VOD film review: Under the Wire
James R | On 07, Sep 2018
Director: Chris Martin
Cast: Paul Conroy, Marie Colvin
Watch Under the Wire online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“I want to tell the story of each person. These are not numbers.” That’s Marie Colvin, Sunday Times journalist and war correspondent. Specialising in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, her determination to shed light on conflicts around the world became all too visible, after a blast by a Sri Lankan Army grenade caused her to lose sight in her left eye, leaving her wearing an eyepatch. Chris Martin’s documentary, Under the Wire, is a tribute to her character, as well as a gripping look at the frontline of Syria’s civil war.
In 2012, Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy took the bold decision to report on the attack upon the rebel stronghold in Homs, a shelling that left a city under siege and civilians in severe danger. With no other option, they had to illegally enter Syria, crossing the border at night to bring the footage of the conflict to the international stage. It was a mission that would put both of their lives at risk.
Martin’s film is based on Conroy’s memoir of their quest, and the director makes the smart decision to keep Conroy front and centre. An earnest, charismatic and candid presence, his account of events is riveting, packed with gruff details and eloquent observations. Mostly, though, his affection and respect for Colvin shine through: it’s as inspiring to see her at work as it is to see her embracing her eye patch as part of her brand, even acquiring one covered in studs for special occasions.
Martin balances Conroy’s first-hand knowledge with talking heads from journalist colleagues, friends and survivors, and the result elegantly balances narration and interviews with stunning, shocking footage. Conroy’s eventual effort to escape the city is terrifying tense, paying off his earlier humour with a nail-biting push for survival – and, above all, a noble desire to showcase the plight of the people of Homs. The result is a brutal, powerful reminder of the cost of conflict, but also a humbling, inspiring tribute to a journalist fighting to tell the story of individuals overlooked by media headlines. Under the Wire manages that same feat – praise doesn’t come much higher than that.
Under the Wire is available on BBC iPlayer until 13th March 2019.