April 06, 2003


Rated PG. May Contain Violence.

The movie so far—

Most of the work for this production has been carried by some fine comedic talents. Information Minister al-Sahhaf provides light comic relief with his daily briefings 'Iraqi authorities however said they had repulsed an American attack from the south, claiming: "We were able to chop off their rotten heads." ' Despite the weakness in the script and the occasional worried look as he wonders if this is the appearance when he'll get his head shot off by a US sniper, al-Sahhaf does yeoman work with his lines: admitting that the airport had been taken by US troops, he gamely describes it as "the Americans' graveyard."

The irrepressible Tariq Aziz, whose game early work in "Gulf War I" guaranteed him a major supporting role in this sequel, deals masterfully with such lines as "it's best not to fight them in the desert, but to lure them into the cities and towns and to populated areas". But we barely get to see him. I suspect he is phoning in his role from Syria.

But the marquee star has barely shown up. For being mostly about "Saddam", the lead actor in this production is offscreen for most of the action. Like Harry Lime in The Third Man, we seem to spend most of our time waiting for him to show up in the story.

And when Saddam does show up finally, the staging has been weak, weak, weak. The Iraqi propaganda machine's idea of a set: a white wall and a flag. Where's the map, the model tanks, the pointers? Come on guys, I know times are hard, but even a high school production could come up with a painting of Saladin for that set. The only prop: a single TV set showing a tank. And he sits in front of it!

Those ensemble scenes with his council of war — no tension or drama, no conflict, no clash of advisors. Everyone sits around rapt as Saddam seemingly tediously details the latest episode of Friends.

And those outdoor shots! You would think that 70 years of propaganda films would have come down to something better than that stroll-around. Leni Reifenstahl must be spinning in her grave. Where are the shots of Saddam looking through binoculars? Saddam brandishing an AK-47? Saddam firmly pounding on a tank? Saddam on the steps of a palace defying the Stealth fighters? Saddam directing sandbag fortifications?

No, he walks around aimlessly — paunchy, cockeyed grin, ill-defined hand gestures. Did he have his director banished? Shot? And could they have tried to make him look shorter and more insignificant? He looks like the big-head Goofy figure at Disneyland. Not even Mickey, endowed with that awe, majesty and suave presence: Goofy.

Look guys, if this is the best you can do to rally the people, this movie is closing faster than Madonna's Swept Away.

Thumbs down.

Posted by campbell at April 6, 2003 12:00 AM | TrackBack