April 22, 2015 2 Comments
If the passing of history can ravage great films, just think what it can do to average films. The Hunting Party, based on a true story of journalists who had covered the Balkan conflicts of the 90s decided to casually search out one of the most notorious, at-large Serbian war criminals, has ending intertitles that play up Western conspiracy to not capture war criminals like Radovan Karadžić, the one fictionalized by this film, and also mocks efforts to capture Osama bin Laden. Well, Karadžić would be captured a year later and bin Laden would be killed a few more after that. Maybe they were stirred to action by the release of this mostly obscure film (apparently the article it was based on, published in 2000, was not sufficient motivation). So yeah, history kind of takes the punch out of one of the film’s thematic points.
The more interesting aspect for me was what plays as quite a condemnation of journalism and the idea of impartiality. What we demand from journalism is an unemotional kind of tourism to atrocity. It is “if it bleeds it leads” without actually demanding that we see the horror in a way that actually outrages us, because the people it happens to are so remote to us. It actually had me thinking about a comment from the Culture Gabfest discussion of About Elly that was released today, about how watching this film about Iranian film, you don’t want to bomb them. This comment was pointing to how coverage of Iranian politics makes them this evil entity (part of an axis) to which bombing is just a strategy without actually having to consider the people who would pay a price. So the film was somewhat effective here but wasn’t really focused enough to take full advantage.
What was less effective was the film’s more stylish bits or efforts at broader comedy. There’s a weird thing with a UN guy using an intercom to speak to his secretary sitting about 10 feet away. Maybe it happened, but it is odd. There’s a whole thing with one of the guy’s girlfriends waiting for him for a vacation, which serves a purpose, but the minute or two they actually spend developing it undercuts it completely. Finally, Richard Gere’s out of control correspondent character strains belief too often. This being my second Richard Shepard film, following The Matador, which I adore, it feels like quite a disappointment, both in getting the best from the story and in failing to managing the odd tonal balance that he managed in the prior film.