The Situation (2006) Movie

The Situation


Americans in Iraq, insurgency rising, truth illusive. U.S. soldiers in Samarra throw boys off a bridge; one drowns. An American reporter and her Iraqi photographer pursue the story. Samarra’s mayor aids the U.S. and fears the rising power of an ex-Republican Guard. The mayor uses a Baathist ex-diplomat to sell out his rival. The diplomat wants a post abroad, so he trades “intel” for safe passage. The reporter’s lover, a CIA man in Baghdad, pushes for progress on public works in Sumarra; he promotes cooperation with Rafeeq, an intellectual whom other Americans call an insurgent. Rafeeq is in danger. All roads lead to the village of Al Tawr. War at its most opaque: Iraqis call it “the situation.”
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User Reviews

  • Well-said and well-done.
    This film sums up what I have come to believe about the war in Iraq, and does it very well. Almost all of the other comments on it in this forum are accurate, in my estimation. It’s remarkable that so much was accomplished with so little money-roughly one percent of the budget of Apocalypse Now, for example. The production values are so high in most respects that I have to conclude that the confusing ambient sound track was a conscious choice of the director’s. The story is told, at times, from the viewpoint of the Iraqi characters, a remarkable feat in itself. At least a third of the dialogue is in Arabic, with subtitles. Like “Three Kings”, the film shows the Iraqis not as villains or caricatures, but just as people stuck in a crummy situation for which America is responsible. One of the other reviewers quotes Damien Lewis’ character stating the basic premise of the film:”There is no truth, you know….It’s just that the truth shifts according to each person you talk to.” The reviewer came close, but he missed one line that summed up The Situation for me: “…because the truth is covered over with layers of agenda.”

    Finally, if, ten or fifteen years from now, anyone is still interested in what was going on in the American war in Iraq, this film stands as the most convincing description I’ve seen.

  • Great Film!
    Great story about the chaos and constant change of events in Iraq and the damage caused from miscommunication. The movie provides a view into what happens when multiple entities are trying to work together while at the same time each is more interested in their own agenda. The multiple entities in this film included the CIA, the US Military, the Iraq police, an Iraq community leader, and an Iraq underground leader. In addition to these groups there was also a reporter and photographer smack in the middle. The movie is a fictional film, however it was written by a reporter who has been in Iraq for a long time, not embedded with the US military, but out working on her own, therefore even though the movie is a fictional film it is based on the realities of living and working in this war torn part of our world. The casting was excellent and the story unfolded perfectly. This movie required the viewer to pay attention and keep track of the players and each of their agendas. It was fast paced and kept the audience involved. It was not a “Hollywood” film full of gratuitous violence, but instead a deeper story about the people involved. I saw this movie at the Palm Springs Film Festival and also enjoyed the Q&A session which followed the movie. It is a provocative film that evokes an emotional reaction from the viewers regarding their opinions about the US being in Iraq, which was demonstrated during the Q&A session! One of the goals of the film is to provide a starting point for discussing the war and the events in Iraq. It is not a political statement, but instead a method to get people actively involved again.
  • Excellent movie about a complex conflict
    For me this movie is right up there with movies like Traffic, Syriana and Bloody Sunday, offering a kaleidoscopic view into a very complex political situation. You’re taken into the heart of the Iraqi conflict and you’ll get to look at the situation from different sides. From people living there, having to deal with their daily hardships and things getting worse all the time, from a reporters perspective, from the American military trying to restore order, etc. etc. Rather than taking sides, this movie shows you it’s about people. And they all look at the situation differently. It’s just like the Dan Murphy (Damian Lewis) in the movie states: “There is no truth, you know. It’s not about locking up all the bad guys. It doesn’t work like that. There are no bad guys and there are no good guys. It’s not gray, either. It’s just that the truth shifts according to each person you talk to.”
  • An Important First Look at the Iraqi Occupation
    THE SITUATION is an eye-opener for the general public who have been kept guessing as to what is happening in the Iraqi War by the edited reporting in the media. It has all the markings and possibilities of a significant statement movie, but unfortunately the seemingly sound script (Wendell Steavenson) and the solid acting are all but lost by the engineers who allowed the dialog to be inaudible: not only is the ambient sound in a war-torn country not controlled by the Dolby process, but the insipid music score covers what free space there might have been for us to hear what the characters are saying. For lip readers the story might make sense, but for other viewers it is a tough uphill fight.

