War is hell. There’s just no other phrase for it. In Uzbekistan, where civil war has broken out and one side has al-Qaida backing them, the situation can get worse. “War Stories,” an NBC movie event, follows around four journalists in their search for the “big story,” and the subsequent events shed new light into the atmosphere of a country in conflict and the horrors that are just a part of life for anyone surrounded by war.
The story revolves around Ben and Nora, a newly formed journalist-photographer team who are sent from their respective newspapers to find out more about the militant Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This group, with the support of al-Qaida, is trying to overthrow the government with the claim of government oppression. Ben (Jeff Goldblum) is a fearless, experienced, hard-working writer who is fully aware of the task at hand. Nora (Lake Bell) is a nervous photographer who wants to learn why al-Qaida took the life of her sister on Sept. 11. The other journalists in the area all vie for the same stories and enjoy the companionship of one another. Gayle (Louise Lombard) is a fine secondary character who will do anything to get an exclusive interview or a lead story.
A trip to a refugee camp reveals the hopelessness and despair of the people forced to live in a war-torn country. When the camp is unintentionally blown up by U.S. troops the next day, Ben and Nora find themselves with a breaking story. Photographs Nora took show the possibility of tanks around the camp, which suggest that the IMU used the refugees as a human shield. The resulting consequences for Ben and Nora include questioning, kidnapping and the terrible aftermath of an ambush. The duo show the nerves of steel required to even step foot in a warzone, let alone stand in the line of fire.
The movie is extremely well-done. At the beginning, a tremendous collage of images of our times sets the tone and provides a nice lead-in for the following drama. Goldblum and Bell generate genuine interest with quality performances and reactions. The script, with references to the chaos of Sept. 11 is thought-provoking and smooth. The plot does take an improbable and over-dramatized turn near the end, but the raw elements of the show and the emotion one takes from this more than make up for it.
“War Stories” stares its topic right in the face, and presents the cold, brutal, sometimes extreme truth. Both sides of the conflict are examined, and both are represented well. It will keep you on your toes and occasionally shock you, but you will have a more complete awareness of our nation’s current global crisis, and a look at “the other side” as well. The key phrase of this movie, repeated several times, is “There is no such thing as truth. That’s why they call them stories.” Real or not, “War Stories” deserves a look. That’s the truth.