Under the Wire

Review by Lillian Crawford

Directed by

Christopher Martin

Starring

Janine Birkett Julian Lewis Jones Ziad Abaza

Anticipation.

A personal reflection on Marie Colvin could be interesting.

Enjoyment.

One could listen to Paul Conroy for hours.

In Retrospect.

Their experience deserves a better film than this.

Filmmaker Christopher Martin captures the horrors of the Syrian crisis in this bold documentary.

Is it possible to look on as the world burns up around you and feel nothing? Few could watch with emotional objectivity as a woman fails to recognise her own grandson, mutilated by a bomb blast. The camera distinguishes itself from what is human, an unthinking eye recording brute facts. Paul Conroy, the photographer partner of esteemed war journalist Marie Colvin, thinks the atrocities he has seen have habituated him to such devastating scenes. As this striking documentary on his time
in Syria progresses, the tears in his eyes betray his true feelings.

Under the Wire is, in concept, a documentary about Colvin in the weeks before she was killed by an explosion in February 2012. Her story comes to rest on Conroy’s charismatic narration to his seemingly endless footage, recalling nauseating crawls through cramped tunnels and the horrors of a Syrian hospital. Constantly focusing on the wider onslaught, the loss of Colvin is somewhat blurred into the background.

Her relentless devotion to “tell the world” what was happening in the Baba Amr district sustains Conroy’s ability to return to his traumatic past. Director Christopher Martin closes in on his battle-scarred expression, making for a more evocative study than his 2013 memoir. Regrettably, the poignancy of his message is undermined by stylistic amateurism, intercutting footage of torchlight with staged shots of overflowing ashtrays and flashing sirens.

Accompanied by the plods and thumps of Glenn Gregory and Berenice Scott’s score, the artificial tension distracts from the terrifying consequences at stake. When tackling this fear, the film strikes the chord it aims for. Moments of real desperation in human faces reveal why journalists risk death to report in Syria and beyond, providing a timely reflection on the power of documentary footage. A pity, then, that Martin does not leave their story to stand for itself.

Published 7 Sep 2018

Tags: Christopher Martin Marie Colvin Paul Conroy

Anticipation.

A personal reflection on Marie Colvin could be interesting.

Enjoyment.

One could listen to Paul Conroy for hours.

In Retrospect.

Their experience deserves a better film than this.

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