Steven Spielberg reportedly intends to direct a film about war photographer Linsey Addario, which will be based on Addario’s recently published memoir “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.” The 25 year-old Jennifer Lawrence will portray the 42 year-old, still-very-much-active photographer, but where’s the movie? Addario is a brave, tough adventurer who has photographed conflicts in Iraq, Darfur, Libya and Afghanistan and gone through a lot of trauma and cast a special focus on the victims. But where’s the movie?
Just capturing the emotion, excitement and danger of a real-life professional putting herself on the line does not comprise, in itself, anyone’s idea of narrative engagement. Ask any professional screenwriter. Movies can’t just be built on a series of adventures. You have to have a story, a theme, a dramatic surprise or two, a pivot point, an unspoken undercurrent and an actual ending as opposed to just downshifting and bringing things to a close.
In short, Spielberg’s Addario flick sounds like cultural propaganda by way of “you go girl” hagiography. It’s basically going to be a film that will say the following to the audience: (a) “Whoa…here’s this ballsy woman who’s doing what Robert Capa did and has written a book about it, except she’s still fairly young and is still doing it big-time!” and (b) “Okay, we don’t really have a great story to tell, we admit that…this is basically a movie in which this happens and that happens and then this happens and then that happens and then this happens…but it’ll give Spielberg an opportunity to deliver some intense action photography in the Middle East.”
At the very least Spielberg-Addario-Lawrence has the momentum and financing that Michael Mann’s Waiting for Robert Capa doesn’t, and you know that despite the age gap Lawrence will end up with a Best Actress nomination because her character will be strong and flinty and never-say-die.
Obviously I’m just guessing here. Maybe the screenwriter will come up with a strategy that will turn Addario’s story into an actual film, and if that happens, fine. But we all know Spielberg and where his super-hack instincts have led him in the past, and you know where this will probably go. Perhaps a knockout battle sequence or two along the lines of the opening of Saving Private Ryan, but that’s all.