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Live from Baghdad
Live from Baghdad
Actors: Michael Keaton, Helena Bonham Carter, Joshua Leonard, Lili Taylor, David Suchet
Director: Mick Jackson
Genres: Drama, Television, Military & War
UR     2003     1hr 48min

A GROUP OF CNN REPORTERS WRESTLE WITH JOURNALISTIC ETHICS AND THE LIFE-AND-DEATH PERILS OF REPORTING DURING THE GULF WAR.

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Michael Keaton, Helena Bonham Carter, Joshua Leonard, Lili Taylor, David Suchet
Director: Mick Jackson
Creators: George W. Perkins, Geyer Kosinski, Juanita F. Diana, John Patrick Shanley, Richard Chapman, Robert Wiener, Timothy J. Sexton
Genres: Drama, Television, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Drama, All Made-for-TV Movies, Military & War
Studio: HBO Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2003
Original Release Date: 12/07/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 12/07/2002
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 48min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, Spanish, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

Great Docudrama!
Barron Laycock | Temple, New Hampshire United States | 07/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"From the opening frames of Michael Keaton trying to weasel his way into what he suspects will become the assignment of a lifetime, this production of CNN producer Robert Wiener's best-selling book, "Live from Baghdad" is a tightly shot, nerve-racking melodrama depicting how the CNN team bribed, cajoled and maneuvered their way into the story about the road to war in Iraq in 1990-91 and wound up being the only news network to cover the actual outbreak of the American bombing campaign. In the process they also single-handedly vaulted the reputation and stature of CNN into becoming the premier news source for the world at large. In one provocative scene, it shows the eyes of Saddam Hussein and George Bush after the first night of the war, both of them focused on the TV screen before them, tuned in to CNN.Wiener literally sneaks the small and ill-regarded CNN team into Baghdad after the invasion of Iraqi forces into Kuwait amid threats form American President George Bush that the Iraqi invasion meant a certain American military response with an international coalition. Keaton plays the ambitious and neurotically-driven Wiener quite well, and he has an excellent leading lady by way of Helena Bonhan Carter, playing his erstwhile assistant producer, Ingrid Formanek. By far the most interesting character depicted is the Iraqi Information Minister Naji, is played to perfection by David Suchet (of Poirot fame on BBC TV). What ensues is a clever and dangerous `cat and mouse' game in which Wiener takes what victories as can be grabbed and dispersed over the secure lines he has conned the Iraqis into allowing. For example, they film Saddam's frightening interview with a young British boy, and without any voice over, catch the essence of the extreme fear of the boy in a way that both electrifies the world wide audience into understanding how horrific Saddam is and puts the lie to the idea that such hostages were merely the "guests "of the regime. But the CNN team is manipulated and used by the Iraqis as well. In one particularly telling case, they are allowed to go to Kuwait city to interview doctors to quell the rumors of Iraqi soldiers having stolen incubators while leaving infants dying on the cold hospital ward floors. At the hospital, Wiener discovers the doctor is trembling with fear, an indication that the whole interview is a set-up, and when he attempts to alter the situation, finds himself and the crew forcibly ejected and manhandled back into the escort vehicles and quickly flown back to Baghdad. Arriving back in the city, he finds a nightmare situation; the Iraqis have meanwhile already leaked the news story they want, that being that the CNN team had found no evidence of the stolen incubators in Kuwait. Suddenly, the CNN team becomes the story of the day rather than just reporting it. The final scenes leading to the initial American bombing attacks are accurate, well-produced, and nerve-shattering, as the team finds itself alone in the hotel and free to report the exclusive unfolding story of the invasion with an incredible job of voice-over reporting `live from Baghdad". The film is a thought-provoking production, and the "location shots" are quite realistic and very believable as being Baghdad, which obviously they were not. The panorama provided of the aftermath of the first night's bombing is horrific, and clearly portray the cruel and savage nature of modern warfare. While the movie pulls no punches, it is fairly apolitical, sticking to the basic story of how it is that CNN came to be the sole source of news for the first few days of the war, and how that happenstance launched CNN into becoming the news organization it is today. Enjoy!"
Sound and Fury
R. Schultz | Chicago | 05/11/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This is probably a fairly accurate representation of how newscasters operated in Iraq during the Desert Storm War, and of how they operate in general in front-line, crisis situations. I think the movie was aiming at evoking viewers' admiration for the newscasters' courage and stamina in "getting the story." It was supposed to be a paean to CNN as it established itself as a credible, round-the-clock news source during this War. But for me, the movie had the opposite effect. It showed how rash and ultimately futile most of the media people's actions on the scene were.

