinton to take the troops out of Somalia), but the Rangers and Deltas still managed to get out of Mogadishu by the next day, preventing more losses from occurring (on either the American or Somali side).
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.
California Doubling: Morocco stands in for Somalia, as the latter country's civil war was still ongoing during filming. (the DVD booklet even has the producers saying "Never go to Mogadishu, you probably won't get out of there alive")
The Cavalry: The Pakistani troops who roll into the rescue with the heavy Armored Personnel Carriers necessary for such a hot zone.
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 slips at the right moment, causing the kid to shoot his own father who was standing on the opposite side of the doorway.
Laser-Guided Karma: Remember that the father emptied a clip into the home of a mother and his kids who were all huddled up in fright. He inexcusably put them in danger by doing that just to get at the american.
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.
Justified in this case- several of the Rangers interviewed for the book state that the real COL McKnight did this at times, although he also notably freaked out during the drive around the city looking for the crash sites.
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.
Composite Character: Several characters, but most prominently Eversman, who was actually part of the "lost convoy" in real life. A number of the Delta operators are composites as well.
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 Colt Model 727 (14.5" barrel)/733 (11.5") carbines with red-dot optics and weaponslights. An older CAR-15 and an anachronistic M4A1 are also seen. Shughart, one of the Delta marksmen, carries an old-style scoped M14, and his partner Gordon carries a suppressed and accessorized M733, both with camouflage paint schemes. Captain Steele and a Ranger medic also use the M733, but without any accessories.
In real life, many of the Delta operators' weapons were "Masterkey" combinations of the carbines listed above with a pump action shotgun attached under the barrel.
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.
The USAF Pararescueman working on the crew-chief of Super Six One
(Hanging an IV): After I'm done with this I'll whip you boys up some margaritas. The usual, no salt?
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 armoredvehicles behind.
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.
Fast Roping: The first sign there's something wrong occurs when a green squad member attempts this trope but misses because the chopper had to dodge an RPG. In the book the film's based on, there's no RPG and no swerve, he just has a hand/eye coordination moment.
Gilligan Cut: A rare non-comedy example. An officer from the 10th Mountain Division tells Colonel McKnight that between the 10th Mountain and the UN troops, the relief force will have more than enough manpower to get to the crash sites and retrieve the Rangers. McKnight's men don't need to go back out into the city. The very next shot is McKnight climbing into a Humvee at the head of the convoy, before rolling back out.
Gone Horribly Wrong: The mission was supposed to last thirty minutes (technically, it does- the objective is completed early in the film. The problem is the chaos that results from that objective).
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.
One of the Deltas is torn in half when an RPG hits the armoured car he's in. It doesn't kill him instantly.
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.
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.
The kid and his dad that try to ambush a soldier as he exits a building. He slides to the ground as he exits the (couple feet high) door and the kid shoots his own dad instead.
Hollywood History: While the movie is based on a true story, it 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. The roles and actions of certain characters were changed as well, usually in the Composite Character spirit.
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.
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.
Interservice Rivalry: Between the Rangers and the Deltas. Steele outright accuses the Deltas of being undisciplined cowboys.
Captain Steele tends to be a bit of a Jerk Ass, giving condescending lectures to Delta Operators who he considers Mildly Military. At the same time, it's obvious that he acts out of concern for his men's well being, and he tends to come off as a Father to His Mennote The book makes it clear that Delta's methods do not work with the more traditional infantry role that the Rangers fulfill. He was trying to discourage his Rangers from doing the same sorts of things that Delta Operators did, because while Delta was extremely effective in their missions and seriously elite, the Rangers had a different mission to perform.
Hoot in particular stands out as he seems more than a little callous about the whole conflict, and about the lives lost, not to mention his disregard for firesarms safety. However, he is just hyper-professional, and encourages Eversmann not to doubt himself or how he handled the mission. In his last scene, he more or less says that the reason he fights is for the sake of the guy next to him. And then he puts the Jerk Ass facade back on, telling an (obviously exhausted and strung-out) Eversman not to try and go back out with him, because he works better alone.
Karmic Death: One Ranger gleefully boasts that he doesn't need the kevlar plate in the back of his vest since he "doesn't plan on getting shot in the back running away." It didn't work out so well for him...
Kill 'em All: Many people die. In the real conflict 18 Americans died, but so did an estimated 1000 to 2000 Somalis.
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.
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.
Meaningful Echo: During the battle, Grimes manages to make some coffee and gives it to Sgt. Sanderson. After the battle, Sanderson tries to return the favor but can only find tea.
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!"
Na´ve Newcomer: Grimes has served behind a desk for his entire army career, and this is his first combat mission. This makes for plenty of opportunities for exposition.
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.
Also deconstructed in the book: General Garrison's report stated that he refused to let any of his troopers leave until the bodies of the crew of Super-Six-One were recovered. He then admitted that this cost a lot of time, resources and casualties, and probably should have been handled another way.
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.
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.
Only a Flesh Wound: Averted, as a man who got shot in the leg dies painfully (both for him and the viewers; in 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.
Refuge in Audacity: In the book, one USAF Pararescueman runs across a street to pick up IVs and medical supplies. Not once, not twice, but three times. While the Rangers and Somalis are trading fire. He doesn't get hit at all.
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 thought 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.)
Shown Their Work: Historical inaccuracies aside, the film was and remains one of the best portrayals of the US military in action, and of war in general.
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.
McKnight: No Spectre gunships, daylight instead of night, late afternoon when they're all fucked up on Khat, only part of the city Aidid can mount a serious counter-attack on short notice... What's not to like?
Title Drop: Courtesy of LTC Gary Harrell : "Black Hawk down, we have a Black Hawk down."
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 convoy 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.
Un-Person: 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.
Vehicular Turnabout: A recoilless gun mounted on a militia technical is taken over by Deltas and turned against the on-site commander.
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.
Viewers Are Morons: One of the soldiers is a desk clerk who was sent into action and distinguished himself in the battle... and then, back home, was sentenced to 30 years for repeatedly raping his underage daughter. The Pentagon demanded the character's real name to be replaced, so the filmmakers came up with 'Grimes'. However, they tried way too hard: any time Grimes appears on screen, someone calls him by name, he speaks his name, or he writes it on his helmet, letter by letter - G-R-I-M-E-S. It backfired heavily because people were eager to find out why Grimes was so important he's mentioned all the time, and very quickly uncovered the real story.
We Need a Distraction: during Hoot and the Delta team's stealth attack on the militia's recoilless cannon, Grimes—as the only non-Delta Force member of the team—is assigned a role as a momentary distraction to draw their attention right before Hoot and the Delta commandos use the opportunity to garrote the militia and hijack the cannon. Notable in that the entire scene is coordinated without a word being spoken: Hoot uses hand signals to lay out the plan.
You Are in Command Now: The Lieutenant responsible for Chalk 4 has a seizure on the eve of the battle, forcing Eversmann to lead his unit. Similarly, when Cpt. Steele's Rangers have too many wounded to continue to the crash site, Delta Sgt. Sanderson (RL Sgt. Howe) has to push on without him.
Zerg Rush: The strategy employed by the lightly armed mobs, who were only nominally under warlord control. The paramilitary forces (none of the warlords had access to a real, regular army) controlled directly by the warlords were better equipped, trained, and led, if only by comparison, and were responsible for the downings of the Blackhawks and most of the pressure put on Eversmann's strongpoint throughout the night.