This is why 'Black Hawk Down' has the best military movie cast ever - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

When “Black Hawk Down” hit theatres in 2001, it was marketed as a cast of ‘no names’. The real “stars” were the elite troops depicted onscreen: the Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers and 160th SOAR pilots who made up Task Force Ranger in the fall of 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The movie chronicles their 18-hour battle with Somali militias in which 18 Americans died.


But in the 15 years since, Black Hawk Down’s cast has turned into a roster of certified Hollywood A-listers or perennial movie “That Guys.” In fact, BHD’s alumni have made more big movies than any other military ensemble cast.

BoxOfficeMojo.com is a website that tracks career box office earnings of hundreds of actors.  All told, the movies featuring Black Hawk Down alumni have been in have earned a staggering $12.6 billion – more than the combined career box office for the cast of Oceans 11.

The cast falls into three military groups:

The $B-BoysBlack Hawk Down actors who crossed the billion-dollar line (in the book, though less so in the movie, Delta Force is nicknamed “D-boys”)

The Regulars – you know their faces, if not their names

Asymmetric Warriors – Two roles – a Delta Force operator and a 24th Special Tactics Squadron pararescueman – were played by actors who now have massive careers, but not as traditional movie stars. We had to measure their careers differently (leave it to JSOC to be hard to pin down).

The $B-Boys

Orlando Bloom, “PFC Todd Blackburn”

 

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

 

Career Box Office:  $2,815,831,431

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: an elf or a pirate.

The wispy, slightly-sour-faced Brit spends just a few minutes on screen and hardly speaks. But after five installments of “Lord of the Rings” and three “Pirates of the Caribbean,” movies starring Bloom have made more money than those starring George Clooney or Brad Pitt (whom Bloom starred with in “Troy”).

Ewan McGregor, “PFC John Grimes”

 

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

 

Career Box Office: $2,080,785,955

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: a Jedi; lusting for life.

He was a brash talking, un-Tabbed underachiever consigned to coffee duty until pushed outside the wire, but McGregor’s John Grimes – “Grimesy” – was the closest thing to an Everyman in the movie. But by the time Black Hawk Down hit screens, McGregor had already played Obi Wan Kenobi in the “Phantom Menace,” with two other mega Star Wars prequels just ahead. Together, they pulled in $1.1 Billion.

William Fichtner, “SFC Jeff Sanderson”

 

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

 

Estimated Box Office*: $1,495,000,000

You hardly recognize him when he’s not: getting killed.

Fichtner, one of the all-time That Guys in movie history, might be America’s answer to Sean Bean, the oft-murdered Englishman. Fichtner dies a lot. He’s met his on-screen fate on George Clooney’s doomed fishing boat (“The Perfect Storm”) and as an outlaw in Johnnie Depp’s wild west (“The Lone Ranger”), and only barely survived Bruce Willis’ doomed space shuttle (“Armageddon”). In Black Hawk Down, Fichtner’s fiction Delta soldier Sanderson is a battlefield Svengali, coaxing a team of scared, out-gunned Rangers through the day’s fight. He grows ever cooler as the fire gets heavier, dispensing tactical hints that also serve as deep life wisdom (“stay off the walls”).

*Fichtner, like several Black Hawk Down actors, doesn’t register on BoxOfficeMojo. So we added up only the giant hits you’ve almost definitely forgotten he was in.

Tom Hardy, “Pvt. Lance Twombly”

 

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $1,242,535,310

Oh, it’s the guy from: “driving for his life in a desert hell hole. But with girls.”

For 12 years after the movie’s release, Hardy wasn’t even the most famous actor among his small trio of Rangers separated from the main force. One of the soldiers, Nelson, is temporarily deaf, a condition played for laughs by Ewan Bremner, a.k.a. Spud from “Trainspotting.” But in 2012, he played Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and stole the summer of 2015 in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Jason Isaacs, “Cpt. Michael Steele”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box office: $1,952,955,239

Oh, it’s the guy who is usually: a punchable, dickish authority figure. But in a wig.

Some guy you definitely don’t know has made two billion dollars – pretty funny, hooah? As one of many roles in a classic “That Guy” career, Isaacs plays Cpt. Steele, the uptight Ranger commander who spends most of the movie not getting along with Delta’s cool kids. His most famous moment is as the butt of Eric Bana’s classic joke, “this is my safety, sir.” Steele was right on type for Isaacs, who was also a total dick to Harry Potter as Lucius Malfoy and to 18th-century churchgoers in “The Patriot.”

Ioan Gruffudd, “Lt. John Beales”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

 

$1,429,115,324

Oh, I think he was in: A total disaster, probably (“San Andreas,” “Titanic”).

A career character actor, Gruffudd has played small-to-medium roles in almost 20 films that, combined, have brought in a little over $800 million. He also played a bit part in one of the biggest hits of all time, “Titanic.” The role was so small that BoxOfficeMojo doesn’t count it, but we’re giving it to him. Grufford plays 5th Officer Harold Lowe, who in both the movie and real life, was the only officer who went back to rescue survivors in the water. It’s Grufford who rescues Kate Winslet – and what is “Black Hawk Down” at heart if not a rescue mission? We’re counting it in Gruffudd’s total.

Eric Bana, “Sgt. 1st Class Norm ‘Hoot’ Gibson”

 

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $1,029,166,799

Oh, isn’t that the guy from: Tough one. You know you know Bana.

He’s definitely “a movie star.” But he’s never held top billing in a major hit. His fictionalized Delta operator Gibson – who bookends the movie with meditative soliloquies on combat and soldiering – might be Bana’s defining role. Still, Bana is a hell of a 2nd Chair, scoring 9-digit box office in “Troy,” “Star Trek,” and “Lone Survivor.” And as a sheer badass, he reached near-“Hoot” levels as an Israeli assassin in “Munich.”

