Malbatt: Misi Bakara, directed by Andrian Teh who also wrote & directed Paskal: The Movie, is a highly anticipated Malaysian war-themed movie of 2023. With Teh also taking on the role of the writer, expectations were running high for this action-packed thriller. Image source: IMDB.
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To be frank, there was little question raised on how deeply the Malaysian armed forces were involved in the rescue of the trapped US soldiers until the Black Hawk Down movie came out in 2001 with an ensemble cast which included big names such as Ewan McGregor and Eric Bana and became a blockbuster with a box office of USD173 million. Image source: IMDB
The Battle of Mogadishu
The Battle of Mogadishu, also known as the Black Hawk Down incident, was a military operation that took place in Somalia on October 3-4, 1993. The operation aimed to capture two top lieutenants of the warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, who controlled most of the city. The operation involved U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force operators, and helicopters from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.
The operation went awry when two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by rocket-propelled grenades and Somali militiamen. The U.S. forces then had to fight their way to the crash sites and defend themselves from thousands of hostile Somalis. The battle lasted for more than 15 hours and resulted in 18 U.S. deaths, 73 U.S. wounded, and hundreds of Somali casualties.
The battle was a major setback for the U.S. involvement in Somalia and led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country in 1994. The battle also raised questions about the U.S. foreign policy and military intervention in Africa and other regions. The battle was later depicted in the 1999 book Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden and the 2001 film of the same name by Ridley Scott.
One has to understand that this is a movie made by Malaysians for Malaysians to correct & highlight the role of Malbatt in the rescue of the US soldiers who were trapped & fighting the Somalian militias after 2 Black Hawk helicopters went down. A point that was not highlighted in the 2001 Hollywood movie. So the scale & budget are not comparable to the Hollywood movie but the results were surprisingly good.
Malbatt is the acronym for Malaysian Battalion, a peacekeeping force that was deployed by the United Nations in Somalia from 1993 to 1995. Malbatt was part of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II), which aimed to provide humanitarian relief and security in the war-torn country.
One of the most notable missions of Malbatt was the rescue of American soldiers who were trapped in the Bakara Market area of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, on October 4, 1993. Malbatt, along with Pakistani and Italian troops, formed a convoy of armoured vehicles that braved heavy fire and roadblocks to reach the crash sites and evacuate the wounded Americans.
The rescue operation lasted for more than 15 hours and involved fierce fighting with the Somali fighters. Malbatt suffered one casualty, Corporal Mat Aznan Awang, who was killed by an anti-tank rocket while driving a Condor Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). Nine other Malaysian soldiers were injured in the mission.
The rescue mission of Malbatt was not widely recognized or appreciated by the US government or media at the time, despite the bravery and sacrifice of the Malaysian peacekeepers. However, in recent years, there have been efforts to acknowledge and honour the role of Malbatt in saving the lives of American soldiers.
Malbatt is an example of Malaysia’s contribution to global peace and security through its participation in UN peacekeeping missions. Malbatt also demonstrated the professionalism and courage of the Malaysian Armed Forces in facing challenging and dangerous situations.
The movie makers took considerable trouble to bring the story to the big screen as realistic as possible. This included rebuilding the Condor APC replicas for the close shots and the stadium base with some CGIs thrown in.
Malbatt: Misi Bakara Plot
Malbatt: Misi Bakara is a 2023 Malaysian movie based on a true story of the 19th Battalion Malay Regiment, which was deployed as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in 1993, and their mission to rescue the trapped American soldiers in the Bakara Market, Mogadishu, Somalia following the Black Hawk Down attack.
The movie stars Bront Palarae as Major Adnan, Shaheizy Sam as Lance Corporal Ramlee, Hairul Azreen as Lieutenant Ismail, Zahiril Adzim as Lieutenant Dahari, Iedil Dzuhrie Alaudin as Lieutenant Mustafa, Adlin Aman Ramlie as Colonel Rahman, Fauzi Nawawi as Major Osman and Tony Eusoff as Major Abd Samad.
The movie was directed, produced and written by Adrian Teh. The movie was released on 24 August 2023 in Malaysia and Singapore and was the first Malaysian film to be formatted and released in the IMAX (DMR) format.
Bront Palarae as Major Adnan (on the left) was so believable in this movie, that one may think that he is an actual soldier asked to act in a movie. The stadium image was done using a blue screen CGI but the background movement was repetitive & not make sense. Image grab from the movie.
Let’s discuss the strong plus points of the movie first because seriously this is a good & well-made movie by the same team that did the superb Paskal movie in 2018.
One of the highlights of Malbatt Misi Bakara is the stellar acting from the cast. The movie features a diverse group of characters, each with their personality and backstory. The actors do a great job of portraying their roles, making the audience care about their fate and root for their success.
The chemistry between the team members is palpable, creating a sense of camaraderie and tension throughout the movie. The lead actors, especially, deliver impressive performances that elevate the movie beyond a typical action genre. They show the emotional and psychological struggles of their characters, as well as their courage and determination.
Somalian American Musa Aden in the role of Abdalle, a Somali serving as MALBATT’s interpreter in the key scenes of the movie which shows the human side of the conflict with his losing his wife & son in the crossfire at the climax scene.
One of the highlights of Malbatt Misi Bakara is its adrenaline-pumping action sequences.
