Posted by Alia Haddad on January 10, 2014 at 10:57 am
Somewhere in between Saving Private Ryan and those explanatory war series on The History Channel lies Conor Timmis’ Finnigan’s War. An independent documentary that sets out to tell the story of the unsung American heroes of the widely overlooked and forgotten Korean War, Timmis has a personal tie to the subject of his documentary. His own grandfather was one of those unsung heroes that he sets out to shed light (not shade) on. With a just over an hour run time, Timmis starts out by immediately getting something right. As an average movie- and, more relevantly, documentary-goer, my attention tends to wane at the hour and a half mark. Timmis gets it right right off the bat: he keeps it short. Before even seeing the film, I know I’m impressed by his ability to edit. These feelings only continue as I start to watch the film.
Timmis shows off his crafts as a skilled editor as the documentary jumps from a number of different film styles. If you get nothing else from Finnigan’s War, you’ll leave your screening venue convinced of Timmis’ ability in the cutting room. With any director, this comes as a welcome surprise, but with Timmis, who, with only two directing credits under his belt, is better known for his plethora of acting roles, it is a little shocking. Where did he learn such wide-ranging techniques? I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that we have a good editor on our hands.
But also, I think it’s highly unlikely that you will get nothing else from Finnigan’s War than an appreciation of film editing. I see how Timmis’ style of storytelling might be taken as a little preachy or teachy, but his inclusion of footage shot like 1950s propaganda speaks directly to the critics who deem Timmis’ style as preachy and turns that notion on its head. In his decision to include these very stylized clips, Timmis demonstrates self-awareness, a quality which adds an unexpected layer in this what would otherwise be a straightforward documentary. This, like the editing, is welcome.
As Timmis shoots straight from the hip in other regards (a la Clint Eastwood’s western characters not his director persona), he succeeds in telling a story that has until now been largely untold. Moreover, Timmis includes a range of veterans, on that are not only overlooked in popular culture, but also in our history books. And that’s where I think the highest value of the Finnigan’s War lies– in following through with the promise of telling a widely forgotten story and honoring its unsung protagonists. Check out the trailer below to start learning!