Blu-ray Review: Under Fire - Twilight Time Limited Edition

By , Contributor
Boutique label has recently added the 1983 political thriller Under Fire, directed by Roger Spottiswoode, to their roster of limited edition Blu-ray releases. With a production run strictly capped at 3,000 copies, fans of intelligent, historical-based films will want to snatch it up while supplies last. Bouyed by excellent performances by Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy, and especially Nick Nolte (not to mention an unforgettable appearance by Ed Harris), it offers a mixture of subtle relationship-based drama and tense action-oriented sequences.

The pacing is languid enough to require quite a bit of viewer patience, but for those willing it’s an interesting view into a rather sordid world inhabited by sometimes unscrupulous journalists (and mercenaries). Most of the plot unfolds in late-‘70s Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution to overthrow the dictatorial Somoza regime. That’s enough to send a vast number of viewers running for the hills. Admittedly, those not at least partially-versed in the history of the period (or those unwilling to do a little research to get up to speed) will undoubtedly be left somewhat cold. There’s a certain sense of blandness to some of the non-action visual presentation that has a dulling effect over the course of 128 minutes.

Under Fire cover (215x280).jpgThat said, Nolte is compelling as a photojournalist facing his toughest ethical decision when he’s asked to compromise his journalistic integrity by falsifying a photograph of the elusive Sandinista revolutionary leader Rafael. A love triangle is explored in down to earth manner between Nolte’s photojournalist, Hackman’s upwardly mobile TV reporter, and Cassidy’s radio-based news reporter. Spottiswoode keeps the tone dry-eyed, never veering into soap opera histrionics as the trio sort out their relationship issues. Arguably stealing the show from them all is Harris’ cutthroat mercenary Oates, possibly the film’s most confident character.

Twilight Time can be counted on for delivering quality high definition presentations the vast majority of the time and Under Fire is no exception. John Alcott’s cinematography is presented as a clean transfer that is naturally grainy and true to its early-‘80s era. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is effectively straightforward. The highlight here is Jerry Goldsmith’s score, aided immensely by the presence of jazz great Pat Metheny on guitar. The music is available as an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 track for those who want to study Goldsmith and Metheny’s work more closely.

Twilight Time has gone above and beyond in presenting great new special features for Under Fire. There are two absorbing commentary tracks, both featuring Twilight Time’s in-house film historian Nick Redman. On one track he is joined by director Spottiswoode, photojournalist Matthew Naythons, and one of the film’s assistant editors Paul Seydor. On the other track, Redman is joined by film historian Julie Kirgo, music producer Bruce Botnick, and music editor Ken Hall. There’s also a short video of Joanna Cassidy reminiscing about Under Fire as well as excerpts from the Matthew Naythons Photo Archive.

For ordering information, visit Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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