'War Stories' combines fact with fictional plot


Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 27, 2003 at 10:24 p.m.

Facts

War Stories

  • Airs: at 8 p.m. Wednesday
  • On: NBC

  • 'War Stories" is really just one story, about a fictional civil war in a Central Asian country. And while the NBC movie raises good points about wars, other films have said the same things with more poignancy and emotion.
    Jeff Goldblum and Lake Bell ("Slammed") do a great job playing reporter Ben Dansmore and rookie photographer Nora Stone. But they're caught in an incomplete story that drops intriguing plot points but fails to fully follow through with them.
    "War Stories" airs at 8 p.m. Wednesday on NBC. It's a good movie but not a great one.
    The film is a "backdoor" pilot, meaning that if it does well in the ratings, NBC might pick it up as a series.
    "War Stories" is set in Uzbekistan, where there's a civil war between the U.S.-supported Uzbek government and the al Qaeda-backed Islamic rebels. Ben and Nora are among the correspondents near a refugee camp.
    And there's blood on the hands of both sides in this movie, which combines fact with fiction.
    On the factual side, al Qaeda blew up the World Trade Center, and that fact is used in the fictional plot for the civil war. On the fictional side, the film includes a made-up storyline in which the United States is supporting a government that is guilty of its own atrocities, including raping women.
    There are no good guys in this movie, except the journalists who risk their lives to uncover the truth.
    "War Stories" notes that in trying to fight terrorists, we can't stoop to their level. The chemistry between Goldblum and Bell is strong, and there are some good plotlines.
    But "War Stories" doesn't say enough about Ben's efforts to recover from the loss of his first photographer. And the story by executive producer Peter Noah leads the viewer into the lives of the other correspondents, but doesn't say enough about them.
    The cast includes Louise Lombard ("House of Elliot") as seductive news magazine reporter Gayle Phelan; Jeffrey Nordling ("Once and Again") as cable newsman Ian Rhys; and Noam Jenkins ("Wisegirls") as spy Abdurain "Rainy" Tamarov.
    Each character is intriguing, but doesn't get enough air time in a production that might have worked better as a more complicated, two-part mini-series.
    For "War Stories" to work as a TV series, NBC will need to be more thorough with its characters.
    Jeff Goldblum plays reporter Ben Dansmore in NBC's "War Stories," which is set in Uzbekistan, where a civil war between the U.S.-supported Uzbek government and the al Qaeda-backed Islamic rebels has broken out.

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