Live from Baghdad

"Good"

Live from Baghdad Review


Nothing fascinates the media as much as itself. So it should come as no surprise that one of the best films (so far) about the 1990-91 Gulf War is a drama about the reporters who covered it.

As part of its bid to make 24-hour news an institution, CNN sent producers Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton) and Ingrid Formanek (Helena Bonham Carter) to Baghdad in August 1990 to cover the brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The HBO film Live from Baghdad is the story of how Wiener and CNN overcame adversity to become the only network to continue broadcasting from Baghdad during the U.S. air strikes.

Wiener and his team soon learn that it's hard to get off the plane and immediately get the story. They find plenty of evidence that Saddam Hussein is a repressive dictator and a mass murderer, but they still allow themselves to be manipulated by the Iraqi Information Minister, Naji Sabri al-Hadithi (thoughtfully played by David Suchet). Wiener perseveres, building a relationship of mutual respect with the minister, and he comes to understand the country better.

Live from Baghdad features strong acting, especially Bruce McGill's flamboyant portrayal of Peter Arnett, and very good use of stock footage of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the U.S. bombing of Baghdad. (Surprisingly, though, the filmmakers couldn't find a body double to play Saddam, and resort to trick angles.)

The film is flawed, however. For one thing, it spends too much time praising CNN -- it's just TV, after all. (Full disclosure: HBO and CNN are both divisions of Time Warner.) The romance between Keaton and Carter is believable but a distraction -- the film really should have been about the war, not the reporters. Much of the film is about Wiener's personal growth as he supposedly learns not to be quite such an egomaniac, which is something journalists often have a hard time with... ahem. Unfortunately, since Live from Baghdad was adapted by Wiener from a self-penned autobiography, I'm not convinced that his egomania is completely under control.

And yet the film unavoidably depicts the glibness and self-absorption of the reporters, and in doing so, it gets close to the real story. Early in the film, Wiener and his crew wisecrack about the poor service in Iraq and make last-week-it-was-Kinshasa jokes. But by the time Wiener has learned diplomacy and patience from his dealings with the information minister, he also comes to see the shallowness and cynicism of journalists, including himself. As CNN becomes a mouthpiece for American saber-rattling and Iraqi dissembling, Wiener realizes that what is going on is not debate but merely dueling soundbites, and he observes: "We don't give [the audience] the tools they need to understand the story." How true. We have now fought two wars with Iraq, but we still do not understand who the people of Iraq are, or what they want.

In Live from Baghdad, the information minister candidly informs Wiener that, for Iraq, the war was about national pride -- a truth worth pondering. Pride and egomania led Saddam to invade Kuwait (and before that, Iran, in the bloodiest conflict of the 1980s). And really, what else besides nationalistic pride caused World War II, or the U.S. Civil War, or many of the bloodiest wars in history? And in every case, pride brought ruin and humiliation -- which is why pride is a sin. Wiener doesn't spell all this out in the commentary, but he trusts the viewer to see it. And that's good journalism.



Live from Baghdad

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 7th December 2002

Distributed by: HBO Video

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 7

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: George W. Perkins

Starring: as Robert Wiener, as Ingrid Formanek, as Mark Biello, as Judy Parker, as Naji Al-Hadithi, as Peter Arnett, as Tom Johnson, as Bernard Shaw, Pamela Sinha as Fatima (as Pamela Sinna), as Eason Jordan, as Nic Robertson, as Ed Turner, as Richard Roth, Michael Cudlitz as Tom Murphy

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

After the formulaic thrills of The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Marvel's Avengers were...

Son of Saul Movie Review

Son of Saul Movie Review

From Hungary, this year's Oscar-winning foreign film is a remarkably fresh take on the Holocaust...

Demolition Movie Review

Demolition Movie Review

With its darkly emotive themes and brittle humour, this well-made drama by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas...

Bastille Day Movie Review

Bastille Day Movie Review

An attempt to muscle in on Luc Besson's Taken-style of thriller, this is an odd...

Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Movie Review

Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Movie Review

Expectations are a problem with this year's Secret Cinema event. After the jaw-dropping, goosebump-inducing surprises...

Jane Got a Gun Movie Review

Jane Got a Gun Movie Review

With its grindingly low-key tension and unusual perspectives, this Western has a chance to revamp...

Criminal Movie Review

Criminal Movie Review

Almost criminally entertaining, this preposterous thriller mixes buckets of humour and emotion into the violent,...

Advertisement
The Jungle Book Movie Review

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Using remarkably photorealistic animation, this remake of the 1967 Disney classic is warm and enjoyable,...

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

Almost forensic in its approach, this smart thriller explores a drone strike from a variety...

Midnight Special Movie Review

Midnight Special Movie Review

Gifted director Jeff Nichols takes on another genre in his fourth film with actor Michael...

Boulevard Movie Review

Boulevard Movie Review

This dark, introspective drama hinges on one of Robin Williams' final film performances before his...

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy...

Black Mountain Poets Movie Review

Black Mountain Poets Movie Review

It's fairly obvious that the cast and crew began making this film with only the...

Victoria Movie Review

Victoria Movie Review

One of the most breathtaking films of the year, this ambitious story shifts from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.