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TV Review: Politics aside, 'Lynch' story well done

Sunday, November 09, 2003

By Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Many TV movies are based on true stories, and even then, dramatic license is usually taken.

"Saving Jessica Lynch"
When: 9 tonight on NBC.
Starring: Laura Regan.

Related article:

Screenplay atypical, says writer

But when NBC bills "Saving Jessica Lynch" as "based on a true story," eyebrows are likely to rise. How high probably depends on your political leanings and willingness to indulge conspiracy theories.

Initial reports of prisoner of war Lynch's heroics painted her as a latter-day, distaff Rambo. Later inquiries questioned that depiction and the force encountered by the U.S. troops that rescued her. A BBC documentary made her out to be more a victim than a war hero. This film shows her injured in a traffic accident, not in combat.

Whether you want to believe "Saving Jessica Lynch" is 100 percent accurate or 100 percent baloney, taken simply as a TV movie, it's better than one might expect for a quickie project rushed into production in late August.

Handsomely produced and legitimately emotional at points, "Saving Jessica Lynch" isn't a great film, but it is decent.

Lynch's story is pretty much universally known at this point, and the film wisely concentrates more on Iraqi lawyer Mohammed Odeh Al-Rehaief, who pointed American troops to the hospital where Lynch was held. This is partially practical: NBC was able to buy the rights to Al-Rehaief's story, but Lynch did not participate in the film. (She's said she doesn't remember many details of what led to her hospitalization.)

The movie begins with Pfc. Lynch (Laura Regan), a 19-year-old from West Virginia, in the 507th maintenance company's convoy as it moves across the Iraqi desert (the movie was made in Texas). Faster than you can say "Blackhawk Down," the company finds itself in guerrilla warfare conditions on the dusty streets of Nasiriyah, where Lynch is injured in a car accident and 11 other soldiers die in firefights.

Lynch is taken to a hospital and the movie becomes more the story of Al-Rehaief (Nicholas Guilak). His wife and sister-in-law work at the hospital, and he sees Lynch there and is reminded of his own daughter.

Lynch's name may be in the film's title, but Al-Rehaief is the hero of the piece. He risks his life and the lives of his wife and daughter to tell the Americans about Lynch because he feels it is the right thing to do.

Perhaps that is the greater legacy of the Jessica Lynch incident, and if it is, that example of pure humanity in the midst of war makes for an even more compelling, feel-good story than any heroics Lynch might have performed.


You can reach Rob Owen at 412-263-2582 orrowen@post-gazette.com . Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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