Film Review: Under the Wire

Paul Conroy with Marie Colvin


Chris Martin’s Under the Wire provides haunting testament and tribute to journalists Marie Colvin and Paul Conroy, as they sort to report on the civil war in Syria, subsequently uncovering crimes against humanity committed by dictator, Bashir al-Assad.

In this extraordinarily divisive era we live in, where fake news, internet memes and conspiracy theories are given more currency and credence over established facts and hard evidence, expert journalism and reporters such as the late Marie Colvin are needed now more than ever. The renowned war journalist, murdered by the Assad regime in February 2012, in what looks to be a deliberate and targeted assassination, by way of a military strike on a makeshift media centre, in a neighbourhood of Homs, was a true one-off.

Colvin and others like her embedded themselves in troubled areas, to get perspectives and stories from those usually left voiceless in violent conflict. In war, it’s all about who controls the narrative (usually politicians, the military), but thankfully the likes of Colvin and others disrupt the flow of propaganda and lies.

As talking head interviewees who knew and worked with Colvin attest, despite her grizzled persona, helped by the iconic eyepatch worn after she lost an eye in Sri Lanka reporting on the Tamil conflict, her sense of humanity and empathy for people did not waver (this, despite one person who worked with her for a short time describing Colvin as scarier than the war they were covering). Putting herself in constant harm’s way and risking life and limb to file vital copy was an occupational hazard and nothing compared to those forced to endure unspeakable violence every single day. Colvin summed up her willingness to enter war zones with nonchalant bravado: “It’s what we do.”

Under the Wire recalls Oscar-winner The Cove, in that it’s primed with a thriller-style intent and narrative structuring. That we know from the beginning Colvin dies only adds to the air of pervading doom and creeping horror. The use of talking heads serves to heighten the peril, pausing for moments to offer commentary on the situation, or adding thoughts and painful reflections given in hindsight, before continuing the descent into chaos. Conroy’s extraordinary camera and audio footage, too, adds a further layer high tension, placing the viewer right into the thick of it.

Martin’s film is a thoroughly sobering watch and leaves us with tough questions about how the West chose to deal – or rather not deal – with Assad and the refugee crisis. Colvin, then, becomes something of a guiding light in awful times, her fine legacy twofold. She was a great journalist, absolutely. But she was a greater humanitarian.

Under the Wire is in cinemas and on demand now.

Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn