Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat who became the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, may not have been perfect, but he came close to it in his important work for the United Nations. No wonder two movies have tried to capture his accomplishments, one a documentary and the other a dramatic thriller. Both films are titled Sergio. Although I recommend watching each of these intense offerings, my review deals with the 2020 drama directed by Greg Barker (who also directed the documentary).
Played with appropriate gravitas by Wagner Moura (TVís Pablo Escobar), Sergio emerges as a charismatic diplomat who believes that field work is essential for U.N. success. He follows this principle in every hot-spot assignment he undertakes. He talks with both sides, no matter their beliefs, and gets them together to reach an agreement. Plus, heís willing to face dangerous situations to make this happen. People seem to respond to Sergio because of his natural charm, honesty and compassion.
Then one fateful day, Sergio agrees to represent a U.N. mission in Iraq. The purpose? After the U.S. took over that country, elections were needed in order to establish a new Iraqi government. The U.N. wanted to make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. When Sergio arrived, he was upset because of the violence still occurring there, so he wanted the people of Iraq to know he was not working for the United States, but for them and for the United Nations.
A wonder man he seemed to be.
His magic? In diplomacy.
His U.N. work received much praise.
He solved problems with winning ways.
His name became known far and wide.
But in Iraq this brave man died.
Hard to follow disjointed scenes.
Yet so clear what this movie means.
A tribute to a great hero,
a man called simply ďSergio.Ē
Itís a true story that needs told.
We lack heroes in this manís mold.
Much of this film unfolds in flashbacks as Sergio thinks about his life while trapped beneath the rubble of a tragic bomb attack on the hotel where he and his UN colleagues were meeting. Thatís probably why the story seems so confusing in parts. Still, we learn about Sergioís weaknesses as a family man as well as his strengths through his memories. And we see how he reacts to efforts involved in rescuing him. Not surprisingly, Sergio seems more worried for the others who have been injured than about himself. And we watch his romantic relationship develop with Carolina (Ana de Armas/Knives Out ), the impressive woman he planned to marry.
Thanks to Barkerís sensitive direction of Craig Bortenís screenplay -- based on Samantha Powersí book Chasing the Flame: One Manís Fight To Save the World -- Sergio ends up being a thought-provoking movie that matters.
I firmly believe that it is possible to take appropriate action in response to terrorist acts, or to prevent them, while respecting human rights. --- Sergio Vieira de Mello
Unless we aim for the seemingly unattainable, we risk settling for mediocrity. --- Sergio Vieira de Mello
(Released by Neflix and rated ďRĒ by MPAA.)