A set of foreign correspondents are under fire in Sarajevo.
Guaranteed to stir up passions in all quarters, Michael Winterbottom's unlikely follow-on from the literary melancholia of Jude is a bristling, biting, fulminating depiction of TV journalists under fire in the besieged Sarajevo. It is, truth be known, partly based on the real life story of ITN TV journo Michael Nicholson and at its best you could swap fragmenting Sarajevo for sweaty Pinomh Penh and the might of The Killing Fields. At its limpest, though, it scrambles around one-sided, intent on spelling out its inflammatory message with self-flattening bluntness.
Steve Dillane utilises the smile-free school of deadly earnest to great effect as Brit journo Henderson, bonding with his native driver, careering through bomb and sniper fragged streets to grab up-to-the-moment reports and questioning his moral stance — can a journalist remain a bystander? In his case the answer is no, with a traumatised orphanage the focus of his exhalation. In particular a ten-year-old girl (Emira Nusevic) he eventually adopts and smuggles to the UK through a terrifying coach journey and the most wrenching scene of all — armed troops plucking screaming racially identified children from the busload. At such junctures Welcome To Sarajevo is a truly affecting experience, sobering and unblinking. And Winterbottom never lets us forget the reality base, intercutting stark television footage with the fiction, a stylistic gesture less trite than you would imagine.
There's also a set of superb performances to enjoy — Dillane's emotional turmoil, Tomei's neatly formed aid-worker and Woody Harrelson's American TV hack smothering his discord in a brash, hollow exterior the pick of the bunch. There is no way you can discount Welcome To Sarajevo, it is too deeply felt; an intelligent, passionate film documenting a smear on European history, but it too should have kept to more neutral ground — morals, politic: and blame remain intertwined and confused. A film of extremes, then, by turns brash and simplistic and utterly powerful. See it. Then argue.
Atmospheric and superbly acted, everyone should see this on DVD at some point.