War Movies: 2000 to 2010
Following my war movies I have come to the years 2000 to 2010. I find myself with a handicap as I research these movies and realize my viewing of war movies during this period has dropped off. As I began my research I have to admit I was astounded at the number of war movies made in this decade and the number I had missed (I will soon fix that). In the meantime let's take a look at a couple I have seen.
Black Hawk Down
For those of you unfamiliar with this movie and/or military terminology, a Black Hawk is a helicopter. According to helicoptersall.blogspot.com;
Blackhawk helicopters are made for war. YUH-60A was designed to sustain heavy fire with a variety of structural features. The strong but flexible body protects both the passengers and the crew under hostile firing. The self-sealing fuel tanks, together with the armored cabin and the strong main rotor blades that can sustain hits of up to 23mm anti-air keep the Blackhawk maintain its flight. The wheeled landing gears are designed to sustain and absorb heavy landing and vertical impacts.
Over the years, the Blackhawks are tested at wars and are produced into several variants. Today, the Blackhawks are used in more than 25 countries around the world with different purposes such as peacekeeping, combat assault, drug interdiction, border patrol, medical evacuation, and disaster relief.
So now you know what a Blackhawk is. The title of this movie gives a bit away, letting you know Blackhawks are shot down in this movie, but that's all the title gives away.
War Movies from 2000-2010
Flags of Our Fathers
Behind Enemy Lines
The Company of Heroes
The Last Samurai
This movie is about the war in Somalia. U.S. soldiers are sent to capture the two top advisers of a warlord in Somalia but aren't prepared for the numbers of armed renegade soldiers that meet them there. The film is based on the Battle of Mogadishu, the warlord is Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Seasoned soldiers and first time soldiers make up the American Delta Force sent on this raid. It is also based on a book written by reporter Mark Bowden. Ranger Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann is played by Josh Hartnett, Ranger Spec. Grimes by Ewan McGregor, and Steele by Jason Isaacs.
The UN peacekeeping efforts have failed, resulting in this mission. The UN held airport is the 'safe' base in this operation. Sgt. Eversmann's Chalk Four is dropped a block away by mistake, PFC Todd Blackburn (a desk clerk on his first mission) is severely injured and three Humvees are sent to rescue him, one Blackhawk helicopter is shot down, another helicopter is shot down blocks away from the first(and the pilot captured by the self-proclaimed president of Somalia, Adid)...a very intense film retelling a very intense situation. No man is ever left behind and as a result of these soldiers going in to rescue their fellow soldiers, they are there too long and more and more Somalians show up. There are no quiet times in this movie. It is constant action.
You are introduced to several of the key players in this raid including the pilots of the downed helicopters (one of whom is captured by the Somalians), the ground forces trapped by the Somalians including PFC Blackburn, the trapped soldiers, and briefly the pilots. There are many casualties and the film is hard to watch at times but it is an excellent war movie pulling no punches.
The actors playing the Rangers actually took a one week course at Fort Benning, Georgia to familiarize themselves with the reality. The Delta Force actors took a two week course from the 1st Special Warfare Training Group, at Ft. Bragg, N.C, and the actors playing the helicopter pilots were lectured by captured aviator Michael Durant at Fort Campbell, Ky.
The closing credits detail the results of the raid: 19 American soldiers were killed, with over 1,000 Somalis dead. Durant was released after 11 days of captivity. Delta snipers Gordon and Shughart were the first soldiers to be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. On August 2, 1996, Aidid was killed in a battle with a rival clan. General Garrison retired the following day.
Newsweek writer Evan Thomas said of the film, "Though it depicted a shameful defeat, the soldiers were heroes willing to die for their brothers in arms. The movie showed brutal scenes of killing, but also courage, stoicism and honor. The overall effect was stirring, if slightly pornographic, and it seemed to enhance the desire of Americans for a thumping war to avenge 9/11."
300 (Three Hundred)
Now, I take you to 480 B.C., a total massacre in Persia. The film is based on the book "300", written by Frank Miller. Though further research led me to find the book was actually a comic book and that is what led to filming it the way they did. Greg Butler is King Leonidas, Lena Heady is Queen Gorgo, and Dominic West is Theron.
King Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartan (Greek) soldiers held off a huge Persian band of soldiers...The Battle of Thermopylae. Its never explained why the King was only allowed to take 300 with him. Though there were no survivors, the courage they showed inspired the Greeks to take up the fight against Persia. Its all history.
What makes this film different is the entire film is CGI (computer generated imagery). The film has a sepia tone to it even though it is in color. The most interesting thing is actors were used (trained to bulk up first) to film the entire movie and then the movie was computer generated. They performed in front of a 'blue screen' also referred to as 'green screen'. Lena Headey (the Queen of Sparta) said of her experience with the bluescreens, "It's very odd, and emotionally, there's nothing to connect to apart from another actor. (Being in front of the blue screen there is no scenery or background.)
