Exactly how many films will be made about the "situation" in Iraq? A dozen? Two dozen? Three? Four? A hundred? From Control Room to Gunner Palace to Iraq in Fragments to The War Tapes, every documentarian has had his or her hand in the cookie jar that is anti-war exploitation - or is that war anti-exploitation. The Situation though, unlike most of the rather repetitive takes on Iraq (and the buzzing bee that is post-9/11 fervor - films such as Fahrenheit 9/11), takes a fictionalized turn at the subject. At least fictional in that there is a made-up storyline inside the facts of what is actually going on over there. Taking a real-life event - the drowning of a sixteen year old Iraqi boy by a US Army blockade - and adding in all the classic players, from a strong-yet-sensitive photo-journalist to the family man trying to do right by his people to a bow-tie clad Tucker Carlson neophyte who is taken to task by his cockiness to each and every cookie-cutter baddie in a uniform, Philip Haas has put together a surprisingly taught and tightly manicured film - all the while keeping that documentary feel to a film that most definately needs such a grainy exposure.
With the addition of Danish-born Connie Nielsen as the intrepid reporter Anna, her blonde locks a shock against the dark-haired world she has interpolated, the film takes a turn toward allegory. This sister golden hair surprise, weaving her willowy way through the throngs of dark malignancy that is both the home-grown Iraqi insurgents and the interloping American military and intellegence gatherers, is more than mere reporter. She is a shining beacon of freedom as stray strands of gold set themselves free from beneath her traditional head covering. Her Western-ideal persona becomes a glowing centerpiece which symbolizes - for good or bad, it could go either way - the reasons why we are in the Middle East in the first place. Nielsen's obvious distractive qualities are just those qualities which make her Anna - a character who first supported the war before eventually, and inevitably, opposing it - the perfect poster child for the glaring superficiality and ultimate self-indulgence that is democracy as we currently know it.
With side-mouthed reference to everything from Apocalypse Now to Platoon to Godard and even Chinatown ("forget it Anna, it's just Iraq"), The Situation is more than mere mouthpiece for the Left (a group I personally belong to) or much-needed attack on the neo-con realism of post-9/11 America, yet it is less than perfect in its parsing out of wisdom where wisdom - and logic - no longer reside. Perhaps a bit weighted down by the fictional love triangle and the one-dimensional characterizations (though many military personel may be just that one-dimensional indeed - "I'm a soldier, give me some shit to blow up," one cartoonish officer bellows at one point, and it did not surprise me at all that this ridiculous comment spewed forth from his lips), The Situation still manages to entice us with a personalized look at the atrocities being performed in our (the USofA's) name. Atrocity after atrocity after atrocity - none of those unfortunately need be fictionalized.
With a rather obvious - and need-not-be-said "Why the Hell are we there!?" head-scratching motif, The Situation may not be a great film (or even a good film per se), but it is indeed a stepping stone toward cinematically understanding this ludicrous "War of Terror" brought upon the world by King George the Younger. All the while, this aforementioned yutz in the White House looms over the whole play - both figuratively in his unconscious unconscienceness, and literally in the form of outsized framed photos of the Commander-in-Chief behind the shoulders of generals and various civilian personas - in full "What, me worry?" vim and vigor mode. An ugly affair indeed. [02/10/07]