The Regulars

Tom Sizemore, “Col. Danny McKnight”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office*: $780,000,000

Oh, it’s that guy from: same character type, different war.

Sizemore’s career has been a string of grizzled combat leaders, including Sgt. Horvath in Saving Private Ryan, another NCO in Pearl Harbor and shoot-first detective Sgt. Jack Scagnetti (great name!) in Natural Born Killers. In BHD, when gunfire breaks out, he memorably orders a nervous Ranger: “shoot back.”

*Like Fichtner, we looked at Sizemore’s biggest hits and rounded up.

Josh Hartnett, “Sgt. Matt Eversmann”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $678,425,308

Wait, was he in…: not much lately, tbh.

With all the future superstars and famous faces, it’s a little jarring to look back and realize that Hartnett was the guy featured on BHD’s original movie poster. Much of the movie tracks his trial by fire as a new Ranger team leader. But after BHD, Hartnett’s career stalled. He played the lead in Pearl Harbor, as bad a military movie as BHD is a good one, and hasn’t been in a big hit – or big poster – since.

Jeremy Piven, “CW3 Cliff ‘Elvis’ Walcott”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $575,659,624

Hey, it’s: Ari!

Jeremy Piven has played in about 60 films but he’ll never escape being Ari Gold, the preening talent agent in HBO’s “Entourage.” Unfortunately, Piven plays his role as 160th pilot Walcott in full proto-Gold style, with cocky, hot-shot dialogue that sound more like “Top Gun” than 160th operators. Piven isn’t on BoxOfficeMojo, but he did make six movies with John Cusak, so we modified Cusak’s career box office total for Piven.

Tom Guiry, “Staff Sgt. Ed Yurek”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $388,375*

Guiry is a chalk leader in BHD, where he’s unrecognizable from his only other well-known role, the kid-classic “The Sandlot.” I just hope that when he “fired” his weapon on set, his intended target always yelled, “You’re killing me, Smalls!”

(*the record price paid for a Babe Ruth autographed baseball)

Sam Shepard, “General William Garrison”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: unavailable

Look, I’ve covered Sam Shepard.

Asymmetric Warriors

Ty Burrell, “Tech. Sgt. Tim Wilkinson”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office*: $698,000,000

Oh, it’s the guy who: hasn’t been funny since Season 2.

In late 1998, about when BHD came out as a book, I was a trainee at the Pararescue Indoctrination course in San Antonio – a ‘cone’ as you’re called before graduating – when Wilkinson visited. Our class knew Wilkinson as one of two Air Force PJs that fast-roped into the heart of the fighting. He gave our class a great pep talk about sticking together and, even more impressively, jumped into our training for a day. That night, our class went out for a team dinner at an Outback. Wilkinson and two of our instructors were there. After eating, we tried to sneak out but the instructors caught us and put us through several sets of feet-up pushups in the parking lot as confused diners looked on. As we knocked them out, I remember seeing Wilkinson with his arms folded, laughing his ass off.

I tell this story here to distract you from noticing that one of the most decorated PJs in history is played by the dad from “Modern Family.”

*guess-timate of Modern Family’s total ad and syndication revenue

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “SFC Gary Gordon”

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Box Office: $560,000,000*

Oh, it’s: Cersei’s Bro With Benefits.

Waldau plays Gary Gordon, one of two Delta soldiers awarded the Medal of Honor for volunteering to be dropped on a crash site to defend an injured crew. Both were killed in the firefight. And now he’s the Kingslayer. That’s about as badass as a “That Guy” gets.

(*we used the total revenue Game of Thrones effect on HBO in subscriptions, DVD sales and rights fees).

MIGHTY MOVIES

This documentary showcases vets treating PTSD with psychedelics

There’s no perfect treatment for the psychological ailments that veterans face when returning from combat. What works for one veteran may not work for another — in some cases, it may even make things worse. Unfortunately, the burden of finding the best method of treatment (which usually involves endless hours of trial and error) is almost always placed squarely on the shoulders of those preoccupied with coping with post-traumatic stress.

For some folks, taking prescription medication helps — and that’s great. For others, those same medications may cause more harm than good. The veterans for which standard treatments don’t work often feel as if they’re being tossed into a box and told to just keep taking pills until the problem is better. We can all agree that there has got to be a better solution, but it’s not an easy ask — there’s no magic wand to wave to make the bad life experiences just go away.

So, to take some steps in the positive direction, some veterans are venturing into the taboo. From Shock to Awe, a new documentary that comes out November 12, follows two veterans as they embark on a journey into psychedelic medicines to try and finally find peace and balance.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch R. Lee Ermey laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery

The United States Marine Corps gave its final goodbye to one of its most famous and most revered alums, actor and Vietnam veteran R. Lee Ermey, on Jan. 18, 2018 as his remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. The revered Gunny died on Apr. 15, 2018 at age 74 from complications during pneumonia treatment.

His body was cremated after death, and his ashes were buried with full military honors.


This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Ermey as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket.”

There was more to R. Lee Ermey’s life than just the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film that made his career while defining the image of the Marine Corps Drill Instructor. He was the living embodiment of a Marine who never gives up, being forced into the military, working a bar and brothel after leaving the service, and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him.

Read On: 5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

The man we know as “Gunny” was medically discharged in 1972, and didn’t even make the rank of Gunnery Sgt. until after his military career. That’s how important his image is to the Corps. Even though his Hollywood career began to flag as he aged, he was always a vocal supporter of the military and the troops who comprise it.