    Anna (Connie Nielsen) is a journalist sent to cover the war to send home to the public a realistic view of what is happening in Iraq. She is aided by friendly Iraqis such as Rafeeq (Nasser Memarzia) and informed of American crimes against Iraqis and becomes involved in a dangerous journalistic mission, one that gives many insights into all of the aspects of the Iraqi conflict. She finds love with two men, a CIA operative Dan Murphy (Damian Lewis) who represents the idealistic vision of helping supply the country with medical assistance, and an Iraqi photographer Zaid (Mido Hamada) whose gentle spirit and warm support win Anna’s respect, and the love triangle comes into strident focus when the forces involved in espionage clash in a climatic conflict while Anna is held hostage.

    Thankfully, the Arabic conversations are accompanied by subtitles and the audience is thus more able to understand the Iraqi side of the story than the inaudible English spoken dialog apparently explaining the American aspects. The cast seems strong (especially Nielsen, Lewis and Hamada) and the supporting cast is excellent. While THE SITUATION is not meant to be the ‘tell-all’ of the complex Iraqi story, it at least gives credence to both sides of opinion. And that is what could have made the movie well worth seeing. Philip Haas digs in and gives us a tough dose of what the war is about – if only we could hear the dialog! Grady Harp

  • Underrated
    This movie is good. And I mean really well done. If you are looking for a movie without too much political agenda, then this is the one. It takes you right on the ground, on the streets and in the houses of Iraq. It showcases the torment and mistrust that has grown in the hearts of people there. It has the look and feel of an indie, at the same time it is very well made. The acting is very good, at all the levels. The movie needs a careful viewing. It is NOT an action movie. It is a well spun out drama with very good character building and a superbly evolving storyline. This is my pick from all the movies on Iraq, along with No End In Site.
  • Surviving the bad situation
    It doesn’t really matter which side of the political spectrum you come from, this movie will get you thinking. The horror of daily existence in Iraq, the violence and insecurity, the hatred and hopelessness. The good people trying to survive the bad situation, and the bad people who thrive in this hell on earth. And, of course, obvious to every thinking person, the lack of any viable solution for these, for centuries victimized people. This is a brave little independent movie with beautifully etched characters, and powerful massage. You can not bring democracy by force. Force brings only more force and more blood. Avoiding these facts might be politically prudent, but it is morally abhorrent.
  • impressive setting, less impressive storytelling
    Topicality and immediacy are the primary attributes of “The Situation,” an otherwise uneven drama based on the real life experiences of an Anglo-American journalist stationed in war-torn Iraq (the film was actually shot in Morocco).

    With her own eyewitness observations serving as her primary source of inspiration, first-time screenwriter Wendell Steavenson has crafted a tale of intrigue and romance, played out amidst the bloodshed and chaos that have wracked that nation since the war began in March 2003. The journalist (named Anna Molyneux in the movie) travels around the countryside chronicling the numerous atrocities that have arisen as a result of the tensions that exist among the nation’s various warring sects and parties as well as between the Iraqis and the American forces stationed on their soil. There are any number of shocking, heartbreaking moments scattered throughout the film, moments that illustrate with brilliant clarity the brutal facts of existence in a war-torn setting.

    As a movie, however, “The Situation” often comes across as amateurish and awkward, with many of the actors seemingly not quite up to the challenge of inhabiting the roles they’ve been assigned to play (although, in all fairness, director Phillip Haas should shoulder a significant amount of the blame for this weakness). The plotting is frequently stuffed to bursting, with far too many situations and characters vying for attention at any given moment and with romantic subplots gumming up the works unnecessarily. It’s one thing to capture the messiness and confusion of a wartime situation for dramatic and thematic effect; it’s quite another to confuse the audience through sheer incompetent storytelling.

    Yet, paradoxically, the scruffy, dog-eared quality of the movie actually enhances the verisimilitude of the piece in a way that a slicker, more polished presentation might not have done. For despite the melodramatic approach the filmmakers sometimes take towards the material, the movie doesn’t really feel like a “Hollywood” production, and that may well be the best thing “The Situation” has going for it in the long run.

