There’s nothing like being first, especially when it comes to the bar line or general-admission seating. But making the first fictional Iraq War movie? Nothing to crow about, particularly when the results are this blah. Shot in Morocco, The Situation re-creates the jitter-cam aesthetic of previously screened Baghdad violence; its locations are the tense checkpoints and cushy Green Zone cafeterias familiar to anyone who’s seen a documentary or two.
Alas, given the breadth of the conflict, Slate reporter Wendell Steavenson’s original screenplay hardly approaches the clarity achieved in other recent dramatizations like United 93 or The Road to Guantnamo. This feels like the Blood Diamond of Iraq movies: Connie Nielsen’s blond American journo—burka-ed for her protection—carries on halfhearted affairs with a CIA operative (Keane’s Lewis) and an Iraqi freelance photographer (Hamada) in tandem. Her mind wanders. Is she more concerned with the Iraqi teen who drowned after being thrown off a bridge by asshole American troops? Or her next big story? The color of the ceiling? Difficult to say.
The Situation does score points for its cynical vibe of free-floating allegiances: former Baathist thugs hoping to land gigs on the police force; local sheiks currying favor with the occupying force; dispirited officers reaching the brick wall. Says one commander, “Ain’t no point in building jack shit if we’re just going to blow it up.” The whole film could have used a surer, Altmanesque hand; the problems of a three-way don’t amount to a hill of beans. Someone should have told these characters that. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf