Daniel Nelson

See 'Under the Wire' before the Hollywood version comes out.

Under the Wire

Under the Wire

Image by Under the Wire

It's a documentary - a tribute to the life and death of one-eyed US reporter Marie Colvin, who was killed while reporting in Homs in 2012 - but it's as gripping and dramatic as any big-star action feature.

Its power stems partly from the gripping testimony of Paul Conroy, the photographer who accompanied Colvin to Syria (one correspondent described her as scarier than the war), and who was also seriously injured in the blast that kills her and a French journalist. As well as being a good photographer, Colvin is a good talker who makes every word and every pause count. The film is based on his book about the fatal events in 2012 ("Get out and tell the world. That was their words. Tell the world. Then I damn well  am gonna tell that story.")

His rough diamond persona contrasts with the softer, but still heroic, Syrian activist Wa'el ("I'm a vegetarianist and an atheist"), who leads them through the nerve-tingling tunnel journey into Homs and the edge-of-your-seat escape out of the besieged Syrian city and who sticks with them throughout the ordeal.

Every aspect of this reckless, courageous adventure is vividly re-lived, from being passed from one shadowy figure to another, wondering whether they are being led into a trap, to the realisation that their makeshift base is being targetted by the Syrian military, the shelling moving closer and closer with each new round of fire.

The journalists' commitment to getting the story out is incredible ("Anyway, it's what we do," Colvin tells a nervous news editor) but to its enormous credit the film not simply another heroic-Western-journalist-against-an-exotic-background (“The story of Marie’s final assignment to Homs stands out as a shining example of pure journalism", says director Chris Martin): it is also about Syria and a government prepared to blow any number of people to smithereens in order to grind out military victory: "This wasn't war as I knew it, or Marie knew it," says Conroy. "It was slaughter."

* Under the Wire is showing at the Curzon Bloomsbury from 3 September, at the Frontline Club on 6 September, and in selected cinemas from 7 September. 

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