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A version of this comparison has already been posted over at "Salvador"
Salvador is Olvier Stone's best work and James Woods' finest
performance. Perhaps my only regret about this movie has to do with it
not going nearly far enough in depicting the brutality of the US client
regime in El Salvador. But this observation does not count, as it
doesn't have anything to do with the film as presented. A critique of
Salvador would do much better to note that there are very few films
about the political situation in Central America, period. Persons who
are interested in the subject matter might do well to compare this
Stone effort with the much earlier Under Fire (1983), a film which
boasts superlative performances by Nick Nolte and Gene Hackman. Under
Fire is perhaps one of the most under appreciated films, not just of
the 1980s, but of all time. Both Under Fire and Salvador are head and
shoulders above Ken Loach's limited tale of a Nicaraguan refugee's
individual trauma - Carla's Song (made much later in 1996). Both
earlier films were made at the time Central America was a major
obsession of the Reagan Administration (which went so far as to suggest
AK-47 toting Sandinistas were about to invade the Texas border). On
account of this background alone, the respective cast and crews of both
films deserve the sort of praise we should usually reserve for true
artists rather than Hollywood's employees.
Both Salvador and the much earlier Under Fire are very close in their
subject matter: portraying disinterested journalists who only after
becoming aware of the gravity of the situation in which they find
themselves turn unsympathetic towards clients of the American Empire.
The sort of journalists which have been entirely purged from the
corporate-owned "mainstream" or "embedded" press in the United States
(and the EU too).
Both films do an outstanding job of noting the protagonists' rivals in
the form of spin doctors for the regime whether from the US State
Department or the corporate media. Characters like Salvador's ANS
reporter Pauline Axelrod (played by Valerie Wildman) force us to recall
the perverted scribblings of James Lemoyne (New York Times), the
godfather of Embedded American Journalism; his students honored in that
tribute to the corporate press, Welcome to Sarajevo (1997). Call that
film for what it is: the anti-Salvador.
Under Fire goes much deeper than Stone's film in questioning the ethics
of journalism and the sort of circumstances which compel individuals to
look at the bigger picture. The depiction of the conflict between
Hackman and Nolte, on both personal and professional levels, makes it a
very rewarding film. Salvador's portrait of a troubled has-been
photojournalist who undergoes a sort of radical shock therapy in a war
zone is different, but certainly no less interesting.
I have to give the decisive edge to Under Fire for drawing much more
attention to the nature and breadth of the foreign support upon which
the corrupt Central American dictatorships relied. Salvador has a US
helicopter turn up in the middle of a battle, an ambassador portrayed
as indifferent, and that's about it. Under Fire, in contrast, has
excellent performances by a young Ed Harris and Jean-Louis Tritignant
as pro-regime killers, roles which draw attention to the nature and
morality of those embattled dictatorships.
Salvador counters with a much more interesting profile of some of the
members of the so-called "government" and its military. In Under Fire,
we just see Anastasio Somoza depicted as an insignificant car salesman
type in the background who also happens to be the latest heir to the
dynasty which ruled over Nicaragua for much of the 20th century. This
was a wee bit dissatisfying.
The major differences between the films are technical and stylistic.
Some may prefer Stone's use of tight editing and rather fanciful action
sequences. I personally preferred Under Fire's determined efforts to
bring out as much stark realism as possible on screen especially in the
battle scenes, which are among the most authentic attempts to portray
urban and guerrilla warfare in the history of cinema. No, it's not as
pretty as Tom Cruise dropping bombs to the accompaniment of Kenny
Loggins, and any film which reveals as much deserves special praise.
One wonders if "Under Fire" or "Salvador" could be made in Hollywood
A 9/10 for Salvador and a 9/10 for Under Fire, and again hats off to
all associated with films which one can hardly imagine being made in
this Orwellian or "embedded" age.
Tags for Under Fire Full Movie
, Gene Hackman
, Joanna Cassidy
, Nick Nolte
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