❉ The gutsy, underrated political thriller starring Nick Nolte makes its Blu-Ray debut.
Under Fire, from eclectic journeyman director Roger Spottiswoode (The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper, Tomorrow Never Dies, Turner & Hooch, Air America, The Best of Times), has been given the deluxe Blu-ray treatment from Eureka Classics, with stunning picture and audio quality, and a plethora of special features. Released in 1983, this underrated political thriller is set during the last days of the Nicaraguan Revolution that ended the Somoza regime in 1979, with Nick Nolte delivering an intense performance as a jaded and ballsy photo-journalist who gets caught between his love for a news reporter, played with elegance and intelligence by Joanna Cassidy, and his friendship with her husband and news anchor, a perfectly cast Gene Hackman.
Set against the back drop of a “forgotten war” between the Nicaraguan government and the Sandinista rebels, the film still braces with narrative energy, topical vitality, and urgent style, and features an excellent supporting cast, including Richard Masur, Jean-Louis Trintignant, René Enríquez, and Hamilton Camp, all of whom round out their roles with integrity
Co-written by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup, Bad Boys II, Dark Blue) and Clayton Frohman (Defiance, for director Edward Zwick), the latter of whom also received Story By credit, Under Fire pays just as much attention to its action filmmaking beats as it does to its quieter moments of character building, and because we genuinely care about the people caught up in the busy but coherent story, the film has a solid emotional backbone that keeps everything grounded; these are real people reacting to real-world scenarios and if matters of the heart get involved, well, that’s just the unpredictability of life. There are also loads of great individual lines of dialogue, and Spottiswoode’s confident direction helps to guide the two hour film with excellent star turns from his leading players, especially Nolte, who channels some of his inner-rebel from Who’ll Stop the Rain.
Jerry Goldsmith’s robust musical score heightens nearly every scene and compliments the many action set-pieces with serious vigor; Goldsmith collaborated with popular jazz guitarist Pat Metheny on the score, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Shot in location in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, the film has a tremendous sense of physicality, and benefits strongly from the muscular lensing by cinematographer John Alcott (Barry Lyndon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Vice Squad, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend) which stresses real-world verisimilitude in nearly every instance. The crisp and clean editing by Mark Conte and John Bloom, which received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Editing, helps to create just the right amount of suspense while generally providing a swift sense of forward movement.
Under Fire is the type of movie that doesn’t seem to get made nearly enough these days, and if it does, it’s happening because of a streaming service; this year’s Triple Frontier from Netflix, while very different, feels cut from the cloth of these military-minded programmers, which were a staple of the studio diet in the ’80s and ’90s. At the time of its theatrical release, critics were kind to Under Fire; Siskel and Ebert both named it as one of the best films of the year. But audiences were indifferent to the subject matter, and the film died a quick death at the box-office after Orion Pictures distributed it. However, over the years, because of a strong ancillary life, the film has rightfully picked up a sizable cult following, and it’s now been released in the format that it deserves.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
❉ 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
❉ Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
❉ Optional English SDH subtitles
❉ Audio Commentary with director Roger Spottiswoode, Assistant Editor Paul Seydor and Photo-Journalist Matthew Naythons, and Film Historian Nick Redman
❉ Audio Commentary with Music Mixer-Producer Bruce Botnick, Music Editor Kenny Hal and Film Historians Jeff Bond, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman
❉ Joanna Cassidy Remembers Under Fire [3 mins]
❉ Original Theatrical Trailer
❉ Limited Edition Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author Scott Harrison [2000 copies only]
❉ Eureka Entertainment release ‘Under Fire’ on Blu-ray in the UK, as part of the Eureka Classics range from 17 June 2019. The first 2000 copies will feature a Limited Edition Collector’s booklet. Available to order from the Eureka Store and Amazon
❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott.