Thursday, November 20, 2014

Movie Review: "Rosewater" (2014)

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Director: Jon Stewart
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) is an Iranian born journalist working for Newsweek Magazine who has been tasked with covering the 2009 presidential election in Iran. After a landslide victory for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, widespread reports of election fixing are reported, which helps to fuel the Green Revolution in Iran. After filming one of these protests that turned violent, Bahari is arrested by the Iranian police and accused of being a spy working for the American government. Maziar Bahari is held in solitary confinement and interrogated daily. The evidence against him stemmed from an interview with comedian Jason Jones joking about being a spy from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

This film was definitely a passion project for writer and director Jon Stewart as we're sure he feels somewhat responsible for Bahari's incarceration since to his own show was used as evidence against him. We are huge fans of "The Daily Show" pretty much love all things Jon Stewart, but this movie is not without its flaws. It is an important story to tell and we are glad we got to hear it, though there are definitely some notable drawbacks to the film itself. While this is certainly a noble effort for first-time director Stewart with an interesting story that needed to be told, the entire thing is dragged down a couple of pegs due to its seemingly poor pacing. For a movie less than 2 hours long, it feels much longer. We understand that Bahari was in solitary confinement in prison for over 4 months in real life, but the audience shouldn't feel like they have been a theater for that long. Stewart, however, does an excellent and informative job in relaying what happened. He was also able to capture what goes on inside Iran rather splendidly, something that most of the Western cultures know little or nothing about, though this poor pacing and what BigJ feels was a lack of a real emotional spark makes this movie just okay. I disagree to a certain extent on emotional spark part, since I did shed a few tears at one point during the film, not just for what Bahari faced for simply trying to do his job, but for knowing that these things still go on in only just Iran, but around the world as well. It's crazy how we in America take our freedoms for granted, and though Bahari was living in London at the time, he was still a target and was ultimately used as a pawn in political propaganda in order to control the information that got out to the citizens of Iran. The one thing that Stewart was able to capture the best was the use of social media and the internet is not only the Green Revolution but in Bahari's eventual release from prison as well. Social media and the internet have made it far more difficult for these tyrannical governments to constrain their people and to control what information is true or not. Many of these government rely on lies and misinformation in an effort to manipulate the mindset of its citizens.

It's all serious, though, and the film manages to have a couple of moments of laughter amidst the chaos and confinement. It is also interesting to note that Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal was chosen to play Maziar Bahari, especially since they look nothing alike. This doesn't distract from the great job he does with his performance, but his accent was a little off at times. Kim Bodnia, who played the interrogator who smelled of Rosewater, drew a distinct line between seething hatred for Bahari and simply doing what he needed to do to carry out his duty, personal morality aside. He gives another great performance. The movie really was filmed in Jordan and Jon Stewart took time off from his TV show to shoot the movie as close to Iran as he could get, something many filmmakers just don't do anymore. Every piece of this crazy puzzle seemed to fit together, though its lack of good pacing was very noticeable. The cinematography was excellent, the direction was valiant and what it had to say about social media being used as a tool for good are all reasons that make this movie one you should watch if you're interested.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Free Birds"

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