His internment at Arlington was delayed due to the backlog of funeral services there. The backlog for eligible veterans to be buried there is so great that even a veteran of Ermey’s stature – a Vietnam War-era Marine who served in aviation and training – must wait several months before the services can be performed.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Marine’s epic journey from service to ‘LOST’ to ‘Jack Ryan’

Graham Roland always knew he wanted to be a writer. The problem out of high school was that he didn’t really know what he was going to write about. The answer would come when he joined the United States Marine Corps in November of 2000, becoming a Forward Observer. After nearly a year of training, he reported to his reserve unit.

Two months later, the 9/11 attacks occurred. For the next three years, he experienced a series of false alarms before finally deploying to Fallujah in 2005. He experienced what many service members do when transitioning out of the military, and certainly when returning home from a combat deployment: culture shock and heightened anxiousness, though he didn’t recognize it at the time.

Instead, he jumped right into film school — a fortuitous decision.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZwEBHc_PBw
PRISON BREAK Trailer (FOX Series – 2017)

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Prison Break

Thanks to the mentorship of one of his professors, Robert Engels, Roland was encouraged to write a television script. In 2006, television was just beginning to morph into the epic storytelling platform it is today. With shows on the air like Dexter, The Sopranos, The Shield, Deadwood, and of course LOST, television was becoming a new beast for dramatic writing.

Roland’s script was strong enough to land him management with Gotham Group and a job as a staff writer for the final season of Prison Break in 2008.

For anyone unfamiliar with the writing industry, landing a high-caliber manager and a staff writing position are both extremely coveted and competitive accomplishments. Roland didn’t take the opportunity lightly.

“To this day, that was the longest single writing contract I’ve ever had. That was more my film school than actual film school,” he recalled. The showrunner, Matt Olmstead, made the effort to mentor his young writers, offering them the chance to write a script. It was up to them to excel.

Needless to say, Roland did.

Lost Trailer (First Season)

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LOST

After the series finale of Prison Break, Roland’s writing landed him another epic show: LOST. By joining the writers’ room in its final season, Roland was able to enter as a fan first, which he described as intimidating.

“It wasn’t just a phenomenon for everyone else; I was also a huge fan so it was also a very important show for me. When I came on board, it was like a peek behind the curtain. It’s a process of people going to work every day, only now I was writing these characters that I had loved,” he shared.

Roland’s role was a unique one because he was joining the team as a fan; he literally got to help share what he wanted to see based on watching the first five seasons along with the rest of us.

“I don’t know that there will ever be another LOST. There will never be another show that so many people watch live and then talk about it. Game of Thrones did it but so few people watch shows in real time. Especially now when there are hundreds of shows to watch, it’s rare for people to care enough to watch it live. TV is evolving.”

Fringe Trailer 1

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FRINGE

From LOST, Roland transitioned into another Bad Robot enterprise: Fringe. There, he was not only a writer — he received his first producer credit as well. He worked on seasons 3-5 of Fringe, which he described as the most imaginative writers’ room of his career.

“For me, this was the job where I actually got my confidence. I’m still learning to this day, but on my first two shows I really still felt like a student.” It was on Fringe that he had bosses who encouraged him to produce episodes, to go to set, and to take ownership of creative responsibilities. He was able to expand and grow in an environment where he was trusted and valued.

The Returned – Trailer

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“A Dark Chapter”

After the stream of successes, Roland experienced a few creative set-backs. In 2013, he was brought on to Almost Human to work on the show midway through the first season, which would ultimately also be the last. The show was cancelled after its first season.

“Sadly, by the time we were cancelled, we had just started to figure out what the show should be,” he reminisced.

Not one to sit still for long, Roland reunited with LOST’s Carlton Cuse to create The Returned, an experiment for AE that would prove to be a great experience for Roland as a producer, if not a success for a network built on an audience accustomed to reality television.

Though The Returned would also be cancelled after its first season, his working relationship with Cuse, however, was just beginning.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 1 – Official Trailer | Prime Video

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Jack Ryan

In 2015, Roland took an open writing assignment from Paramount, who was looking for someone to bring a fresh take to the iconic character of Jack Ryan. They liked his take, but they were wary of hiring him as a first-time showrunner (“rightly so,” Roland generously stated).

So he teamed up with Carlton Cuse.

Together, they created the first two seasons for release on Amazon. It was an entirely new experience for Roland. By then, HBO and Netflix had significantly raised the bar for the production value of television, which Amazon was eager to reproduce. The first season took nearly three years to create, expanding over five continents.

“I will always be grateful for the opportunity it gave me to travel all over the world and make a TV show. I’m proud of how ambitious we were,” he said, looking back on the experience.

After the first two seasons, Roland decided to step aside and explore something closer to his own roots.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Graham Roland and director Morten Tyldum on the set of ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’ in Marrakech.

(Image courtesy of Graham Roland)

HBO and beyond

“The things I’m working on now are all things I’m really passionate about. Not that I wasn’t passionate about my previous jobs, but Jack Ryan has afforded me the opportunity to pick and choose what I want to work on,” he shared. One of the things he’s working on next is a show for HBO based on the Navajo Nation in the 1970s, which gives Roland a chance to reconnect with and explore his own Native American heritage.

Another project he has in the works is a film about the cartels in the 90s.

When I asked him for how his military service has informed his career, he shared that there’s a misconception that the military community isn’t necessarily artistic. “But that’s not correct,” he affirmed. “There are a lot of people with an artistic drive who ended up serving. If you get out of the military and you want to work in this industry, whether as an actor, writer, or director, the door is open to you.”

Roland is a mentor for the Writers Guild Foundation’s Veterans Writing Workshop, which helps veterans develop screenplays and pilots. SAG-AFTRA has also been holding classes for military veterans as well.

