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'Live from Baghdad' is a political movie in the sense that it asks very
tough questions; however, its center lies not in politics but in
people. It relates the story of Robert Wiener and his CNN team as they
struggle to report the news from Baghdad in the six month antebellum
period leading up to the Persian Gulf War of 1991. The team battles
with tough Iraqi censorship, enormous political tension, and the
reality of impending war. While still presenting the historical events
of the time, Baghdad focuses on interpersonal relationships and
intrapersonal struggles. Questions over the role of the media emanate
from the various stories and struggles that the CNN team faces. The
issues of censorship and propaganda, for example, plague the CNN team
and their coverage. The use of the media as a diplomatic pawn befalls
Wiener and his crew several times in the film. In many senses Baghdad
is a media mood ring: different situations in the movie stress and
display the various characteristics of the press from a governmental
tool to diplomatic connection.
The acting in this movie is superb. Keaton is a very strong actor in this film and in every sense epitomizes the gung-ho, balls-out attitude of the real Robert Wiener. In stark contrast, David Suchet, as Naji Al-Hadithi, presents the exquisiteness of his character with a sense of calculation and deliberation. He very much captures a cultured, borderline-aristocratic dignity that an Iraqi official in Saddam Hussein's cabinet might hold.
The particular strength of this movie is not in the plot, the production or the characters, however--and in fact none of these really stand out as excellent--but in the broad questions it raises. At the heart of this film is the implied question as to the role of the media. To what extent should we censor? How much should we analyze? What does the public have the right to now and how far can the press go to get it? 'Live from Baghdad' is an incredible movie in the sense that it can raise these questions from an emotional and factual base.
I give this movie an 8 out of 10 for its generally entertaining plot and tough press-related questions.
This film is a well-written and acted live-action documentary of Robert
Wiener's experiences working as a CNN correspondent in Baghdad during the
Gulf War. Overall, it is pretty good. The speeches all resonate, and it is
good to see some of the atrocities committed by Saddam's army brought to
light again; revisionist Americans love to paint the Gulf War as a "quest
for oil", just as they love to browbeat America for using the atomic bomb
during WWII. Obviously there are many sides to any story, and for the most
part "Live from Baghdad" does a good job of showing what was really
happening in Iraq, along with serving the Americans an occasional slice of
humble pie for their brashness and xenophobia.
Interestingly, the weakest part of the movie is the director. Mick Jackson has a lot of experience (I'm amazed to find out that he directed Steve Martin's "L.A. Story"), but his work here falls into two distinct categories: workmanlike and/or irritating. The workmanlike scenes aren't so bothersome. But occasionally he'll pull a trick out of his hat, and it's always hackneyed - particularly his fascination with long shots of people staring. This is one of those art house things that you just have to suffer through, along with the excessively talky relationship between Wiener and Ingrid. It is a distinctly American conceit, as seen in such dreck as "Pearl Harbor", to take something as colossal as a war and use it as a backdrop for a hamfisted love story. I also found it a little unsettling that the reporters were laughing and slapping each other on the back after the bombing, while outside their relatively safe hotel people were picking their loved ones out of the rubble.
It is definitely a gigantic commercial for CNN, but you know that going in. The guy worked for CNN. If you watch a documentary about Colonel Sanders, you have to expect some fried chicken.
Some people have dismissed the film as propaganda; I must point out that while it does paint our involvement in the Gulf War in a positive light, it makes no reference to the modern situation except to state that Saddam Hussein is still in power. If you were against the war, then of course there's no way you will like this film. But if you were against it without knowing anything about it except some friend of yours said "we're doing it for oil!", then you should do quite a bit of research ... and this film is as good a place as any to start.
HBO has brought us a great film here. Michael Keaton plays CNN producer
Weiner in this exciting tale of drama, war, and the role the media plays
current affairs. The film is about the events leading up to, and
culminating in the 1991 Gulf War. We see the invasion of Kuwait months
before the allied bombing raids, and we end after the first night of
bombing...the movie follows the events of this time period, which include
that invasion of Kuwait, the holding of American and British hostages in
Iraq, CNN's rise on the media scene, becoming a very powerful
news organization thanks to their exclusive reporting from Iraq. Keaton
does a very nice job here, which is what you expect from a great actor
himself...Carter, who plays the other CNN producer is very good as well,
this being the first movie I have seen her in.
Nice filmmaking here...I'm not sure where it was filmed, but it sure looked like Baghdad to me...and the casting is very well all around- these guys looked so much like shaw, arnett, and to a lesser degree John Holloman- it was almost eerie. You felt like you were right in the room with these guys as they talked to Atlanta over the four wire radio they had access to (which is what helped them report the story from Iraq when no one else could.) There are some really good special effects as well, the anti aircraft fire lighting up the sky was spectacular, and once again- it helped give the feeling that you were right in the thick of things.
"Live from Baghdad", a new production of the HBO network, tells us the
lifetime story of the people who have two things - guts and judgment. The
first one allows them to go to a place precisely at the same time, as
people tend to leave it at any cost. Thanks to the second, they manage to
get themselves back in one piece.
The CNN producers Robert Wiener and Ingrid Formaneck have reported a million of top stories form around the World. They know for sure what kind of reports Atlanta (the headquarter of CNN) is waiting from them, and what's infinitely more important, the billions of people in front of TV screens. Like any other reporter involved in the 24-hours news production, they have only one thought in mind all the time - to find a new story to report. In August of 1990, as Iraqi invaded to Kuwait, the both of them were absolutely confident - they are about to report the story of the lifetime.