  • Excellent story – questionable execution
    Before I tear into this flaws of this film, I must say that the overall story is one that should be heard. The events that take place are very accurate reflections of “the situation” in Iraq, and the dialog spoken accurate reflections of the thoughts and feelings of those impacted by it. It is a movie that is worth seeing for anyone who wants a fairly accurate portrayal of the country and how it has been impacted by the war.

    However, numerous aspects of the production take away from the experience.

    1. Although it shouldn’t impact the experience of the Western audience, one key flaw in this film is the Arabic language. The Arab actors, mostly Moroccan, don’t speak in their native Arabic dialect but use fusha, or Modern Standard Arabic. The level of fluency in MSA varies from actor to actor, some of them speaking it smoothly and others butchering it. In many cases it is clear the actors are not at ease in the language. I feel if the director was not aiming at authenticity (by having their actors learn Iraqi Arabic), they should have just let the actors speak in their native tongue rather than MSA, which feels forced.

    2. Closely related, a lot of the minor Arab roles were just terribly acted, the actors and actresses largely devoid of emotion or expression and monotone in their dialog. Many of them really appear to just be reciting lines, not acting. Iraqis (and other Arabs of the region) are very expressive when they speak, both in their facial expressions and in their gestures. Many of the smaller characters seemed entirely one-dimensional in that regard. Having lived in the region for a few years, many of the actors (extras mostly) were unconvincing.

    3. The romantic subplot seemed convoluted and was not very convincing. It distracted from more important themes in the film.

    4. Even in 2003 when this movie takes place (before the violence peaked), a tall, blonde American woman with no Arabic language skills would not be able to so easily travel around Iraq independently with only her scrawny teenage translator, especially in such conservative areas as Samarra. My wife is Iraqi and found this aspect of the film particularly unfeasible.

    5. The naive right-wing ideologue character is a bit too much like a stereotypical characterture. Again, one dimensional and unconvincing.

    6. Like many movies filmed in Morocco that are supposed to take place in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, there are many subtleties that are inaccurate, from the architecture to the types of cars driven, and this film doesn’t really give me the feeling of being in Iraq. For example, I don’t recall seeing a single portrait or statue of Saddam in the entire film. Green Zone (which, while primarily shot in Morocco, also incorporates many sequences shot in Iraq) and the Battle of Haditha (shot in Jordan) depict the subtleties of Iraq much better. The Hurt Locker also does a decent job of this, as does Three Kings.

    I suppose those are my main complaints, but they are mostly technical and related to the film-making, not the story which was generally well-written.

    Still, I’d recommend Green Zone and Battle of Haditha over this.

  • one of the first Iraq war films
    ‘The Situation’ is not only an Iraqi but a Middle-Eastern expression. In Israel as well when we want to describe the political complications or the effects of terror and war that always seem close if they are not present we talk about ‘the situation’.

    ‘The Situation’ is one of the first movies about the Iraq war and is not a bad one, but not a good one either. It combines the story of a reporter trying to find her way and tell the truth about Iraq with thriller elements and with a romantic story. The best parts are in rendering the hopeless situation the Iraqis live in, the permanent fear, violence and corruption that dominates their lives. The worst is however the one-sided view of the situation. While the focus is on the Iraqis and the usage of Arabic and the good acting makes this side of the story credible, it is the American who look almost all uni-dimensional, incompetent at best and unreasonably violent at worst, without any apparent motivation.

    I am sure more films about this tragic war will follow. Better films also.