“When I first started working, I didn’t know any other veterans. I felt behind, but I learned that the industry is now starting to recognize that veterans carry professionalism, tact, and leadership skills with them from their service. To get anything made, it takes intense collaboration, which the military does well.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun 2’ will fly the F/A-18 Super Hornet, not the F-35

The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.

The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.

A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.

Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”


Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.

The F-35 community was not thrilled.

“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.

“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”

While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.

The F-35B had its first operational deployment in 2018 in the Pacific, but the F-35C remains a ways off from adoption onto the US Navy’s fleet of aircraft supercarriers. Persistent problems with launching the sophisticated airplane off a moving ship have pushed back the schedule and resulted in huge cost overruns.

Meanwhile, the F-18 Super Hornet continues to do the lion’s share of combat-aviation work aboard aircraft carriers, and its maker, Boeing, has even offered an updated version of the plane that President Donald Trump entertained buying instead of the F-35.

In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.

“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”

He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”

Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.

The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.

“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.

But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This epic video game’s ‘ultimate edition’ facelift paid off

As we endure the long wait for titles like “No Man’s Sky,” “Battlefield 1,” and “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare,” We Are The Mighty decided to dust off some old games in the archives.


“Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” is the re-mastered version of the 2006 game known for its chainsaw kills, ‘roided up characters, and brutal gameplay. It allows players to fight as Delta Squad soldiers against the dreaded Locusts, an army of bug-like monsters, in H.D. Players control Marcus Fenix or Dominic Santiago in a mission to map Locust tunnels and deploy a Lightmass Bomb – imagine a cross between napalm and a nuclear bomb.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
The Lightmass bomb would be pretty useful in real life. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)

For most of the game, Delta squad consists of four members which the player can give simple orders to as they face off against Boomers – massive infantrymen who fire explosive grenades, Berserkers – unstoppable linebackers who will charge players, Locust Drones – standard infantrymen, and others.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

The fights progress from the ruins of major cities and through underground tunnels and mines before culminating on a moving train. Features of the different areas, such as whether or not the area is exposed to satellites or is lit by the sun, change the combat mechanics and keep the player on their toes.

The main antagonist, General RAAM, is the head of all Locust forces and is known for his ruthlessness. He executes one human after another in brutal ways and is able to control a flock of krill, bat-like creatures that will attack Delta soldiers en mass and tear them apart.

Considering how far out the game’s plot and enemies are, it features surprisingly realistic combat mechanics. Players need to maneuver carefully and use cover to bring down the Locust grunts and massive monsters. In two-player mode, players can support each other during attacks, even when the map forces them to use two different routes.

Players have to endure a number of different scenarios in the main game, everything from defending a stranded outpost like they’re on a firebase being overrun to assaulting an enemy strongpoint defended by elite warriors.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Players need to support each other in multiplayer mode. Despite the small teams, the fighting is still intense. (GIF: Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on Xbox 1)

In multiplayer mode, modern gamers may be surprised that most game types support four versus four multiplayer, and one only supports two versus two. But, these smaller teams make the fighting feel less hectic and more personal, creating less chaos and supporting tactical play.

Of course, the re-mastered graphics make everything in “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition” look more realistic and prettier than in the original. While this breaks from the aesthetic of the 2006 version, a notoriously gritty experience, it still feels like Delta Squad is in the suck.

For gamers who haven’t gotten into “Gears of War” yet or who want a refresher before the release of “Gears of War 4” in October, the Ultimate Edition is great fun.

Articles

Everything about ‘The Force Awakens’ First Order Stormtroopers in 700 words

The Imperial Stormtroopers featured in Star Wars are a big deal. Culturally, they are one of the most recognizable henchmen and foot soldiers in all of American pop culture history. So when we see so many iterations of the iconic armor, it makes sense that so many want to know more about them… and that they care about what lies beneath.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens features new kinds of specialty Imperial troops as well as updates on the original, iconic Imperial Stormtrooper, not to mention Gwendoline Christie’s chrome-plated trooper armor she wears as Captain Phasma.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
I mean, shiny armor in combat seems like a bad idea, but it doesn’t seem so bad here.

The First Order Flametrooper is a specialized Stormtrooper. They carry incendiary weapons that “turn any battlefield into an infernal blaze.” Flamethrowers are not exactly a battlefield innovation, though since this was “a long time ago,” it might have been for them. It does speak to the evil nature of the First Order since the weapon was banned by the Geneva Convention.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
… But it still uses liquid fuel, pumps, and hose technology.

See Also: EA releases combat stats for ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ and the results are amazing

And then there’s the updated First Order Snowtrooper. Let’s be honest, the Snowtroopers were the only troops from the original trilogy who had any effectiveness on the battlefield. The Snowtroopers captured the Rebel base on Hoth, where regular Stormtroopers couldn’t duck while entering doorways and Imperial Scouts couldn’t even beat Ewoks on a planet they occupied long enough to build the Death Star.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Also, the original Snowtroopers don’t seem all that warm.

But even though no one in the audience ever saw the faces underneath Stormtrooper armor in the previous films, the idea of a Stormtrooper being a black man caught a few people by surprise when audiences first saw actor John Boyega in the armor. It doesn’t make much sense for people to be surprised since the Armed Forces have historically led the way for racial and other forms of integration.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Draftees in Korea on their way to the front.

Finn (played by John Boyega) doesn’t think it’s important either.

“I really don’t care about the black stormtrooper stuff,” he said.  “This is a movie about human beings, about Wookiees, spaceships, and TIE fighters, and it has an undertone and a message of courage, and a message of friendship, and loyalty. And I think that’s something that is ultimately important.”

