Review by Dan Skip Allen
It is widely known that the United States went to Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and take over the country for themselves so they could have a foothold in the Middle East and to have a better negotiating tool for oil. The problem is that the US can't just go into countries and take over — they use words like "elections" to make their take-over make sense in the eyes of the people. They also face the obstacle of getting the blessing of the United Nations, and in this case, the UN sends their own man to evaluate the situation in Iraq: Sergio Vieria de Mello (Wagner Maura).
In his career, de Mello has been in this situation before, having faced a similar situation in East Timor. He's definitely the right man for the job. But the US isn't going to let some United Nations diplomat get in their way of taking over and controlling Iraq for their own selfish reasons. George W. Bush was trying to get revenge on Hussein for his father who failed in Iraq back in the early '90s. Yet de Mello isn't going to be pushed around. He decides it's his job to let the UN know what the US is up to. He writes up an entire dossier and is about to send it to the United Nations when an explosion blows up the hotel he is headquartered in. Is this fate or on purpose?
In East Timor, he starts up a relationship with a colleague named Carolina (Ana de Armas) who follows him to Iraq as well. Ana de Armas is coming off of her biggest role to date in last year's Knives Out. She's had a few other roles before that as wives or girlfriends in such films as Blade Runner 2049, Hands of Stone, and War Dogs. She plays a similar character in Sergio as well, back to being typecast in these kinds of roles. Though with the success of Knives Out, that will hopefully change for her very soon.
Wrapped in a film about war and diplomatic games is a romance that helps the film flow. I do care about these two people and their love affair. The diplomatic struggles are okay, but not great. The East Timor stuff is essential to develop this budding relationship, but it takes away from the real story of what happened in Iraq, which is where the meat of the story lies. This film had a chance to focus on the real issue of this story, but it lacks vision and a linear narrative. This director, Greg Barker, has done similar political films based on topics that are touched on in this film, including Ghosts of Rwanda, Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden, and The Final Year. He has a knack for telling these types of stories. The problem is Sergio lacks any vision and focus. He doesn't know if he wants to tell the Iraq story, the East Timor story, or the relationship story. This film is all over the place.
Sergio is now streaming on Netflix.