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Everyone Will Be Disappointed with "Saving Jessica Lynch" - Except the Audience
November 7, 2003
By Steve Young

Now that "The Reagans" is out of the way, banished to Showtime sometime "in the future," (gee, if they wanted to make sure no one saw it why didnít they just air it on UPN?), let's move on to the next hot political film controversy, NBC's "Saving Jessica Lynch."

Advertised by NBC as "based on the true story behind the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company, and the dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch," SJL, written by veteran screenwriter John Fasano ("Tombstone," "Darkness Falls," "Another 48 Hours"), will certainly set off some sort of divisive political debate. After all, it's about a divisive war. Or is it?

After I attended a full screening (to their credit, NBC did not see fit to send out an eight-minute clip to radio talk shows) of "Saving Jessica Lynch," I come to the conclusion that political operatives and pundits from every side of the aisle will surely be disappointed. SJL is not political at all.

For those who pre-screamed that this would make a hero out of Jessica Lynch, they will discover only a scared teenager dealing with an unimaginable but all too real nightmare.

For those on the left who said that it will be a military recruitment ad, anyone who considers enlistment after seeing SJL does so only after getting a pretty horrific glimpse of war's hell (at least as much as TV censors would allow). Any parent who lets their child enlist after seeing SJL and does so without getting physically sick is a stronger man than I.

For those on the right who said that this would be anti-soldier, they will have to ignore the courage of every grunt and officer involved in the rescue.

For those who believe that this would be anti-Iraqi, they will find that without the daring of Iraqis, there would be no story, nor film, nor possibly a still-living and breathing Jessica Lynch.

For those who asked why even make "Saving Jessica Lynch" without the input of the actual Jessica Lynch, read the title. It says "Saving" not "About."

For those who might shy away from the gore bullets and missiles spawn, know that SJL spares a visual bloodbath without excising the terror. Note to Quentin: See the first twenty minutes of SJL and save a bundle on the carnage budget for "Kill Bill II."

For those that said this will be a pro-Bush film, neither he nor anyone in his administration is mentioned except that the White House was aware of a rescue being attempted.. And for those who believed that there would be way too many ecstatic Iraqis greeting us with showers of flowers, thrilled to have us there, they will be happy to know that these U.S. soldiers don't face floral assaults.

For those who said that this would be Bush hatchet job, know that not a politician is in sight nor is any debate over WMD, aluminum tubes or nation-building.

At best "Saving Jessica Lynch" may come off as anti-war but never anti-soldier; a story of real risks and real fears pulled off amazingly well for a so-called television movie. SJL is an account of people, not nations; of the terror of war, not the right or wrong of getting into one.

For those who were hoping that the facts coming out of SJL would become grist for the talk radio mill, you'll be disappointed. Then again, when did a talk show need facts to create a controversy?


Steve Young is an award-winning television writer and author ("Great Failures of the Extremely Successful," Tallfellow Press) as well as film correspondent for BBC radio.

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