Which is pretty much the same takeaway anyone who served had when President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which abolished racial discrimination in the U.S. military. Three years later, the U.S. was fighting in Korea. In war, as one Korea-era Marine Corps officer once told me, “after you’ve fought alongside a man, it doesn’t matter what color he is, you gotta respect his fighting ability.”

See Also: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq Afghanistan

Joe Owen, then a Marine Corps lieutenant and author of Colder Than Hell, a retrospective about his time in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, remembered getting two young black men in his mortar company.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Joe Owen, age 90.

“We had some black guys who came to us who were named squad leaders. Some of our people objected to this. Two Marines from the first platoon approached me and asked for a transfer to my outfit because a black guy was their squad leader. They refused to take orderes from him,” Owen recalled. “I told them they were going to take orders from a  Sergeant of Marines and that they were to go back to their outfit. After one night of fighting the Chinese, that squad leader was killed. I was on the detail of carrying the dead and wounded to battalion, and as I’m taking my column down, those same two Southerners came up to me and said they wanted to go with their squad leader and carry his body down because they said they wanted to pay proper respect to the best goddamn squad leader in the Marine Corps. That’s how that was settled.”

What the First Order Stormtrooper needs most is the ability to stop and aim. Kylo Ren was a Marine for crying out loud. Empire Fi.

MIGHTY MOVIES

A conversation with ‘Midway’ director

Here’s a short list of items on Roland Emmerich’s bookshelf: a bronze Chewbacca bust; props from Godzilla and Stargate; and copies of Frank Hebert’s Dune, Lewis Alsamari’s Out of Iraq, and Seth Grahame-Smith’s The Big Book of Porn.

I was invited to his sophisticated (and exceptionally nerdy) office space to talk about the director’s latest film, Midway, which chronicles the Pacific Theater during World War II beginning with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor through the Battle of Midway — the pivotal turning point for Allied forces.

What followed was a conversation with a man who knows more about WW2 naval and aerial warfare than most and used his passion to create a film that honors the heroes in the Pacific.


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Midway begins with the Japanese attacks against Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, continues to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese mainland in April 1942, the Battle of Coral Sea the next month, and finally the decisive Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942.

Emmerich became fascinated with the (insane) dive bombing tactics conducted by Allied pilots in the Pacific Theater and knew how important it was to convey the challenges the pilots faced. After studying WW2 footage, he knew he had to get those attacks right on film.

“It could not look like visual effects. That was the biggest challenge — but of course it couldn’t be practical,” Emmerich shared, the implication obvious: it isn’t exactly easy to blow up a bunch of WW2 battleships or aircraft carriers. His standards were high: any shots that didn’t work for him were cut.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

A group photo of the American dive bomber pilots of VB-6 from Enterprise, three of whom fatally damaged Akagi. Best is sitting in the center of the front row. The other two who attacked Akagi with Best were Edwin J. Kroeger (standing, eighth from the left) and Frederick T. Weber (standing, sixth from the right).

In his Director’s Commentary, Emmerich points out moments where he had to walk the fine line between accuracy and entertainment. Richard “Dick” Best was the dive bomber pilot who was able to sink the Akagi aircraft carrier against terrible odds and at great danger to himself.

“We had problems depicting the dive bombing. We tried to shoot it practically but we struggled because the pilot wasn’t diving steep enough. I asked if he could go steeper and he said if he dove any steeper then he could die,” which Emmerich acknowledged was a fair point. “And then you realize…oh my god, these [World War II pilots] were daredevils! Nobody flies like those guys anymore.”

I am so honored to share with you all that Midway is now on Digital. Be sure to grab yourself a copy today!pic.twitter.com/ysCvON4ZEK

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“We didn’t want to just show the Japanese as the bad guys. The men fighting the war weren’t responsible for the decision to start the war,” Emmerich said. His uncle was a German pilot in the European Theater, so he knows all too well the wounds carried over on both sides of World War II. It was important that he depict the humanity and honor of the men who lost their lives in the conflict.

I couldn’t tear myself away from his audio commentary that comes with the Blu-Ray package: his World War II knowledge, his artistic choices, and his respect for the military community were so clear.

Though known for his doomsday themes (think 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and even Independence Day), Emmerich considers himself an optimist. His films, though huge in scope and destruction, concentrate on people — the heroes who endure, the lone voices that cry out against ignorance, the people who fight to protect each other.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

4K UHD / BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Audio Commentary by Roland Emmerich
  • “Getting It Right: The Making ofMidway” Featurette
  • “The Men of Midway” Featurette
  • “Roland Emmerich: Manon a Mission” Featurette
  • “Turning Point: The Legacy ofMidway” Featurette
  • “Joe Rochefort: Breaking the Japanese Code” Featurette
  • “We Met at Midway: Two Survivors Remember” Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
Midway is available now on Digital and on 4K Ultra HD , Blu-ray, and DVD from Lionsgate.
Articles

9 of the most memorable pop songs from war movies

Nothing makes a war movie pop like its soundtrack. Films that are scored by famous composers stay with us forever. Hans Zimmer did “Black Hawk Down,” “Saving Private Ryan,” was scored by John Williams, and of course, the most famous war film score ever, Maurice Jarre’s work for the WWI epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”


But not every war movie needs to be scored. There are a few movies where a well-placed pop song is an epic use of screen time. When a director uses a “needle drop,” it can push the scene into something unforgettable.

1. “What A Wonderful World” from “Good Morning Vietnam”

In a movie full of great music and memorable scenes, how do you even choose the most poignant? Barry Levinson’s 1987 film juxtaposes Louis Armstrong’s classic song with imagery of the men fighting the war, the civilians caught in the middle, and the corruption of the South Vietnamese regime.

