Movie Review: “Sergio”
Sergio Vieira de Mello (Wagner Moura) is a reputable UN diplomat. He is the guy that the UN sends to areas of the world in conflict, and his job is to resolve the conflicts, and rebuild the societies involved. His most recent assignment was to resolve the conflict between Indonesia and East Timor. The assignment had earned him much praise, but while there he met a woman named Carolina (Ana de Armas), who was the economic advisor for his team.
Sergio and Carolina seemed to hit it off immediately, and while their recent assignment in East Timor has concluded, Sergio has been asked to go to Baghdad, Iraq, to support the American's efforts to give Iraq independence and rebuild their government. However, after arriving, Sergio soon discovers that the situation between the Americans and some of the people in Iraq is still very hostile. After a terrorist attack on the UN office, Sergio is trapped under the rubble of the building. While he waits to be rescued, he reflects on his career and his romantic relationship with Carolina.
The Pros & Cons
The War (+8pts)
Sergio & Carolina (-6pts)
The Explosion (+4pts)
The Ending (-3pts)
Pro: The War (+8pts)
When I was in high-school, I did a research paper on the Iraq war and the United States’ reasons for going there. As most are aware, the issue was far more complex than simply being retaliation to the attack on the world trade centers and the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The reasons for the United States going to war in Iraq was shrouded in shadiness, but one cannot deny that the tyranny in Iraq was a problem. I am sure none of this is new information to you, but the reason I bring it up is because I find the issue really interesting from a moral perspective. I am not going to suggest that I know exactly why the United States went to war with Iraq, as any research I did was about ten years ago as a high school student.
That being said, there was enough to support the very real possibility that the United States went to war with Iraq for the wrong reasons. Nonetheless, the United States eliminated an evil, cruel dictator from power. However, to flop yet again, Iraq has struggled to recover from the war, even to this day. The Iraq war is a labyrinth of moral questions, and I found the politics of it to be interesting when I was researching it in high school, and while I was watching this movie. The United States was still treating Iraq as a war-zone, while Sergio wanted to help the country move on and rebuild, so he wanted the United States’ “unwelcoming” military presence to back down a bit. I will let you watch this movie and decide for yourself which side was right. The filmmakers did not make any real stance on this issue, but I thought it did a good job of presenting the pros and cons of both sides of the argument, which made it an engaging story—at least when it was focused on this issue.
Con: Sergio & Carolina (-6pts)
I do not know how many people who watched this movie will agree with me. Maybe a lot, maybe none, but this romance did not work for me at all. It did not work for me for two reasons. The first, was that it just got way too much screen-time. I get that this whole story was Sergio reflecting on his life while in a situation where his own survival was uncertain. His life was more or less flashing before his eyes, so it made sense that he would be focused on the woman he loved. However, that was not what this story should have been.
My intrigue in this story, was that of Sergio's career and his role as a fixer of societies for the UN. However, most of this movie was spent watching Sergio pursuing Carolina, but the problem I had was more than just this relationship taking up too much screen-time. This was something that I probably would not have noticed if their relationship was interesting or compelling, and it just was not. I bought their chemistry together, but their relationship was just not interesting enough for me to want to see a whole movie about it. It definitely was not interesting enough for me to rather watch their relationship over watching the unique, interesting, and complex role that Sergio played in resolving global conflicts. The filmmakers put a lot of their eggs in the basket of this relationship, and I did not think this basket was an effective one—it was as if the basket had a hole in the bottom through which the eggs kept directly into—what was left was a movie with no eggs.
Pro: Sergio (+4pts)
I thought Sergio's story was an interesting one, I just would have liked to have seen more of how he resolved some of these conflicts. The filmmakers were so focused on telling the story of Sergio and Carolina's romance that they seemed to lose sight of what made Sergio's story interesting in the first place. That being said, the glimpses that we saw left me wanting to see more. This guy's job was to go to places in the world that were in the middle of hostile conflicts in an attempt to facilitate peace. By glossing over his job, the filmmakers kind of made it feel like he did not actually do much, and just got lucky, but I am certain that was not the case. The guy's job was interesting, and his morality was admirable, which made him a person whose story I was definitely interested in seeing told on the screen.
Con: Non-linear (-8pts)
The non-linear fashion that this story was told was pretty frustrating for me. There were constant, disruptive flashbacks, and there were also flashbacks within flashbacks. It made this story almost incoherent, and it was at times challenging to figure out where the characters were and at what point in time. It is not that the story was bad, but I felt like the movie would have been vastly more impactful if the story was told linearly. We would have been more invested in Sergio by the time the explosion happened, and we would not have had to cut back to less dramatic scenes while intense stuff was happening, and I feel like the romance would have been less annoying as well. I think there was a decent story here, but I think that the filmmakers really dropped the ball by telling the story in this way.
Pro: The Explosion (+4pts)
I know that this movie was based on a true story, so I am not crediting the filmmakers with coming up with this plot point. That being said, the explosion added a lot of suspense to this movie. The movie was all about politics and romance, but the explosion added cinematic suspense to it. The flashbacks were annoying because of their frequency, but I also just kept wanting to come back to the present timeline because I wanted to see if Sergio would make it out alive. The filmmakers lost some of the suspense through the frequency of the flashbacks, but I still found it to be suspenseful and dramatic.
Con: The Ending (-3pts)
I think this was more a result of my other two issues with the movie (the flashbacks and the romance). That being said, I thought the ending of the movie felt hollow. It seemed like it should have been a dramatic ending on paper, but I was just too frustrated with the way the filmmakers told this story, and I thought the ending of the movie lost a lot of impact as a result of that. Had the filmmakers told this movie linearly to let us follow Sergio properly, and had they given more focus to the impact that Sergio had on the world (not only the impact he had on Carolina), then the ending of this movie could have worked a lot better. Long story short, I just was not invested enough in this story by the end, so I did not find the ending itself to be very impactful.
Grade: C- (74pts)
There was a decent story to be told here, but I thought the filmmakers told it all wrong. Carolina was an important part in Sergio's story, sure, but I thought the filmmakers gave her way too much focus, and as a result gave too little focus to the fascinating, complex, and intense job that Sergio had. The filmmakers also resorted to seemingly non-stop flashbacks, that made the story feel somewhat incoherent and nonsensical. The flashbacks were distracting, and the uninteresting romance got too much focus, but this movie was not all bad.
Sergio was still an interesting enough character to follow. He had a complex and fascinating job, and his morality made him an easy protagonist to support. I also enjoyed visiting the politics that went into the Iraq war, as that was a war surrounded in moral issues. This movie only scratched the surface with those issues, but the movie was a lot more interesting for it. Again, I thought there was enough here to make for a really impactful and compelling story, but I thought the filmmakers really failed at bringing that to the screen.