Friday, 22 February 2008

GFF Review: An Unlikely Weapon -by Carmody Wilson

Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper
Written by Susan Morgan Cooper
Running: 96 minutes
Certificate: 15

A documentary which looks at the life and work of photographer Eddie Adams, the title could refer to his camera, his most famous photograph or Adams himself. Gaining fame as a photographer for the Associated Press, Adams was embedded with the U.S. forces in Vietnam, and charged with photographing the daily grind of destruction and carnage that characterized the American occupation. While other photographers were sent home for being “too political”, Adams stayed on, his gritty images wired around the world as a testament to the war’s brutality and the man’s ability to capture it. The big break came when Adams, as the Americans were pulling out, snapped a last-minute shot of the Chief of Police shooting a member of the Vietcong in the head. The photo set the world on fire, and Adams was credited with taking the picture that ended the war. Adams, a blunt, plain-spoken maverick given to corrupted, curse-laden philosophies, shied away from all the attention the photograph gave him.

The film is a straight-up chronicle of Adams as a professional, delving little into his past or personal life. Interviews with legendary newsmen Tom Brokaw, Morley Safer, and Peter Jennings testify to Adams’ talent as a photojournalist, if the grainy, digitized versions of his photos don’t. The quality of the storytelling is high, with interviews with the above, Adams himself, fellow photographers, and his family, but the production quality sticks out like a sore thumb. Shot on digital, with little respect for sound levels or consistent lighting, the message suffers because of the medium. With Eddie Adams as its subject, the film deserved a little more care in its construction, but bumpy images and mic spikes aside, the man and his work are fascinating and worth watching.

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