2. “Danger Zone” from “Top Gun”

No opening sequence starts a movie better than the song that keeps Kenny Loggins in the money to this day. The Navy even used this movie as recruiting tool, with a full 90 percent of applicants reporting that they’d seen “Top Gun” the year it came out.

3. “The End” from “Apocalypse Now”

Did I say “Top Gun” has the best opening scene song? It has to compete with the first shots of “Apocalypse Now,” featuring the Doors’ “The End”.

4. “Tracks of My Tears” from “Platoon”

Charlie Sheen gives us a stark vision of his future, jamming with his friends to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1965 hit, smoking all manner of things while knocking back a few beers. This scene is just as iconic as the Sgt. Elias death scene or the end of the movie, where Sheen’s character looks back on his tour.

5. “Surfin’ Bird” from “Full Metal Jacket”

Sure there are many great musical moments in Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic Vietnam War film. “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs playing when Joker and Rafterman meet Animal Mother is the start of something beautiful, not to mention the other iconic music scene that bridges the basic training and war sequences.

The Trashmen’s 1963 song “Surfin’ Bird” dominates as the Americans push the NVA back from Hué City.

6. “Do Wah Diddy” from “Stripes”

I think the YouTube commenter Brian Buchanan said it best about this scene from the Bill Murray and Harold Ramis comedy “Stripes” — “Funny scene, but these two morons would be doing push up ’til they died.”

7. “Dream Lover” from “Hot Shots”

Yeah, “Hot Shots” isn’t a real war movie in the sense that anything really happened but you can say that about “The Hurt Locker” too. Even so, I’ll never forget when Topper Harley sees Ramada Rodham Hayman for the first time.

“I was really impressed with the way you handled that stallion. You know, when I saw you dig your heels into his sides, tighten up the reigns, and break his spirit, I never wanted to be a horse so much in my life.”

8. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” from “Top Gun”

If this movie and Kenny Loggins prompted a bunch of people to join the Navy, I wonder how many late-80s women had to put up with guys singing to them in bars until the fall of Communism.

9. “Sgt. Mackenzie” from “We Were Soldiers”

While not technically a pop song, this song was written about the singer’s grandfather’s service in WWI and is undeniably awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new series examines what it’s like to serve during peacetime

There is a very robust veteran community within the entertainment industry. Veterans in Media and Entertainment is a nonprofit networking organization that unites current and former members of the military working in the film and television industry. The Writers Guild Foundation has a year-long writing program for veterans. And hey, We Are The Mighty is a company founded on a mission to capture, empower, and celebrate the voice of today’s military community.

The military community makes up a small percentage of Americans, but plays a global — and exceptionally challenging — role. It makes sense that many veterans have stories to tell. Not all of those stories are about their military experiences, but many are. Hollywood loves a good hero story, but there’s more to the military than those few moments of bravery.

The military is a mind f*** unique lifestyle, one that does involve war and sacrifice, but also really weird laws and random adventures — and in a Post-9/11 world, we are now seeing an influx of veterans ready to dissect that world.

Enter Xanthe Pajarillo.


This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Xanthe Pajarillo.

“Veteran narratives are begging for more diversity. When our representation in the media is limited to war heroes or trauma victims, it creates a skewed portrait of who service members are,” said Pajarillo, the creator of Airmen, a web series that explores the dynamics of queerness, romantic/workplace relationships, and being a person of color in the Air Force during peacetime operations. It emphasizes the unshakable bonds and relationships that veterans make during their time in service.

Airmen was awarded an “Honorable Mention” from the Tim Disney Prize for Excellence in the Storytelling Arts in 2017. The prize celebrates the courage and commitment to make the world a better place — and the originality to do it through the unique powers of gifted storytelling.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Chloe Mondesir, who will play Airman 1st Class Mercedes Magat.

It’s important to recognize that there is much more to military service than what is traditionally portrayed in film and television (which tends to be the rare stories of heroism in battle and/or the traumatic effects of war).

American society has placed heroes on a pedestal, which is a very high standard to meet for our troops — and one that often involves a life-threatening circumstance. Not every troop will see combat (this is a good thing… but we don’t always feel that way when other members of our team are shouldering the burdens of war), and even those who do engage in battle but live when others die experience survivor’s guilt and symptoms of trauma.

It’s time to tell the reality of military service: the warrior’s tale, yes, but more importantly, the stories of the humans living their lives while wearing the uniform.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

“Ultimately, I created Airmen to help bridge the gap between civilians and veterans. The characters are active duty, but their experiences are universal. We are complex individuals with successes, failures, and insecurities just like everyone else. I hope when someone watches the show – civilian or veteran – they’ll feel less alone in the world,” says Pajarillo.

Which is exactly what Airmen is setting out to do — and now the series is ready for the next stage of production, beginning with a campaign at SeedSpark, a platform designed to change the entertainment industry to reflect the world we actually live in.

The campaign will launch on July 16 and run for 30 days to reach a ,750 goal. Contributions will be used towards production and post-production of nine episodes, each running 5-7 minutes long. Upon completion, the episodes will be released weekly and made available to view on a streaming platform, such as Vimeo or YouTube.

The series stars U.S. Marine Corps veteran (and We Are The Mighty favorite) Chloe Mondesir and U.S. Navy veterans Blu Lindsey and Brandon Elonzae, with many other vets in the cast and crew.

The most authentic way to get military stories is from the people who lived them. Check out the series page and consider contributing to their campaign — it’s a perfect way to thank an artist for their service.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This journalist witnessed the rise of ISIS up close—and now he’s telling the story​

In 2007 I was a fresh-out-to-pasture journalist, trying not to lose my sanity as an Army wife and stay at home mom. I had worked most recently as a reporter for The Fayetteville Observer, but my husband, a Special Forces soldier, kept getting deployed. We couldn’t afford a nanny, and no daycare in town stayed open late enough to watch our son until I could get off work.


