The vast majority of biographical films find it difficult to analyze and portray, within a few hours, all the life of their subject under study. Some choose to cover their protagonist’s entire life, as director Dexter Fletcher and screenwriter Lee Hall did in, following Elton John from his childhood; others focus mainly on the last days lived, as did Rupert Goold and Tom Edge in. However, both formats leave out great facts – it is inevitable – and end up minimizing a great trajectory.
Here, in, in the first minutes of the film, Sergio Vieira de Mello (Wagner Moura) expresses exactly the difficulty of this task when he is asked to record a message to the United Nations. How could he tell his story in such a short time?
Even though the film does not focus only on the last days of the Brazilian diplomat, the larger background follows the problems that arose after the United States’ invasion of Iraq and how the United Nations should deal with the situation, balancing their independence and collaboration with the US government. It is in this minefield that, for 120 minutes, we will discover Sergio de Mello’s intentions, motivations and past.
The protagonist, so to speak, interpreted by Wagner Moura brings in his speech and posture a clear message, whenever he is given the opportunity to interact with any character: this is a man of integrity, of character and aware of his role towards the world, not just the United States. He does not recognize himself as a pawn in the US government, nor does he accept to be treated as such. It is a script with enough resources to formulate a deep political and ideological plot, focusing on international relations and power disputes, however, there is a second layer that, for all its space and relevance, makes Wagner Moura a co-protagonist in his own story: Ana de Armas.
The Cuban actress, known for her work in and more recently, brings an aura of lightness and even greater humanity to the film. It’s not just about acting quality, but also the role that the character has in Sergio’s history and life. Throughout the flashbacks that portray the diplomat’s trajectory, as well as the beginning of the relationship between him and Carolina Larriera (Ana de Armas ), Greg Barker’s camera frames them in poetic scenes, with evocative lighting from fairy tales and paradisiacal scenarios, like a summer dream that arises through conflict.
Over time, the constant comes and goes, designed to humanize the characters and make future events more dramatic, ends up interfering in the narrative of the great outcome that, due to the dilution of a past timeline, does not find its personality as a film. It is not even a political drama, but neither is it fully realized as a novel. it finds half in each genre, but does not delve deeply into any.
Being still a biography, it naturally tries to raise the status of its protagonist in front of other people in history, painting the diplomat in a space where it is not common to find characters of Latin origin, the stereotype of savior and messiahs of freedom.
In films like, which won the Oscar for best actress for Sandra Bullock in 2010, we have the most perpetual version of the savior in a more specific guise of “White savior”, in which the story of overcoming an individual or community of racial minorities is portrayed through the eyes of a white protagonist. One of the major problems of this type of film is that it contributes to stories in which it all comes down to a single figure that takes the narrative on the right path.
You don’t have the typically white hero when talking about Latin representation in a cinematic market used to whitening, like Emma Stone playing an Asian character in “Aloha”. However, it is still a narrative carried by a symbol and brings with it the dilemmas of accompanying a character summed up to “be good” as opposed to “evil”.
Thus, it brings a beautiful study of photography and acting on the part of its main couple, but mainly fails to delve into its main themes of politics, making its outcome dragged and almost like a stone in the path of the history of the novel that really struggles to count. Finally, remembering Sergio de Mello’s actions is necessary and valid, but the weight of his journey does not translate into the dramatization proposed here.
Synopsis and official trailer
During the chaotic period after the US invasion of Iraq, UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello takes on the most complex and dangerous mission of his career. Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas star in this drama by director Greg Barker.
Fact Sheet: (Original Netflix)
Original Title: Sergio
Duration: 118 minutes
Released: April 17, 2020
Directed by: Greg Barker
Classification: 16 years
Genre: Biography, Drama
Countries of Origin: USA