Rescue Under Fire (Zona Hostil) – film review
Rescue Under Fire (2017)
Director: Alfredo Martínez
Cast: Ariadna Gil, Raul Merida, Robert Alamo
Runtime: 94 mins
Subtitles: English (optional)
Out now on Montage Pictures
Jamie Havlin takes a look at a tense and exciting action thriller from Spain.
It’s Afghanistan in 2012, and Spanish medical officers are attending to a blood splattered local boy who has stopped breathing. He is whisked away in a flying MEDEVAC (a medical helicopter of the Spanish Army) and Captain Isabel Varela, played by Ariadna Gil (Pan’s Labyrinth, Belle Epoque) tries desperately to revive him. Sadly, despite her efforts, the boy dies.
The debut feature from multi-award-winning writer turned director Alfredo Martínez, Rescue Under Fire cranks up the tension from the opening scene and seldom lets up over the length of the movie.
Somewhere just north of Bala Murghab, UN forces are ambushed and two Americans injured, one sustaining a chest contusion, the other suffering from facial injuries. A MEDEVAC with Isabel and her crew is dispatched to help, but it has problems landing, a storm of dust blurring the vision of the pilot just as it is descending onto the ground. It tips over and breaks its rotor blades in the process.
Luckily the crew emerge unscathed and attend to the wounded men.
Spanish military officials initially agree that the MEDEVAC should be blown up and some Chinooks should be sent out as soon as possible to evacuate the troops and medical team. They quickly change their minds, resolving to attempt to salvage the damaged helicopter. The engines, electrical and hydraulic equipment are still in working condition, and they conclude that it could be recovered for service and help save more lives.
The problem with this plan being that they won’t be able to do so immediately. A ton and a half of the helicopter’s bulk will have to be shed before any Chinook will able to support its weight in the air. Armour plates, what remains of the blades, gasoline and other items onboard can be removed but this might take a night to complete.
Isabel would prefer immediate evacuation but as the Americans are now stable, she agrees that they could spend the night in the location even though there could be hostile snipers hidden in the nearby hills.
When an unarmed teenage boy dressed as a shepherd approaches their base, they suspect that he might be spying on them but they refuse to shoot him as they must follow the rules of engagement and they have no concrete evidence that he is an insurgent.
He is a spy though and soon hundreds of local Taliban soldiers will know the exact location of the Spaniards and Americans. What’s worse, ammunition is short.
It looks like this will be a long, long night.
Inspired by a true story, the film is far from cliche free, but the action sequences are impressively handled and the performances very solid.
Rescue Under Fire was nominated for two Goya Awards, the Spanish equivalent of the Baftas. It also proved a big box office hit in Spain, a country where home-grown modern war films are a real rarity.
For more on the film: https://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/classics/rescue-under-fire
All words by Jamie Havlin. More writing by Jamie can be found at his Louder Than War author’s archive.