The well-choreographed fights and stunts keep viewers at the edge of their seats, providing a visual spectacle that action movie enthusiasts will appreciate, thanks to the military advisor for this movie, Paul Biddiss, a former British paratrooper who has worked on movies like Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, War and Peace, The Crown, Catherine the Great, Strike Back, Trigger Point, 1917, Napoleon, Gladiator 2, and Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny.
He also acted in the movie as a US Ranger officer and assisted in the production of military tactics, uniforms and equipment. In an interview, he also mentioned that he had to retrain some of the actors who had acted in the Paskal movie to hold the weapon in the right way of an infantryman as they were holding it as special forces would do.
While Malbatt Misi Bakara is not in the same league as the Black Hawk Down movie, there are some basic flaws when it comes to military tactics and presentation. No doubt, the movie had a good military advisor but it is possible that it was overridden by the film director or lost during the editing.
This hostage taker was not keeping an eye on the hostages which would have made it easy for the rescue team to injure them & disable them without the need to kill them. In the end, the sniper kills them after much unnecessary drama & waste of time. Image source – movie grab shot.
Director and writer, Andrian Teh should have just skipped the opening scene of the movie where Malbatt enters Paradiso Hotel to rescue hostages as it was badly executed with so many tactical errors & missing logic.
- The team (broken into 2 teams) is too thinly spread out and they could have shot their teammates in the crossfire as they were firing at the enemy from the back.
- Two of them rushed in without proper backup and rightfully got injured. Perhaps this was intentional for the movie but in fact, it is a risk not worth taking.
- In a place surrounded by the Somalians, how did they manage to send out the sniper & the spotter up the neighbouring building for cover if the militants had surrounded & shot at the APCs from the roof?
- They throw in a smoke grenade where the hostages are held which does not make sense as it covers the militants and poses a problem for Malbatt to take a clear shot. Putting their interpreter in front to speak to the militants holding the hostages was a tactical error as well.
- The hostages were rescued after another team managed to sneak from the back and kill off the militants in a room still shrouded in smoke. Was this planned or just a matter of luck?
- Locating the last 2 hostages could have been done easily as the militant leader was looking at the other side & did not realise Malbatt was at their doorstep. Why in the hell did Malbatt’s team alert them who only threatened to blow up the hostages? Worse if the trigger for the bomb is not armed if one does not press the button.
All of this is in the first 15 minutes of the movie and the unnecessary scenes continue once they are back in the base where one of them puts his dirty socks on another who is doing push-ups. Then they also try to flirt with a lady reporter just because she is a foreigner. This is a strictly unprofessional presentation of a professional military force.
Malaysia is one of the few countries that consistently contribute resources for UN missions overseas. As of 2023, Malaysia contributed 9 military observers serving in the Western Sahara under the UN’s mission MINURSO (Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara). Image source: United Nations
Confused Mission Timeline
In the beginning, they lay out a map of their overview mission but it was done too fast. Then in the chaos of the night & gun battle, no effort was made to show their viewers the location of the APC teams (now split into 2, no thanks to the screw-up by the Pakistanis) and the trapped US soldiers. So it gets more confusing to place the scenes and who is being presented for the scene. Plenty of guesswork was required to know who was doing what and where are they in a particular scene.
Andrian Teh & his team could have easily added an overview map (like those in documentaries) before each key scene so that the locations of the various teams are clear for the audience to make sense of the scene.
The Malbatt filmmakers got the replica of the German-made Condor APC almost right (top image) against the actual Condor APC that was sent to Somalia (bottom image) but got the dimension of the tires wrong making the APC look rather unstable and low & comical. Image source: Movie screenshot / IMDB
Tiny Condor Tires
As someone who has a deep interest in anything related to the military, seeing Condor APC replicas with those tiny wheels was not forgivable even though they got the other specifications almost correct.
The Condor is a 4×4 wheeled armoured personnel carrier (APC) and is based on the automotives of the Mercedes-Benz Unimog. It is fully amphibious, air-transportable and protected against small arms fire, shell splinters and anti-personnel mines. The Condor can carry a crew of two and up to 12 passengers, and it can be armed with a 20 mm cannon or a 7.62 mm machine gun. Malaysia ordered 460 units in late 1981, with the last being delivered in March 1984.
The tires on the Condor APC replicas in the movie seem to be fitted with small truck tires instead of the large ones that are capable of going off-road. These tires also make the replica to be low instead of high of the actual APC.
NOT the right tires for an offroad armoured personal carrier – it is from a small truck as seen from the rear lights. The filmmakers could have minimised the shots of the small tiny tires. Image source: Movie screenshot
Malbatt Misi Bakara which was made for RM20 million making it the most expensive movie in Malaysia managed to earn about RM32 million at the box office is a thrilling ride that delivers on its promise of high-octane action. Andrian Teh’s direction created an engaging movie experience with the cast’s performances and well-executed action sequences further elevating the film.
However, some of the scenes were not necessary & wasted time. Some military tactics were flawed & were too obvious on the screen. Pretty sure the real Malbatt personals would not have made the same tactical mistakes. Seeing tiny wheels on a Condor APC was still painful every time they rolled one up in the movie.
In conclusion, Malbatt Misi Bakara is a good movie for action enthusiasts looking for an entertaining and exhilarating experience. While it did not reach the same quality level as the earlier Paskal: The Movie, one has to say that it met the objective of telling the Battle of Mogadishu from the Malaysian side. The US forces would likely have incurred more losses if not for the Malaysian Malbatt rescuing them with losses of men & equipment on their own.