Unfortunately, in the late 1990s these characters come across as cliches rather than as fully conceived human beings, which, together with some predictable plotting, detracts from what would otherwise have been an impressive war film.
Certainly the viewer is given the impression of being placed, along with the newshounds, in a most vulnerable situation. Wartime Sarajevo has been re-created with conviction: “Sniper Alley” and “Comanche Territory” (where one character notes that, as in a classic Western, “They can see us but we can’t see them”), the marketplace hit by a Serb mortar shell, the shattered apartment buildings, the wrecked cars, the terrified people — all these elements, familiar from TV coverage at the time, come vividly to life.
Convincing, too, is the camaraderie of the journalists who gather from many different countries to cover the war, but who speak a common language — that of the professional news gatherer. The most important thing for the TV journalists, next to staying alive, is to deliver material on time to home base. To achieve this end, they at times recklessly pursue hot stories and pictures, and relax with hard drinking bouts and steamy sexual encounters.
Pic’s plot is fairly minimal. At first, Laura is despised by her collaborators because, understandably enough, she’s too frightened to complete a news report out on the street where bullets come too close for comfort. But soon she’s as adept as the rest of them in filming scoops — maybe too adept, when she explores “the face of evil” by recording a sniper who proudly boasts about his work on camera.
“Comanche Territory” is extremely well crafted, with outstanding widescreen camerawork by Alfredo Mayo and wholly convincing production design by Luis Valles. Jorge Ruiz’s complex soundtrack is also praiseworthy, and editor Carmen Frias has made a major contribution to a solid, well-paced pic.
The actors fill their roles professionally, given the shallow characterization provided by the screenplay, which is by the director and Salvador Garcia; the absence of any significant background information about Laura is one of the film’s liabilities.
But, despite its flaws, “Comanche Territory” succeeds in providing a striking outsider’s view of an insane and tragic conflict.