The Observer offered me an opportunity to write a blog and two weekly columns from home, and that’s how I came to meet Mike Giglio, a fresh-out-of-college writer for Charlotte Magazine, working on a story about military families at Ft. Bragg.

Giglio has written a book now, “Shatter the Nations: ISIS and the War for the Caliphate” – an open wound of a book, as raw and bleeding as the conflict itself.

But back in 2007, he came to my house, sat in my living room, made the requisite comments about the adorableness of my toddler, and interviewed me. He has since told me that I was the first person he had interviewed about war. He has interviewed many, many more people since. He wrote then:

Rebekah Sanderlin looks like an Army wife from a movie: the hero pulls out her picture in the opening scene, she has dark hair, engaging eyes, and a warm smile, she’s holding his kid, and you’re already hoping he makes it out of this thing alive.

12 years and as many deployments later, my husband and I are still married and, indeed, he appears to have made it out of this thing alive.

I followed Giglio’s career from a distance after that, watching as his byline hopped up to the big leagues and then across the ocean, first to London and then to Istanbul, and then right into the heart of war.

Now a journalist for The Atlantic, he spent four years living in Turkey and Syria, interviewing members of the Islamic State, their enablers, and legions of others who were pushing back against ISIS’ terror quest for power, embedding with U.S. military units as well as low-level groups of resistance fighters.
This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

(The Atlantic)

His book is part memoir, part chronicle. We see the early movements of ISIS in the form of sources and scoops that grow into defeats and victories. He is unflinching in the descriptions but avoids the war-porn tendencies lesser writers find irresistible. There are no heroes and no villains, only humans showing up, day after day. Characters come and go, lost to war and the swirling chaos of life. There are no neat and tidy endings. This is news – news never ends.

His sparse, direct, writing style is appropriately like chewing on broken glass. A book about ISIS shouldn’t be overwrought. There’s too much gore, too much horror, too much human misery, for a writer in love with adjectives. No one needs those adjectives.

Of an Iraqi Special Forces soldier, he writes:

“So when militiamen kidnapped Ahmed from a checkpoint in Baghdad one day, they didn’t just torture him. They put a circular saw to his forehead and tried to peel off his face. Then they put a hood over his head, shot him five times, and tossed his body in a garbage dump, thinking he was dead. Ahmed survived, though, and was found by an elderly man, who carried him to a hospital. When he recovered, he had gained his nickname – The Bullet, for what couldn’t kill him – and he returned to his turret.

These are not pages to read before bed.

Giglio is captured and nearly executed, and he survives being hit by a suicide bomber. He sets these encounters on the table, like an indifferent dinner party host, as if to say, “Here it is. Make of it what you will.” And, of course, there is only one thing to make of it: ISIS is even worse than you thought.

I read Mike’s book during the vacant, pedestrian, moments of my mom-life. Sitting in my daughter’s gymnastics class, reading about the young Syrian mother who watched helplessly as a wall collapsed on all four of her children during a bombing. In the front seat of my minivan, parked at the high school, waiting for that once-toddler-now-teenager, reading about a man whose seven siblings were all killed by ISIS. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room while a friend’s wrist was being x-rayed, reading about ISIS fighters gathering body parts from numerous people into one duffel bag, only to leave the bag in the middle of a street.

I read about Mike, being zip-tied and beaten by a jeering mob in Egypt, before being thrown into a prison bus and carted to a sports arena, where sham trials and public executions were being held for political prisoners. And then the zip ties are cut from his wrists and he is inexplicably released. I think about the cub reporter I first met in my North Carolina living room, as eager for adventure as any young soldier.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

He is in Iraq, embedded with a battalion from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF) in Mosul when the results of the 2016 election are announced, and Americans of all political persuasions are melting down. He writes:

“I wondered if, when a country was at war for so long but only a select few ever waged it, the rest of society began to go a certain kind of crazy. Some played at civil war while others vowed to flee to Canada as political refugees, and too many Americans seemed to want to pull a bit of conflict into their lives just when so many people around the world were risking everything to escape from it.”

And then he finally escapes it himself, perhaps for good, writing this about then-new President Trump’s premature declaration of victory over ISIS: “As in the past, America was looking to move on from the region before the war was really over – leaving much of Iraq and Syria in ruins and ISIS still a threat. This was an impulse I embodied, too. As Colonel Arkan had once explained, the thing about going to war far from home is that you can always walk away from it.”

If you’re lucky, Mike. Only the lucky get to walk away.

Articles

4 awesome (and one not so awesome) guns from ‘The Tomorrow War’

In a post-COVID world of streaming movies and digital premieres, Amazon’s The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt is a solid summer blockbuster. The sci-fi action film can be likened to Interstellar crossed with Edge of Tomorrow with a healthy dose of Chris Pratt being Chris Pratt. For a Hollywood production, The Tomorrow War gets a surprising amount of things right when it comes to gear. Of course, there are plenty of movie sins in it as well. This article will be mostly free of spoilers, but we make no guarantees, so read at your own risk if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

1. BCM Carbine

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
She must know how loud a short barrel AR is (Paramount Pictures/Amazon)

Let’s get the “not so awesome” out of the way first. Over the last decade, Bravo Company Manufacturing has become a go-to brand in the firearms industry. Best known for its high quality AR-15 parts and builds, BCM has gained widespread popularity in both military and civilian shooter circles. In The Tomorrow War, the primary weapon of the human resistance is a tricked out short-barreled BCM carbine.

