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The Situation

There is No Truth

Despite all of the news coverage of death, atrocity, and tragedy coming out of Iraq, the war often seems surreal and distant. Director Philip Haas (Angels and Insects) does something remarkable in bringing the war to the big screen in The Situation. Filmed exclusively in Iraq, one truly does get a vivid sense of just how dire "the situation" has become.

The Situation opens in dramatic fashion as two young Iraqi boys attempt to walk across a bridge only to be confronted and accosted by American soldiers blocking the bridge. Neither the Iraqis nor the Americans speak the other’s language, chaos ensues, and one of the boys ends up dead. This moment is symbolic of the depths of the confusion and miscommunication that has consumed the region. This also frames the story that is about to unfold.

American journalist Anna Molyneux (Connie Nielsen) taps into one of her sources, Rafeeq (Nasser Memarzia), to dig into the story about the boys on the bridge and in the process raises suspicions among the locals. In relatively short order, Rafeeq ends up dead. Devastated, Anna, assuming she put Rafeeq’s life in danger, vows to find Rafeeq’s killer.

However, [v]The Situation is no mere thriller involving the uncovering of a killer. The Situation is unique in the sense that it focuses on a war that is currently taking place. While virtually all war films are filmed after the fact from a historical perspective. Philip Haas has constructed a film that has a powerful sense of immediacy and doesn’t necessarily take one side or the other.

Haas had some considerable help in telling this story. He sought out Wendell Steavenson, an Anglo-American journalist to pen the screenplay. Wendell had lived and reported from Iraq, so she was positioned to provide a unique perspective. Haas was drawn to the objectivity of Wendell’s reporting and this objectivity permeates much of The Situation.

Further contributing to the sense of authenticity and immediacy in The Situation is the usage of Iraq as the actual filming location. The tension and anxiety in the film is palpable and images of bombed out homes, mosques, schools, and vehicles provides a vivid reminder that while the story itself may be fictional, there is a very grave reality upon which it is based.

However, The Situation is very much a film about "people" and Haas did not compromise in casting the film with seasoned actors who could ably convey the anxiety and gravitas that would be required for the subject matter. Connie Nielsen is perfectly cast as the weary and stressed Anna Molyneux.

In effect, she is the nucleus around which the entire story revolves. While she is American, she has grown to know and love many of the Iraqis she has come to know. She operates in a nether realm of sorts, not identifying fully with America and it’s handling of "the situation" and not necessarily approving of how many of the Iraqis are dealing with the situation.

What we’re left with in The Situation is a powerful and vivid reflection of what is happening in Iraq. While the film is arguably fiction, there is little question that what transpires in the film is frighteningly close to the actuality of what is currently transpiring. The message is not one that uplifts, but it’s a powerful message that many need to hear.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars