Review: ‘Under Fire’

The American media are strongly taken to task in Under Fire. This is the story of two correspondents (one working for Time, the other Public Radio) and an on-the-scenes war photographer. The action [story by Clayton Frohman] begins in the African bush of Chad, then moves on to Nicaragua - and a feature-film rehearsal of that tragic televised killing of the ABC correspondent by a Somoza government soldier in the late 1970s as he was covering the fighting with the winning Sandinista rebels.

The American media are strongly taken to task in Under Fire. This is the story of two correspondents (one working for Time, the other Public Radio) and an on-the-scenes war photographer. The action [story by Clayton Frohman] begins in the African bush of Chad, then moves on to Nicaragua – and a feature-film rehearsal of that tragic televised killing of the ABC correspondent by a Somoza government soldier in the late 1970s as he was covering the fighting with the winning Sandinista rebels.

Three individuals cover the Chad conflict in the late 1970s: the 30-year-old photog Russell Price (Nick Nolte), the 50-year-old senior correspondent for Time mag Alex Grazier (Gene Hackman), and the circa 40-year-old radio newslady Claire Stryder (Joanna Cassidy). All are tough professionals.

There’s a fourth individual who surfaces now and then: he’s a hired mercenary, a killer by trade, whom lenser Nolte meets from time to time, first in Chad and later in Nicaragua.

In the course of covering the events Nolte and Cassidy opt to search for a certain rebel leader named Rafael among the revolutionary Sandinistas, for Rafael has never been photographed nor interviewed by the American press.

Further, Nolte’s photos of the rebels play into the hands of a double-agent, the Frenchman (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who uses them to hunt down and kill the key Sandinista leaders. Moral factors like these are the core of the action.

Thesping is on the plus side, particularly Nolte in a role cut to his proportions. Director Roger Spottiswode, after a couple of earlier actioners, has great potential.

1983: Nomination: Best Original Score

Under Fire

Production

Lion's Gate. Director Roger Spottiswoode; Producer Jonathan Taplin; Screenplay Ronald Shelton, Clayton Frohman; Camera John Alcott; Editor John Bloom, Mark Conte; Music Jerry Goldsmith; Art Director Agustin Ytuarte, Toby Rafelson

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1983. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Nick Nolte Gene Hackman Joanna Cassidy Jean-Louis Trintignant Ed Harris Richard Masur

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