This kind of film, real life , based on a true story, this shitty thing happened to someone, fucking politically motivated propaganda geared to leave the audience uplifted, and too fucking current. I am already one angry motherfucker about the state of the United States and the world we are all mostly powerlessness in. I don't find it entertaining to share in the captivity and torture of anyone and definitely when it just happened five years ago. I am not a person who wants to be entertained by reality, fuck reality I see movies to escape that. Now I am not saying it is not an important story that people should hear, what I am saying is that this is not a good night out with my wife because this shit makes me angry. Oh is it because I didn't get to pick the movie? Is that part of the problem? Here I am in a country where we jail more people per capita than any other country in the world watching a film about a country unjustly jailing a man and I am upset because I didn't choose the movie? I am a selfish man with flawed priorities.
That all aside the film tells a complete story of a reporter not really paying attention to how the innocent can be swept up in events they are covering. Gael Garcia Bernal is very good in his role as the Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari bringing to the role the panic and fear of the unknown that Bahari must have had. Equally well acted was Kim Bodnia as Rosewater (Named for the scent he wore), the "specialist" assigned to get confession from the reporter. He plays a frustrated bureaucrat thug who wishes to be doing something else but is constantly under pressure from his boss to get results that fit the administration's narrative. (Wow in writing that last sentence I realize I could have been writing about the Bush administration.) Sweeping up everyone in a wide net. Torturing and threatening and stealing hope from their captives until they say the things that fit their narrative.
The events in the film center around the 2009 Iranian elections where the opposition was first convinced that the election was fixed and second the demonstrations from the opposition was violently put down by the state. Bahari caught up in the crackdown is at first confused and isolated being accused at being a spy for the west. As the pressure is upped on him we share his personal story of trying to find the strength to resist but ultimately confessing to whatever his torturers wanted him to. When the results of that confession do not earn him freedom we see the turn of the film where learns to use his internal fortitude and imagination ease the abuse. When he learns that there are people including the United States government and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton working hard to get him freed his spirit is renewed. The message of hope is evident in the knowledge that someone is working on your behalf.
Screenplay written by (from a book on the events) and directed by Jon Stewart the film has a political tilt mixed in with the personal story. Iran as the harsh and brutal dictatorship who is struggling to hold power through brutal force and religious zealotry. The one government official we get to know Rosewater is a frustrated operative with little hope of advancement and belittled and bullied by his boss. Later in the film he is made out to be a buffoon unable to finish the job he was asked to do, more interested in the sexualized stories of the west that Bahari is sharing than doing his job. Bernal in the role plays the empowered Bahari for what turned out to be laughs in the audience of gray hairs in the theater with us which at least for me took away from the seriousness of all the action the Iranians had show up to that point. Iran is shown as a backwards society with a government of cruel operatives more repressed than dedicated to their way of life. This approach ignores the threats to the Iranian government at the time. At the same time as the unrest at the election in 2009 there were also reports of the CIA sowing unrest in southern villages in the country. It was also the time were the hikers captured in mountains along the Iraq border. The US illegal invasion of Iraq had been on going for years putting a long time threat right on their borders. It does make a point to share the idea that in the 50's the Shah of Iran was inserted into power after a CIA sponsored coup, but fails to mention any of the more recent interventions including multiple decades of sanctions and threats. This one sided approach is somewhat appropriate for the story being told but continues the ignoring of recent American imperialistic foreign policy. Since the film is told from the western point of view this makes sense for the film. Criticism of other governments like I did here of my own could very possibly get you jailed, again highlighting the privileged life we lead in the west.
Overall the film is a decently told story of a terrifying ordeal for this reporter. It reminds us that not all countries are as free as Europe and that normal citizens must be careful about countries that feel threatened by terrorists. those countries become desperate to protect themselves in the name of their people and act against many in trying to find the few threats. This film is also a cautionary tales that in security based countries freedom is precarious when you are in the media. These places do not always act in a measured rational way.