This is definitely not a 'chick flick' (but, yes, I cried). The battle scenes are long. There is a sub-story...King Leonidas' wife tries throughout the movie, to have more soldiers sent to her husband. A politician betrays her but though she never gets the soldiers through, the politician doesn't make it either.
Reviews weren't good but Gerard Butler (King Leonidas) was nominated for Best Performance at the 2007 MTV Movie Awards and 300 was nominated for Best Movie.
We Were Soldiers
300 was a departure from your normal war movie so I thought I'd end with "We Were Soldiers". A Viet Nam War movie, this movie is set during one of the first battles in Viet Nam and also one of the most savage in U.S. history, the battle of the Ia Drang Valley.
I chose this particular movie because my son met the real Lt. Col. Hal Moore. He was very impressed with Col. Moore, both his professional demeanor and his gentleness and suggested we watch the movie which we, of course, did.
Joe Galloway: [Narrating; voice-over] These are the true events of November, 1965, the Ia Drang Valley of Vietnam, a place our country does not remember, in a war it does not understand. This story's a testament to the young Americans who died in the valley of death, and a tribute to the young men of the People's Army of Vietnam who died by our hand in that place. To tell this story, I must start at the beginning. But where does it begin? Maybe in June of 1954 when French Group Mobile 100 moved into the same central highlands of Vietnam where we would go 11 years later.
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: Nothing's wrong except there's nothing wrong!
Sgt. Ernie Savage: Good morning, Sergeant Major.
Sergeant Major Basil Plumley: How do you know what kind of goddamn day it is?
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: I'll never forgive myself.
Joseph Galloway: For what, sir?
Lt. Colonel Hal Moore: That my men... that my men died and I didn't.
Joe Galloway was a 24 year old newspaper reporter covering stories in Viet Nam on the Viet Nam War...He had been to several locations in Viet Nam but wanted to cover an area where there was action. " From November 14 to November 16, fewer than 500 troops of the Army's 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, fought almost nonstop against a force of North Vietnamese regulars that outnumbered them 7 to 1. The Americans fought tenaciously, and suffered dearly. The unit's casualty rate was 44 percent—79 killed and 121 wounded. As Galloway was about to fly out to file his story, he faced Lt. Col. Hal Moore, commander of the 7th Cav battalion. Tears bathed both faces. "Go tell America what these brave men did," Moore said. "Tell them how their sons died." Quote is from US News.
Lieutenant Colonel Moore had a distinguished service record including his graduation from West Point in 1945 followed by his service with the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in Japan from 1945 until 1948. In 1948 he was assigned to Fort Bragg where he signed up to test parachutes and completed 300 jumps and became a Master Parachutist. His next assignment was as Regimental and then Divisional Assistant Chief-of-Staff, Operations and Plans. In 1954, as a Major, he served as an instructor at West Point. (He taught Norman Schwarzkopf.) He followed this stint with attendance at Command and General Staff College and did a three-year tour in the Office, Chief of Research and Development where he helped develop new airborne equipment and airborne/air assault tactics. Next, he graduated from College completed a three-year tour with Headquarters, Allied Forces Northern Europe in Norway. In 1964 he earned a Masters Degree at Harvard University, after which transferred to Fort Benning and commanded a battalion in the 11th Air Assault Division, undergoing air assault and air mobility training and tests until July 1965, when the Division was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hal_Moore) This is where we meet Lt. Col. Moore, when he took his unit, the 1st Battalion, 7th U.S. Cavalry to South Vietnam.
The movie is told from the prospective of Joe Galloway (Barry Pepper) and Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson). The part of Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley was played by Sam Elliott and Maj. Bruce "Snake" Crandall was played by Gregg Kinnear. (The movie is based on the book "We Were Soldiers Once" co-written by Galloway and Moore.) Like all war movies based on fact this was a hard movie to watch. The soldiers fought valiantly but the death toll is hard to digest. It is sad and it gets bloody but the soldiers, both men and boys, fought bravely and together.
Todd McCarthy, from Variety, said the film "presents the fighting realistically, violently and relatively coherently given the chaotic circumstances..." McCarthy further said, "Mel Gibson has the closest thing to a John Wayne part that anyone's played since the Duke himself rode into the sunset, and he plays it damn well." He summarized with, "Gibson's performance anchors the film with commanding star power to burn. This officer truly loves his men, and the credibility with which the actor is able to express Moore's leadership qualities as well as his sensitive side is genuinely impressive." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Were_Soldiers)
I've told you a lot of facts, some fiction, and a little bit about the movie...what happens now? You see the movie and decide for yourself!
Thank you for reading my series on War Movies. Every one of them has a story to tell, some factual and some based on fact but all sad because of the loss of lives no matter how much humor or satire they contain.
Please leave a comment and feel free to tell us about your favorite war movies.
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We Were Soldiers Video
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