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"Friends and Crocodiles" traces the changing relationship of maverick entrepreneur Paul Reynolds and his assistant Lizzie Thomas over a period of 20 years from the beginnings of the Thatcher era to the bursting of the dot.com bubble.
Made and promoted as a long story-driven commercial for the Jaguar car company, the short follows a sharp-dressed car courier in a Mexican desert who agrees to help a beautiful armed woman on the run from her jealous gangster husband.
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." Written by
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
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