Critics' Pick

Under The Wire (R)

Documentary 93 min. November 16, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
In early 2012, as the regime of Bashar al-Assad rained bombs on civilians in the Syrian city of Baba Amr, war photographer Paul Conroy found himself refusing to leave. He was wounded from the government’s relentless shelling, as were other journalists with him. His longtime friend and colleague Marie Colvin, the storied war foreign correspondent of The London Times, had been killed in the bombing. As he recounts in Under the Wire, his memoir and also the harrowing new documentary based on it, Conroy didn’t want to escape Syria if it meant leaving behind so many women and children. The residents who were leading the escape disagreed. Near the end of Chris Martin’s film, Conroy tells the story: “They said, ‘Look. Your friends are dead. My friends are dead. All these people’s families are dead.’”

Then they shoved him onto a bicycle. “‘Get out and tell the world,’” Conroy says he was told, his voice touched with pained awe. “That was their words: ‘Tell. The. World.’”

Martin’s film finds Conroy still telling the story, still trying to get the world’s attention. Under the Wire includes Conroy’s scarifying footage of the fates of two Syrian cities. He also tells Colvin’s story, the story of the last story that she reported, alerting the world to the terrors she endured just as she had done for so many others. The film unfolds as a sort of first-person procedural, a vivid step-by-step account of a reporting trip to hell.
Chris Martin Ziad Abaza Tom Brisley Abramorama

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