Everyone is either on an adrenaline rush in this movie, or else is waiting it out in a tavern getting sloshed and sloppy. There is no happy in-between when any sane, informative reporting can take place. During their "on" periods, newscasters are seen rushing down corridors, pushing each other, jostling, jockeying to get the story before other broadcast networks can get it. And the story is usually some canned speech by Saddam Hussein or one of his cabinet members. People stoke their sense of self-importance by surrounding themselves with ringing phones. They agonize over power outages. It's all frenetic activity - signifying nothing.

Because when the War really starts, all that we get out of these many reporters' efforts are exclamations announcing another SCUD missile hit. We get "Wow! That was a big explosion! Wow, another one! The sky is lit up!" People risked their lives to tell the listening American public that a bomb just lit up the sky?

It seems there would have been opportunities for intrepid reporters to go out into Baghdad and get stories that would really have mattered - stories that would have enlightened the American public about the climate of opinion there, about conditions among Iraqi citizens, and about reasons for going to War or not going to War. But virtually nothing like that comes across. In the end, it all comes down to, "Wow, that was a big one!"

So I do think this movie is worth watching, but probably not for the reasons it was made. Instead of coming away from the film with an illustration of how good and worthy our reporters are, you, like me, may come away with an illustration of how far our news coverage needs to advance in order to be a really useful tool in the democratic decision-making process.
"
HBO Does it Again! Their Best Work Yet!
Jon M. De Benedictis | Fairfield, CT United States | 01/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Who would have thought that one of the best producers of quality films these days is a premium, cable television channel? It's one thing to have terrific shows like THE SOPRANOS & CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, but to consistently put out films that are, in most cases, better than what gets released to local movie theatres is no small feat.
With "Live From Baghdad," HBO has outdone themselves, once again. Based on a true story and a book by Robert Wiener, this film tells the story of how the 1991 Gulf War put a fledgling news network, CNN, on the map.
Wiener (played by the always excellent and underrated Michael Keaton) and his crew set up shop in Baghdad on the eve of the war and, while all the other major networks bail as the Americans eventually strike Baghdad, they make the bold decision to stay and report.
I remember, clear as day, sitting in my living room, with my father, watching the coverage of CNN that night America first attacked. I was amazed at how daring and amazing the three reporters (John Holliman, Peter Arnett & Bernard Shaw) were at that time, as they remained in their room of the Al-Rashid hotel in downtown Baghdad with a microphone put up right by the window so that viewers could hear all the bombing. Director Mick Johnson perfectly recreates this scene and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat.
Keaton receives excellent support from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter (wonderful and sexy, as always), Lili Taylor and, especially, David Suchet, who plays Naji, an Iraqi gentleman from the Ministry of Information who assists Wiener and, eventually, befriends him.
Perhaps what's most effective with LIVE FROM BAGHDAD is that it doesn't take the easy way out and tell a one-sided view of the Gulf War. Nor does it let the viewer off the hook with a typical, triumphant, Hollywood ending.
While it's obvious that Wiener and crew are thrilled with what their bravery and courage has earned them, they are clearly conflicted and saddened that it took such utter death and destruction to get them such accolades.
I highly recommend listening to Mick Johnson's commentary. It's quite fascinating and engrossing and puts things in a much different perspective by reminding us that this thrilling and action-packed story is based almost entirely on fact!
Kudos again to HBO for producing quality material like LIVE FROM BAGHDAD. As usual, they have impeccable timing, for, as the film was about to premiere, America was on the verge of invading Iraq yet again. This is all the more reason to view LIVE FROM BAGHDAD, for it serves as a reminder of just how daring Wiener and his crew were.
With America's current occupation of Iraq, the television coverage is constant from the likes of the three major networks, BBC, FOXNEWS, etc. But, back in 1991, as one character in the film puts it, CNN "owned the war.""
Great Movie!
Barron Laycock | 01/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What a film! It is so great to see a movie that can not only entertain, but also educate. And it was great to see Michael Keaton doing what he does best, after so much time. It brings to life what was going on over there. I was 15 when I was watching The Gulf War on TV... It was scary, but at that age I didn't understand. I'm glad to learn the truth in history, especially from movies. I felt the same about the movie "Thirteen Days". Keep bringing those movies that teach us our own history. Robert Wiener and Mick Jackson, you did a great job in telling the story from this perspective."