The crucial part of the movie is the natural and realistic reflection of issues and problems those people face. Many of the situations can be barely imagined by a person who has never been in a third-world country. In the countries where nobody can be sure in anything until to the last moment; where any decision can be completely changed in a blink of the eye; where a direct order from the certain people can overwrite any low; and eventually, where the only one absolute way to solve an issues is the "under-table" cash.
Even though the movie is abundantly saturated with the action scenes, the individuality and the personal skills of the main characters are highly emphasized. Along with the total dedication to the job, Ingrid Formaneck manages to remain a real woman. Strong and weak at the same time, she can support people around her, but also needs to be supported. She doesn't walk around with a machine-gun and she knows when something is too much for her. Robert Wiener is not going to leave the ashes and broken lives behind him, not even to make the Atlanta' bosses happy. The mixture of courage, persistence and caution, honesty and decency helps him and his team to achieve the incredible result. One after another, a set of small scenes is drawing the whole picture of the story. It helps us to understand the inner feelings of the people involved in these events. The way Robert Wiener stares at Saddam Houssein while attaching a microphone on his tie; a barely perceptible nod Naji Al-Hadithi (an official from the Iraq' Ministry of information) gave to Robert on his question about the fate of an American, hold by the Iraq's government.
As for the political message - it is quite independent. The movie clearly shows the Iraqi aggression on Kuwait with the followed devastation of the country, as well as specific aspects of the life under the military-driven government. However, it doesn't make any attempts of judgment or evaluation. The main focus of the movie remains on the journalist's job and their efforts to cover the story as complete as possible.
In 1990, the producer Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton) convinces the
direction of CNN to go to Iraq with his crew due to the increasing
tension of this country with USA. When Baghdad was bombed and Iraq
invaded in 1991, CNN was the unique television broadcasting the events,
being worldwide projected as a great news channel. I liked very much
'Live From Baghdad', mainly because the story is very decent and
engaging and stays politically neutral, trying not to manipulate the
viewer with any political crap, and limiting to show the hard work and
difficulties of the CNN team to work in country under the pressure of
an eminent war and with a totally different culture. The direction and
the performance of the cast are excellent, but Michael Keaton, Helena
Bonham Carter and David Suchet (whose name I have not found in the IMDb
credits) are superb. The original title of my review was 'A Decent
Movie', and for my surprise there is another review with this title.
Once there is a very interesting line about the karma of a country with
oil fields, which would be a cemetery of forest and dinosaurs, I
decided to highlight this uncommon reference. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): 'Ao Vivo de Bagdá' ('Live From Baghdad')
Outstanding HBO movie charting the coming of age of CNN during the opening days of the Gulf War, as producers Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton) and Ingrid Formaneck (Helena Bonham Carter) doggedly walk a tightrope between reporting the facts as they see them and keeping the Iraqi authorities from expelling them. Excellent supporting cast, in particular David Suchet as Naji Al-Hadithi, the Iraqi information minister and Bruce McGill (dodgy accent notwithstanding) as Peter Arnett. Mick Jackson's best work since A Very British Coup (1988) and hopefully the catalyst to re-energise Michael Keaton's career. In short, the finest film of it's kind since Under Fire (1983) and a wake-up call to CNN to get back to real reporting and cease its current pathetic spiral into celebrity-obsessed 24 hour chat-show oblivion.
Live From Baghdad marks the triumphant return of one of the most harsh individuals in show business today: Michael Keaton. He is extremely hard boiled in this role and the supporting cast of Helena Bonham-Carter, Lili Taylor, David Suchet and Bruce McGill are a force to be reckoned with. The end when the war begins is one of the most realistic war scenes I've seen in some time, it really looks like you're in the room watching the battle unfold with them. I hope this will be a kick start for Keaton to get back into making new movies because he has not lost a step in his acting ability. But you all should see for yourself, if any of you get HBO I suggest you watch this the next time its on.
Excellent teleplay, exemplary performances. Riveting and
thought-provoking. A top-notch production all around.
Beyond what else has been said, LIVE FROM BAGHDAD hails those who, as late as 1991, stood up for the freedom of the press, the battles waged, the compromises made, their failures as well as their successes. Bush the elder had ordered the press out of Baghdad, but failed, as this teleplay depicts. When Bush the younger reentered Iraq, he offered the press corps a leash instead, which most agencies snapped up.
LIVE FROM BAGHDAD, a brilliant bit of reporting done by an extraordinary CNN team, but also a subtle homage to those who help preserve one of the most vital proponents of liberty -- a free press.
interesting behind-the-war-probe, portrayed by a tv crew looking for the news story of their lives but also the price to pay for it. great performances by keaton, carter, suchet and the remaining cast as well as very well done visual effects. especially the bombing scenes commented live are so realistic you could smell the death in the air. big kudos to robert wiener and mick jackson for attempts to present the unfortunate events from relatively ordinary people's perspectives and free of overly political propaganda. the story clearly shows the west and the east are different but unlike the east, the west doesn't almost bother learning to know and understand the differences and the history behind them. demonising the unknown then creates a perfect opportunity to present it as hostile. while the gulf war probably had its justifiable reason, the current war-like situation is simply missing it...
For his portrayal of Naji, Iraqi Minister of Information, David Suchet deserves a best supporting actor award. His work is at once riveting and sublime. The whole story plays across his eyes. He infuses an unsympathetic character with warmth, intelligence, and humor. Especially in the context of current events, what more important work can an actor do than present so many colors of humanity in those we perceive as a faceless enemy.
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