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Under Fire Reviews

Flawed but still fascinating, UNDER FIRE looks at the Nicaraguan revolution through the eyes of Russell Price (Nick Nolte), an American photojournalist who uses his camera to distance himself from reality. In Managua, Price's noncommittal attitude is put to the test by the startling contrast between the high life enjoyed by the supporters of President Anastasio Somoza (Rene Enriquez) and the reality experienced by most Nicaraguans. The American begins to realize that the plush Hotel Continental, home of the press corps, is an obscene imperialist outpost that distances the reporters from the people they are supposed to be covering. None of this, however, is news to Claire (Joanna Cassidy), a National Public Radio reporter, and under her influence Price eventually becomes actively involved with the revolutionaries, faking a picture of a slain leader so that it will appear that he is still alive. The sensational photo brings network news anchor Alex Grazier (Gene Hackman) to Managua where he is shot and killed by one of Somoza's National Guardsmen (mirroring the horrifying true-life murder of ABC correspondent Bill Stewart by Somoza's troops in 1979--an event that was captured on videotape and shown to a shocked American audience). Price records the whole incident on film, and his pictures create worldwide outrage that helps sound the death knell for Somoza's government. Nolte gives one of his best performances as the photographer who suddenly finds himself looking past what he sees in the viewfinder in this insightful look at revolution and the world of journalism. Director Roger Spottiswoode, who edited a number of Sam Peckinpah movies, succeeds brilliantly in creating the chaotic last days of Somoza's government while at the same time incisively evaluating the moral dilemma faced by war correspondents. Where the film falters, however, is screenwriter Ron Shelton's (BULL DURHAM) overly simplistic view of both Somoza and the Sandinistas. Shown to be the white knights riding to the rescue of the oppressed masses, the Sandinistas are given almost embarrassingly reverent treatment with no hint of the ideological divisions, confusion, and suffering that would follow their takeover (problems at least hinted at in Oliver Stone's remarkable SALVADOR).