A dramatic re-telling of the ill-fated United Nations diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello, whose life and work was previously explored by Greg Barker in the 2009 documentary, the same director returns to the subject in his first narrative feature starring Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas. Despite the calibre of the two leads (Moura is best known for the two Elite Squad movies and TV’s Narcos as Pablo Escobar, while Ana de Armas previously made some lasting impressions in two acclaimed movies including Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out), it’s a shame that Barker fails to give them enough room to showcase their acting prowess to the fullest.
Blame it on Barker’s decision of showcasing his movie in a non-linear narrative method, as he utilises an elaborate time jump alternating between the past and present and vice versa. Actually, there’s nothing wrong with that but Barker is seemingly clueless on how to make good use of the non-linear structure. Just about everything here flatlines from start to finish, complete with surface-level storytelling that doesn’t dig deep into the psyche of its real-life subject matter as well as both careers and personal lives of Wagner Moura’s Sérgio Vieira de Mello and Ana de Armas’ Carolina Larriera.
Speaking of the surface-level storytelling, Barker and screenwriter Craig Borten of 2013’s The Dallas Buyers Club fame chose the melodramatic route that desperately wanted to accomplish everything at once. But all we have here is a largely dull affair, with Borten’s tedious screenplay undermines all three primary acts in the movie: Sergio’s geopolitical mission in East Timor, the bombing of the Baghdad headquarters that left him trapped under the rubble, and his romantic relationship with Carolina Larriera.
As both biopic and political thriller, it feels stagnant and generic while lacking a certain dramatic tension. The movie also tries to inject some romance between Sérgio and Carolina but their love story serves more like a filler as if to fulfil its obligatory two-hour length. It doesn’t help either that their lovemaking session later in the movie is awkwardly misplaced and wholly unnecessary as well.
While both Moura and de Armas do display some decent chemistry, they clearly deserve better than this protracted and lukewarm result of what could have been a compelling biopic.
Sergio is currently showing on Netflix.