I was interested to see Stewart’s directorial debut, the story of an Iranian journalist imprisoned in solitary confinement in Iran for an extended period of time. Well, at the end of the day, it’s a completely forgettable little movie. It’s strange to say something like this about Stewart; he’s typically a sharp, pointed satirist and he’s undeniably popular with the younger generation. But this is kind of the “political prisoner” drama for your grandma if you know what I mean. It’s rated R because of an occasional profanity here and there, but really it could be rated PG for all the intensity Stewart brings to the story. It’s a gripping story, but Stewart leaches it of all tension and darkness. One would be forgiven for thinking, at the end of the film, that the journalist’s imprisonment was really not that bad, kind of a cakewalk actually. I don’t think that’s how you should feel at the end of a movie like this. It isn’t that the film needs to be more graphic necessarily, but it certainly needs to feel more claustrophobic and dark. Stewart is clearly interested in hope, but the reason hope is moving is because of the horrible circumstances in which it manages to grow. It’s hard to get caught up and emotionally involved in a story of hope when the circumstances don’t seem that bad. And allow me to just point out that the moments of humor Stewart puts in here are just jarringly out of place. Even as light as the film feels, it’s still just stupid to put in an interminable scene about the journalist tantalizing his interrogator with stories of massage parlors. And what’s happened to Gael Garcia Bernal? I’ve been a fan since his energetic, charismatic performance in Y Tu Mama Tambien, but here he’s lethargic and totally without charisma. Well, anyway, deeply disappointing movie and a real waste of time. I’m warning you off this one. 1 star.
tl;dr – story of political prisoner is sanitized, tame and often cheesy; an Iranian prison term shouldn’t seem like this much of a cakewalk. 1 star.