Under Fire was one of if not the first American film about the Nicaraguan revolution. Set at the very end of the Somoza regime, it’s all about than very recent history—essentially ongoing—with an excellent cast featuring three of the greatest actors ever: Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman and Ed Harris. Joanne Cassidy plays the love interest. It’s about these photojournalists who have arrived in Nicaragua in the last few days of the dictatorship and who then get caught up in the revolution.
It’s a perfectly fine movie, with Nolte at his peak, before he started to mumble his way through every role, which I love too. Under Fire also features a great score by Jerry Goldsmith—Quentin Tarantino used the main theme from the film, “Nicaragua,” for the entry to the Candy plantation scene in Django Unchained. The love triangle angle is cheesy, however, and definitely brings the film down a bit.
Harris is probably the best thing in Under Fire, playing a character who you assume is some kind of private contractor for the US government, a mercenary who commits an assassination. Harris was better known for his stage acting or TV roles at this point, and this was one of his earlier roles. For Nolte, there’s the obligatory scene where he has to pass the camera to someone to make sure the film gets out of Nicaragua.
The film was shot by John Alcott, one of Kubrick’s cinematographers and so very good. The director was Roger Spottiswoode, who is probably best known for directing Tomorrow Never Dies but was also an editor on a couple of key Sam Peckinpah movies, and one of the many writers on 48 Hours. Spottiswoode was also responsible for some terrible stuff, like Turner and Hooch, and did quite a few TV movies.
While not as hard-hitting (or as funny) as Salvador, it’s still pretty good. The performances and score are what really pulls it together. Of course, the great film about Nicaragua is Walker, which also stars Ed Harris. And unlike Under Fire (which was obviously shot in Mexico), Walker was actually made in Nicaragua.
There are a few special features, including two commentary tracks (one more about the film, the other more about the music), a short interview with Joanna Cassidy, and the trailer.