Set entirely in Iraq, The Situation is the first feature film to come out of America dealing with the Iraq war. The film echoes the confusion and chaos in the region, leaving the titles of “good” and “bad” open to interpretation.
When we watch war movies, we are used to knowing who the bad guys are, who wins and how we are supposed to feel about what happened. That isn’t possible when watching The Situation because the outcome is still anyone’s guess. Set entirely in Iraq, The Situation is the first feature film to come out of America dealing with the Iraq war. The film echoes the confusion and chaos in the region, leaving the titles of “good” and “bad” open to interpretation.
The film opens with a group of American soldiers throwing two Iraqi boys off a small bridge into a river for being out after curfew. One of the boys cannot swim and drowns before the other boy can save him. Anna (Connie Nielsen), an American journalist, goes to the small town outside of Baghdad to investigate the boy’s death. A friend she has made, Rafeeq (Nasser Memarzia), who is highly respected and trusted in his community, tells her that the boy’s death was no accident. While the U.S. Army is not making a public statement about the incident, the locals know the truth and are outraged at the Americans’ lack of concern.
At the same time, Anna has fallen into a relationship with U.S. intelligence officer Dan Murphy (Damian Lewis), who sees some hope for the region but can’t get past the red tape to accomplish anything. Anna also becomes very close to Zaid (Mido Hamida), a freelance photographer who gives his photos to American magazines to show what life is truly like in Iraq. Very quickly, Anna becomes entangled in a world she is not prepared for, one she has only read about or seen on television.
Taking its cue from star-laden films like Syriana and Babel, The Situation once again employs the everyone-is-connected style of filmmaking that has become so popular in recent years. Where The Situation breaks free from that now very recognizable formula is by keeping events that affect the whole world on a very small scale in terms of location. The film is set in only two places, Baghdad and Samarra, thereby making the world of the film a microcosm for the ills and conflicts of the real world.
All around, the acting is excellent. Nielsen does a terrific job conveying the passion and naiveté of someone whose rose-colored glasses shatter as she gets closer to the truth. Hamida is a powerful force onscreen as someone who cannot change his situation, but continues to dream of seeing the ocean and feeling safe in his home.
Director Philip Haas has crafted a seamless look at a world most of us will never know. Haas brings the audience as close to the action as possible. The camera is always another guest at a dinner table or conversation, and never runs away from gunfire or explosions that inundate many of the film’s scenes. The Situation is presented in a way that neither criticizes nor excuses what is happening and who is involved, but makes the audience decide for themselves how they feel. | Matthew F. Newlin