The movie Under Fire (1983) was on cable this morning. Starring Nick Nolte, Joanna Cassidy, Gene Hackman, and Ed Harris, it’s a story about reporters in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution. Even though it came out twenty-five years ago, it doesn’t feel quite that dated. We’re no longer concerned about Marxists, but there’s still plenty of fighting going on.
Because the US-backed regime of Anastasio Somoza and his National Guard was so horribly brutal and corrupt, the film goes a bit too far in painting the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN, the Sandinista National Liberation Front) as a revolution of “poets.” That’s shown at the end of the film, with Nick Nolte’s character, a photographer, questioning Ed Harris’ character, a mercenary who fought alongside the National Guard. “What the hell are you doin’ here?” he asks during the Sandinista victory parade in the capital, Managua. “It's a free country,” he responds. “I mean…it’s free now anyway.”
I have a personal connection to this movie. It was one of the prime factors in my developing the romantic notion of being a journalist in a war-torn country. Of course, this was when the Reagan administration was training the contras to commit acts of terrorism, blowing up villages and infrastructure in Nicaragua.
However, it seems that God had other plans for me. The journalism that I studied in high school and college didn’t quite get me hooked!