Under Fire (film)

Under Fire

original film poster
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode
Produced by Jonathan Taplin
Screenplay by
Story by Clayton Frohman
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography John Alcott
Edited by
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
October 21, 1983 (1983-10-21)
Running time
128 minutes
Country United States
Language English, Spanish
Budget $9.5 million
Box office $5,696,391

Under Fire is a 1983 American political thriller film set during the last days of the Nicaraguan Revolution that ended the Somoza regime in 1979 Nicaragua. It stars Nick Nolte, Gene Hackman and Joanna Cassidy. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith, which featured well-known jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, was nominated for an Academy Award. The editing by Mark Conte and John Bloom was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Editing.The Film was shot in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.


Historical basis

Though the film is largely fictional, it was inspired by the murder of ABC reporter Bill Stewart and his translator Juan Espinoza by National Guard forces on June 20, 1979.[1] ABC cameraman Jack Clark was shooting "incidental" footage, and caught the entire episode on tape. The footage was shown on national television in the United States and became a major international incident, undermining what remained of dictator Anastasio Somoza's support. The incident was the final straw for the Carter Administration's relationship with Somoza,[2] whose regime fell on July 19.


Box office

Under Fire opened October 21, 1983 in 816 theaters, earning $1,837,768 ($2,252 average per theater) its opening weekend. The film went on to gross a total of $5,696,391 in North America.[3]

Critical response

Under Fire received a positive response from critics and holds an 88% positive "Fresh" rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three and a half out of four stars, praising the performances and declaring it one of the year's best films, saying, "The actors in Under Fire never step wrong. Nolte is great to watch as the seedy photographer with the beer gut. Hackman never really convinced me that he could be an anchorman, but he did a better thing. He convinced me that he thought he could be one. Joanna Cassidy takes a role that could have been dismissed as 'the girl' and fills it out as a fascinating, textured adult. Under Fire surrounds these performances with a vivid sense of place and becomes, somewhat surprisingly, one of the year's best films."[5] Geoff Andrew of Time Out praised the film as "tak[ing] an honourable place alongside classic war-torn romance pictures like Casablanca and To Have and Have Not" and concluded, calling it "a thrilling film, with a head, a heart, and muscle."[6]

Vincent Canby of The New York Times, however, viewed the film less favorably, saying "Under Fire, which was written by Ron Shelton and Clayton Frohman, from a story by Mr. Frohman, means well but it is fatally confused. It's silly enough to use a real, bloody war as the backdrop - the excuse, really - for the raising of the consciousnesses of a couple of mini-characters."[7]

Cultural references

For the 2012 film Django Unchained, director Quentin Tarantino used the musical cue "Nicaragua" from Jerry Goldsmith's score during the arrival scene at the Candie Plantation known as Candyland.

See also


  1. Charlton, Linda (June 21, 1979). "ABC Reporter and Aide Killed By Soldier in Nicaraguan Capital; Carter Calls Killings Barbaric". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
  2. Jimmy Carter (June 21, 1979). "Bill Stewart Statement on the Death of the ABC News Correspondent". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
  3. "Box Office Information for Under Fire". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  4. "Under Fire". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  5. Ebert, Roger (October 21, 1983). "Under Fire". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
  6. Andrew, Geoff (1983). "http://www.timeout.com/london/film/under-fire-1". Time Out. Retrieved April 1, 2014. External link in |title= (help)
  7. Canby, Vincent (October 21, 1983). "Under Fire (1983)". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2014.
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