Nothing typifies the homicidal sadism and spite of Islamic State quite as much as its kidnapping and public murder in 2014 of James Foley, an American journalist covering the war in Syria. It also marked a larger moment of chaos: the west had once been backing rebel opposition to Assad; now the jihadis were a dominant part of this opposition, and the concept of intervention was more of a nightmare than ever.
Brian Oakes’s film is a heartfelt, if slightly unreflective tribute to Foley, focusing on the strength he drew from his family and faith, although his private life and relationships are not touched on, and it does not provide an analytical context for Foley’s work. Understandably, and rightly, the film does not show the online execution (though it has no qualms about showing dead Syrians, a fact that might have been discussed further).
Foley was clearly tough and courageous to the end. The irony was that this journalist had already had a similar experience: kidnapped in Libya, but released. He was in harm’s way all his professional life, and it came with the territory. The searing video footage of the carnage and destruction provided by Foley and his colleagues is a key part of making everyone understand the horror of what is happening, and his work was vital.