Although it looks futuristic and cool to the average viewer, anyone who has handled the AR-15/M4 platform knows that the weapon is a pretty poor choice. The short barrel significantly reduces the effectiveness of the 5.56x45mm round that it fires, explaining why the humans are losing the war. Despite the linear compensators, all those short barrels firing full-auto in the stairwell would have left everybody with some serious hearing loss too. While the Trijicon ACOG and canted red dot look cool, the short barrel means that the weapon really doesn’t have the range to make use of the magnified optic and no one seems to ever use the canted red dot. Plus, it’s not like the Whitespikes are hard to see so the 4x zoom isn’t necessary for identification at range. Chris Pratt and his crew would have been better served with a larger caliber weapon like SOCOM’s MK 17 SCAR-H or the Sig NGSW.

2. Kimber Warrior SOC

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Dan (Chris Pratt) practices good gun safety and checks the chamber of his Kimber Warrior upon retrieving it from his safe (Paramount Pictures/Amazon)

Maybe Pratt’s character knew about the inadequacies of the standard-issue carbine after all. Before reporting for duty, he retrieves his personal .45 ACP Kimber Warrior SOC from his home safe. Used by elite units like LAPD SWAT and Marine Force Recon, Kimber 1911-style pistols are considered to be some of the best .45 sidearms money can buy. While militaries and law enforcement agencies have largely made the switch to the smaller 9x19mm cartridge in 2021, a full-power .45 is probably a better choice against the aliens seen in The Tomorrow War.

3. IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Forester Sr. (J.K. Simmons) handles the Desert Eagle well (Paramount Pictures/Amazon)

Speaking of big-bore pistols, J.K. Simmons’ character carries one heck of a hand cannon. Playing Pratt’s father in the film, Simmons’ character is a Vietnam veteran with a taste for big guns. His sidearm of choice is an IWI Desert Eagle Mark XIX chambered in .50 AE. That’s the kind of slug you want to be throwing at a gigantic armored alien. A .45 is great, but a .50 is a .50. Naturally, the film features a bit of father-son verbal jabbing regarding the size of the pistol, but it proves its worth in the end.

4. F&D Defense FD338

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Forester Sr. (J.K. Simmons) behind the glass of his FD338 (Paramount Pictures/Amazon)

Matching his Desert Eagle, Simmons’ character carries an equally heavy-hitting rifle. Made to order with a lead time of eight weeks, the FD338 has a base price of $5,450 according to F&D Defense’s website. The .338 Lapua Magnum that it fires hits with about five times the force of 5.56x45mm and has more consistent and predictable ballistic performance than the legendary .50 BMG. This kind of performance in an AR-style rifle is unparalleled in the firearms industry and Simmons’ character puts the FD338 to good use in the film.

5. Beretta 1301 Tactical

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever
Dorian (Edwin Hodge) takes aim with his Beretta 1301 shotgun (Paramount Pictures)

One weapon that stands out from the others is the shotgun used by Edwin Hodge’s character. His Beretta 1301 is a 12-gauge gas-operated semi-automatic shotgun that deals serious damage to the armored aliens at close range. While it doesn’t have anywhere near the reach of the FD338, the 1301 excels in close quarters and Hodge’s character uses it to great effect. Hopefully he had it loaded with something crazy like tungsten slugs to make the most of his shotgun’s raw power.

Feature image: (Paramount Pictures/Amazon)

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 things you didn’t know about the war epic ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan captured the respect of both veteran and civilian audiences across the country with a realistic, heartfelt, and grim depiction of World War II. The movie follows a squad of Soldiers from the 2nd Army Rangers who embark on a near-impossible mission to locate a single troop in the middle of the war.

Facing incredible odds, the Rangers tirelessly search for the native Iowan and sustain heavy causalities along the way. The film won several awards and is considered, by some, to be one of the best pieces of film in cinematic history.


Spielberg expertly captured the brutality of war on film, but the little-known things that happened behind the scenes helped contribute to the film’s authenticity.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Sgt. Horvath (played by Tom Sizemore) stands next to Capt. Miller (played by Tom Hanks) before storming the Omaha Beach.

(DreamWorks Pictures)

How it got its unique look

Typically, a movie camera’s shutter is set at a 180-degree angle. However, legendary cinematographer Janusz Kaminski decided to set the camera to a 90- and 45-degree shutter instead. This shortened the amount of time the film was exposed to light, creating an incredibly sharp image.

When sending the film off to be processed, Kaminski had it run through the developer more than usual to achieve that washed-out look.

His idea delivered a fantastic visual, and the film looks freakin’ great for it.

The actors’ weapons came with squib sensors

We’ve seen movies where an actor points his or her weapon, takes a shot, and the round’s impact doesn’t feel entirely organic. For Saving Private Ryan, the special-effects guys rigged the actors’ rifles with special sensors that send a signal to exploding squibs located on their targets.

Shortly after an actor pulls the trigger, the targeted squib detonates, creating a realistic impact for both shooter and target.

This is why ‘Black Hawk Down’ has the best military movie cast ever

Steven Spielberg as he discusses the next scene with the crew.

(DreamWorks Pictures)

Reportedly, Spielberg didn’t storyboard the film

Instead, the filmmaker made incredible decisions on the fly, putting the camera up to each scene and determining the direction from there. This might have been career suicide for a lesser director, but Spielberg wanted his shots to feel unpredictable, just like a real firefight.

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200 shots in 24 minutes

Although the film has several epic moments, the opening sequence in which American troops storm Omaha beach is one that you’ll never forget. Spielberg decided to drop the audience inside an incredibly intense battle scene and, to tell the story, used three different perspectives: Capt. Miller’s, the German machine gunners’, and a characterless camera.

The YouTuber Nerdwriter1 broke the epic scene down and counted each of the 200 shots that takes place over the 24-minute scene. That’s right: 200 shots. That’s 7.2 seconds per shot.

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