Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 24
  2. Negative: 0 out of 24
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  1. 50
    The problem is that Winterbottom has imagined both stories and several others, and tells them in a style designed to feel as if reality has been caught on the fly.
  2. 88
    And, while there's nothing revolutionary or extraordinary about the dramatic narrative, the subtext gives Winterbottom's movie its force.
  3. 88
    Bleak, darkly humorous and surprisingly unsentimental, Michael Winterbottom's film has the desperate air of a cri de coeur, and unlike many fiction films about war, its use of real-life footage seems in no way inappropriate or exploitative.
  4. In keeping with this background, the movie boldly incorporates actual newsreel footage - with authentic images of human suffering, some of them seen in TV reports on the war - into its conventionally scripted and acted story.
  5. The power comes from Winterbottom's rigorous sense of storytelling, which manages to show and tell terrible tales without telegraphing emotionalism
  6. But bearing witness can be a complex thing and in its concern to illuminate Sarajevo is prone to overkill, to trying too hard to squeeze in every troubling wartime incident.
  7. 67
    Tomei looks far too fresh-scrubbed to be anywhere near a bloody, messy hell like this, but the rest of the cast is grimly realistic, particularly Harrelson, who manages to bring some goofball credibility to what is essentially a very small role.
  8. But if the modestly budgeted film (loosely based on journalist Michael Nicholson's factual narrative, "Natasha's Story") lopes along a formulaic, often heavy-handed track, its pictures and subtext make a powerful statement. [9Jan1998 Pg. N.41]
  9. Inevitably, all this seems just too diffuse, and a set of uniformly adept performances (even Harrelson puts a leash on his usual histrionics) tends to be wasted in an only intermittently engaging movie.
  10. Winterbottom uses effective imagery to establish the horror and absurdity of war. [26Nov1997 Pg.39]
  11. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Shot in semidocumentary fashion, it builds to a more visceral climax than one initially expects. [26Nov1997 Pg.09.D]
  12. What is so impressive about Welcome to Sarajevo is its cool restraint: Like the best of journalism, it never stoops to sensationalize or sermonize, but merely observes. It's about the facts rather than something called The Truth. [9Jan1998 Pg. D.01]
  13. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    This could have turned out to be an exercise in easy sentiment, easy to shrug off. But Frank Cottrell Boyce's script is carefully understated, and director Michael Winterbottom has achieved a remarkably seamless blend of fictional and factual footage.
  14. The war is not scanted: the devastation and butchery are there. But the screenplay by Frank Cottell Boyce, based on a non-fiction account by Michael Nicholson, is thin, sentimental. [29Dec1997 Pg. 28]
  15. The result is startling and repellent -- a challenge to filmgoers accustomed to fake gunfire, fake wounds and cosmeticized death.
  16. Yet this film, for all its apparent immediacy, winds up less affecting than a more poetic or roundabout approach might be.
  17. Reviewed by: Derek Elley
    The film's persistent skimming from one vantage point to another, with no dominant dramatic line until midway through, will unsettle audiences expecting a more regular construction and something on which to hook their emotions over the long term.
  18. 80
    Winterbottom's film is openly a polemic. Messy and visceral, with an articulate, pointed anger that's recognizably British, Welcome to Sarajevo hits with an impact that's not diminished by the fact that Sarajevo's uneasy peace has held.
  19. The movie is well made by director Michael Winterbottom ("Jude"), with a minimum of overdramatics.
  20. Reviewed by: Tom Meek
    The result is crisp, brutal and utterly inspirational.
  21. Reviewed by: Michael Sragow
    Winterbottom has never before done such potent work; he's created a fiction film about the siege of Sarajevo that bristles with the raw, unnerving textures of a battlefield documentary.
  22. Reviewed by: Andrea C. Basora
    Using an almost seamless combination of documentary and fictional footage, Winterbottom provides a vivid picture of life during wartime -- so vivid in fact that it is often difficult to watch.
  23. Reviewed by: John Krewson
    Perhaps the worst thing you can say about Welcome To Sarajevo is that it's not a great film, but it's very good, and it should be seen.
  24. Reviewed by: Matt Roth
    It keeps the gag quotient lower than Reds but has a similar effect: more urgent in its desire to make us care about the events it depicts, it nonetheless reduces the war in Bosnia to mere scenery for the hackneyed journey of a world-weary journalist from cynicism to caring activism.

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