  • Strong drama, but failure to depict US torture a weak point
    The stunningly beautiful and cool blonde, Connie Neilson, contrasts vividly with the dark and passionate Iraqis she meets in this journey through occupation hell in Iraq. This fine drama delivers many wrenching moments on a modest budget, and depicts a serious mess in Iraq that compares negatively with the former regime of Saddam Hussein, who was so vilified to their own peoples by the lawless invaders, while many of the Iraqis on balance welcomed having a strong man in power. All the ambiguities are portrayed here, except the most salient and disgusting: the American occupiers’ orgy of torture in the very prisons that Saddam used for the same purpose. Only towards the climax is there an interrogation scene that hints of the possibility of brutality, but the action pulls away and fails to confront the most urgent issue confronting American jurisprudence today. However, despite this important flaw, THE SITUATION is to be highly recommended as a courageous dramatisation of a state slipping towards failure while under the occupation of the US empire.
  • a must see
    This is an impressive film, now, today, and in the past, but what about the future????? Here we see a master asking us to question many sides of the situation, not just one, love this. Here is a film that provokes instead of pacifying, not a film for entertainment. Watch this film on different levels, watch for Iraq specifically, but watch for how most things get represented in the media. Philip Haas has captured the complexity of life, of all news, of all visual expression, by showing a situation within a situation, by making a representation about a representation, by asking us the hardest thing of all, to think outside of what we are shown.
  • That was a good movie!
    I didn’t expect a lot from this movie, having never heard about it. Very good. It portrays events in the story line without judgement, but you can see ( as other reviewers have mentioned) that the truth and the “right and wrong” “good guy / bad guy” all, depend on your point of view. There are no good guys or bad guys. The main character was merely a guide through the story and did not get in the way by insulting the audience with any moralizing. She kept the emotion by, in word, action and demeanor displaying what a shame the whole situation is. The best thing about this movie is that it really makes you realize the depth of how much your views, if they are staunch in any particular direction, may be misguided. The world is way more complicated than the the media or any one person (with their own agenda however innocent) can can convey.

Warning: Spoilers

  • Excellent, intelligent examination of the war in Iraq
    I saw The Situation at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago yesterday and I thought that the film was excellent; it’s very tense and really keeps you on the edge of your seat. When it is all over all you can think about is “what a mess” and feel glad that you are not in Iraq and wonder what motivates someone who doesn’t have to be there to go there voluntarily – like Anna the news reporter very well portrayed by Connie Nielsen.

    The film is critical of US government policy in Iraq but not critical of most of the Americans working there who are struggling to make sense of the confusion and craziness of the situation. In fact you feel a lot of sympathy for Dan Murphy, the CIA agent excellently played by Damian Lewis , because he is trying to do some good and gain credibility for US policies in the midst of corruption, confusion, and desperation. The film is definitely NOT critical of the soldiers who are getting shot at and who are just trying to follow orders and stay alive. As the Colonel well-played by John Slattery says “I’m a just soldier, I don’t understand all this, just give me some sh*t to blow up!”

    It shows the situation in Iraq from lots of different human viewpoints. The former Iraqi official (Mohamed El Lozy) who hates the Kurds currently in power and who gives intelligence to the CIA in exchange for favors. All he wants to do is stay alive and get his family safely out of the country but his wife and son despise him for his weakness (and he despises himself for “selling his soul”.)

    Zaid, the photographer (Mido Hamada) who works with Anna is an Iraqi from a Christian family and his parents were killed by Saddam. He has never been outside of Iraq and he wants to see snow and someplace with “no ruins, everything standing up!” Zaid’s grandmother says that they didn’t think things could get worse than they were under Saddam but they are worse now.

    Sometimes the Americans are shown despising the locals and we see the locals hating and denigrating the Americans – but both groups act despicable and hateful at times – and sometimes they act honorable and fair. We see the resentment of the locals because they are sitting on top of the world’s largest oil deposits and yet they have no gas or electricity and little food – everything is black market and everyday there are murders and kidnappings.

    The Americans are trying to establish order and put Iraqi officials in power so they can leave the country, but the Iraqi police are more like a violent gang focused on greed and personal power and there is no order. The insurgents are ruthless and violent (and support Saddam’s policies because they hate the other fractions) but at least they are not motivated by greed.

    Nothing is what it seems and “there is no truth” as Dan says. I won’t spoil it but the resolution of the film’s two big questions are not what you expect – was Rafeeq (Anna and Dan’s friend and informant) killed because he talked to the Americans? And will the senseless (irresponsible but unintentional) death of the teen-aged boy during the bridge incident go unpunished because he is just another dead Iraqi?

    The film is very well made, the cast is excellent and it is great that local characters are portrayed by Arab actors. It is also great that all the members of the large ensemble cast members get a lot of on screen time. It’s hard to believe that the budget for the entire film was only $1 million – it’s a big movie.

    I highly recommend the film, it makes you think and question common beliefs. It is the kind of film that stays with you for a long time.

Director: Philip Haas
Writer: Wendell Steavenson
Stars: Connie Nielsen, Damian Lewis, Mido Hamada

Other Movies: Endless Bummer (2009)