First Hit: I'm sure that the real story was more compelling than the film exhibited.
There was something lackluster about watching this film. I wasn’t expecting anything explosive or mind boggling, I was hoping to be touched by this film; I wasn’t.
The subject matter is interesting, however it isn’t new ground. There are many historical films about someone incorrectly imprisoned and how they survived. Unfortunately, this ends up being just one of many. Could it have been more? Yes because we have Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) who was Iranian born, his dad and sister were revolutionaries on their own, he works for Newsweek and is imprisoned in Iran for being a CIA and MI6 spy.
Given all this, I never really got a sense as to the main focus of this film: 1) Was it about how Bahari deals with the pressure? 2) Was it about how Javadi (Kim Bodnia) interrogated him? 3) Was it about how Iran wanted to show the world it is a victim of western governments? 4) Was it about how high level international pressure can bring to bear his release? 5) Was it about Bahari’s family, who have been Iranian government antagonists for generations?
I had high hopes for the film early on when Bahari is abducted from his Iranian family home and his abductors say: “We are here for you now.” They take him directly to prison. This is the point of my review, I had trouble understanding the main focus of the film and therefore I left the theater thinking; interesting but empty.
Bernal was good but the lack of clear direction reduced the effectiveness of script and unknown point of the film. Javadi was also good and only good for the reasons stated above. Jon Stewart wrote and directed this first time effort for him. The lack of direct focus on a particular subject within the context of the story might be a first time filmmaker’s mistake, I don’t know. Yet, this is what it seemed like. Stewart did an OK job, but if he’s going to do more, he has some work to do.
Overall: A good first time effort for Stewart, but the film lacked a single driving focus.