A political figure doesn’t get his well-deserved biopic.
Wagner Moura (“Elite Squad,” “Elysium,” and “Narcos”) gives the best performance in the movie “Sergio” as Sergio Vieira de Mello (1948-2003), the famous Brazilian United Nations diplomat. I’ve never heard of this actor before or maybe once (I don’t know), but I was impressed with how much life and passion he adds into this real-life figure, especially as the producer of this feature. But he’s not enough to save the biography, which fails to deliver the narrative he deserves.
We see him dealing with political and foreign affairs-trying to bring peace to various countries-and we see him trapped under rubble after the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq. It becomes so jumbled that it’s difficult for us to comprehend his story, and we end up losing our interests in the movie.
It’s interesting to know that it was directed by Greg Barker, who almost got an Oscar Nomination for directing the made-for-HBO documentary of Sergio. This entry, finding a spot in the Netflix streaming schedule, would be his first narrative feature, but it feels too glamorized and convoluted to be an informative biopic.
The supporting actors also include Ana de Armas (getting more attention after her astonishing performance in “Knives Out”) as humanitarian Carolina Larriera, who eventually became the second wife of Sergio; Brain F. O’Byrne as his associate Gil Loescher; Garret Dillahunt as a soldier trying to get him out of the rubble; and Bradley Whitford as American diplomat Paul Bremer.
Armas and O’Byrne are more interesting than the other actors, who basically just flounder about and are blandly presented. One is desperate and worried about her love’s dark situation after the attacks, and the other is appalled at how he intends to handle disputes with other countries. And for the record, the portrayal of Loescher was altered (of course it had to be). Their performances convince us of their respective nature.
Again, Wagner Moura wins us over with how good he is as Sergio, and how he uses his words and charisma to resurrect him. But he ends up being overshadowed by its weak story structure and lack of inspiration, and the screenplay was written by Craig Borten (the Oscar nominee for “Dallas Buyers Club”).
I’m not too focused on politics, but I still manage to find the questions and answers I deserve in the movies that they inspire. “Sergio” is all this and all that, and the narrative gets twisted like a pretzel. And it’s often difficult for me to tell if this wants to focus on his political affairs or his love story with Carolina Larriera. So what is it? A political biopic or a romance? It tries to be both, and fails to wake us up.
Available for Streaming on Netflix