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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Under Fire (1983)

In 1979 Nicaragua, rebels batter away against the repressive and corrupt regime of President Anastasio Somozsa (Rene Enriquez). Two American reporters (Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy) and a photo journalist (Nick Nolte) find their "neutrality" put to the test as they become intimately involved in the country's fate. This potent film is one of the best films of the 1980s decade. Political films can often be ham fisted (think Oliver Stone) in their agenda and the narrative's human angle becomes lost in a plethora of talking heads spouting platitudes concocted by the screenwriter rather than coming from the heart and the gut. The director Roger Spottiswoode working from a screenplay by Clayton Frohman doesn't force anything on us. What we get are three people who are above involvement in the stories they cover and proud of it, there's an ironic shot of journalists sipping cocktails on a rooftop bar while the city is being bombed. But what happens when the horror becomes so real that you can't ignore it any longer? Spottiswoode gives us just what we need to see, there's nothing extraneous. For example, a less intuitive director would have shown us Nolte and Cassidy making love for the first time, Spottiswoode just gives us the morning after and quickly at that. Mention must be made of John Alcott's compelling images, Jerry Goldsmith's great Oscar nominated score and Mark Conte's impressive editing. With Ed Harris as a cold blooded mercenary, Jean Louis Trintignant, Richard Masur, Holly Palance, Jenny Gago and Eloy Casados.

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