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Harrison Lloyd is a Pulitzer-winning photojournalist. His wife and family are making it hard for him to keep his mind on his work when he's in a war zone, and he wants to change jobs to something less stressful. But he's got one last assignment, in war-torn Yugoslavia, in 1991, at the height of the fighting. Word comes back that he apparently died in a building collapse, but his wife Sarah (also a journalist for Newsweek) refuses to believe that he's dead and goes looking for him. She's helped immensely by the photo-journalists Eric Kyle and Marc Stevenson that she runs into over there; together, they're determined to make it through the chaotic landscape to Vukovar, which is not only the nexus of the war but where she believes Harrison is located. Meanwhile, Harrison's son Cesar is looking after his father's prized greenhouse, keeping hope, and flowers, alive. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
This movie is simply made for watching on video or DVD. Here's the plan--the first time through, watch all of it. But on subsequent viewings, just watch the stuff that happens in Yugoslavia.
Except for the men's room scene after the Awards Banquet.
This movie is really, really frustrating to watch because you can't help but feel that the directors and other creative parties associated with the actual film were very dedicated to telling the story of the journalists and photographers who were trying to bring the truth of what was happening in the early days of the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia to the screen. They were fascinated by the people who would willingly risk their lives to obtain images of the horrors and atrocities being carried out to the rest of the world, and what motivated them--made them tick. And they were enamoured of the character of Kyle Morris, as portrayed by Adrien Brody, and wished to showcase him in some way in order to drive the point home--that people like him were brave and admirable, no matter what their personal demons and failings.
Unfortunately for those of us who were hooked on this POV, they were also hamstrung, utterly, by the source material, which was a love story about a woman who would not believe her husband was dead, and whose dedication to finding him and whose devotion to him was convincing enough to cause persons such as are described in the preceding paragraph to risk life and limb to try to reunite this couple.
I don't want to use this space to snark. It's unseemly, given the seriousness of the subject matter. What I want to highlight is the way in which one of the performances affected me. The central figure of this movie from a standpoint of character arc is not Harrison, or his wife, Sarah, but Kyle Morris. We first see Kyle at a Pulitzer Awards dinner, where a grief-stricken, coke-addled Kyle Morris goes off on the Harrison Lloyd character. It's a show-stopper, and drenches everything else that happens in Yugoslavia with layers and layers of bitter irony.
The great stuff in this is movie is all about Adrien Brody's character Kyle Morris. This is probably the sort of character that a young actor just dreams of getting his teeth into. Kyle is one of those bundles of contradictions and contrasts that fascinates endlessly. He is an angry, foul-mouthed swaggerer with the gentle hands and soul of a poet, and a kind heart too easily touched. He is a drug user, which is usually portrayed as a character defect which goes along with being weak or afraid to face reality, but in his case, it is probably more a result of his trying to cope with having too MUCH courage and desire to walk into the bowels of real-life hells, like war-torn Yugoslavia. He is both cocksure and certain, and insecure, terrified he will never get recognized for what he is doing in trying to record the truth. He takes rebellious pride in being an outsider, but he churns with jealous resentment against those who seem to have "made it". This character is BRAVE, quick, resourceful, clever, with a crackling energy that suffuses every line, every expression, every move he makes. Brody brings a wild animal's instinctive quickness and 360 degree awareness of the environment to the role; you can almost see his large but sensitive nostrils quiver as he tests the wind for the scent of danger, and the way to safety. If I were going deep into the heart of the battle zone with nothing more than a camera bag and a sense of purpose, I would want no one else to take me there. When he wraps his arm around Sarah, and tells her to move, she obeys. I would, too. He seems to be tapped in to the undercurrents that flow beneath the reality that they see and hear around them, and sense shifts in the flow and direction that the others cannot, and acts on a combination of instinct and intelligence to get Sarah into a city which has become a charnel house where no badge or profession is respected or spared from the snipers and the bayonets.
I was fascinated by this character. It was the sort of portrayal that made one want to know more--what drives someone like that? What was his childhood like? Why did he risk all for someone like Sarah?
Unfortunately, this portrayal and character threw the whole film off-balance, and made the putative heroine seem self-absorbed and unlikable in the end.
I recommend this movie for the brilliant footage of the journalists and Sarah working their way through war-torn Yugoslavia, for the harrowing urban combat scenes, and for Brody's performance.
I can't, however, give it more than 8 stars, since it committed the primary infraction of rendering its heroine unlikable in certain ways, without redemption or the change brought about by a true character arc.
Also, Harrison and Sarah's son was sort of creepy. Sorry, but there it is.
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