Starring Wagner Moura, Ana de Armas
Directed by Greg Barker
Rating: ** ½
This is a film with the body of Kathryn Bigelow and the spirit of David Lean. On the surface, it is a true-life political drama about the last three months in the lives of the legendary Brazilian UN diplomat Sergio d’Mello. The entire film unfolds as he lies buried in rubble of rebel insurgency.
But dig deeper and it is a story of forbidden love during impossibly violent times in Iran when Americans were trying to establish their supremacy in the war-torn region.
Sergio comes across in the film as a hero in the truest sense. Strong ideological immovably principled and sinfully charismatic. As played by the wonderful Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, Sergio is a powerful man who knows the full power that his personality exerts on the politics of diplomacy.
If you’ve seen Moura’s earlier work he would be found to be unrecognizable in his dapper suits and graceful demeanor.Director Greg Barker who earlier made a documentary on Sergio d’Mello obviously hero-worships his subject. In his vision, Sergio can do no wrong. This is not a bio-pic. It is a love letter to the cult of iconization where the hero is a super-hero with no dull spots in the halo, no holes in his cape, and no flaw on his character that a bit of romantic background music can’t hide.
Sergio, we are told, is unhappily married. Hence he can break the diplomatic protocol and have a torrid affair with a colleague Caroline(Ana de Armis). Their love exchanges are borderline corny with lines that sound like Shakespearean rejects from Love & Juliet. You know, the ones Shakespeare’s wife must have laughed at when he used them on her.
The romance hits all the expected notes but doesn’t get us all wound up and doesn’t tighten the space around our hearts the way it did in David Lean’s Dr Zhivago where passion prevailed in times of political pandemonium.
Sergio is just not ambitious enough to serenade sublimity. But it has some thoughtful moments of political maneuvering and the landscape representing a devastated angry Iran in 2003 looks authentic. If only the heart of the landscape matched with anxious passion of the protagonists who seem involved more with convincing us of their mutual involvement than expressing the careless joy of mutual passion.