Charismatic and complex, Sergio Vieira de Mello (Wagner Moura) has spent the majority of his storied career as a top UN diplomat working in the world’s most unstable regions, deftly navigating deals with presidents, revolutionaries, and war criminals for the sake of protecting the lives of ordinary people. But just as he readies himself for a simpler life with the woman he loves (Ana de Armas), Sergio takes one last assignment — in Baghdad, newly plunged into chaos following the US invasion. The assignment is meant to be brief, until a bomb blast causes the walls of the UN headquarters to come literally crashing down upon him, setting into motion a gripping life-or-death struggle.
Greg Barker’s Sergio is a film that has a lot in it, while also having next to nothing in it. Even though the film has a running time of approximately two hours, there really isn’t a whole lot that happens in terms of a visual and physical standpoint within this story. There are some plot beats that progress the plot forward obviously, but they happen so few and far between that it is hard to feel deeply invested in the story in the long run.
For the first thirty minutes, the movie’s slow pace didn’t really bother me all that much, mainly because I assumed that the story would pick up the speed after a while. Although this film doesn’t delve deep enough into Sergio de Mello’s life nearly enough as it should have, there were, thankfully, a handful of scenes that told me things about his life that I never knew.
My favorite scenes in the entirety of Sergio were the ones were the title character interacted with his love interest Carolina Larriera. This is mainly due to the absolutely excellent chemistry between Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas, the latter of which is making quite the name for herself in the film industry lately. With her chilling performance as Joi in Blade Runner 2047, her breakout performance as Marta Cabrera in Knives Out, and now her role as Carolina in Sergio, she is most definitely a star to be looking out for in the near future.
Here, she is asked to do a lot. Her character is one that is carefully quiet but also has a lot to say whenever necessary. Where she truly shines is in her emotional scenes, though. Armas completely sells her crying and emotional breakdowns here and it completely blew me away. The dynamic between Armas’ Carolina and Moura’s Sergio, who is also great in the film, was terrific.
But aside from those scenes, like I touched upon earlier, the movie just doesn’t have a bunch of things to say. I really wished it took a deep dive into the life of Sergio de Mello and his work, his influence and how it deeply affected the people around him. There is maybe one scene that did this excellently, but the rest of the movie did this on a disappointingly bland level. We really should have gotten a story that told a gripping tale of his work in the United Nations, but instead, we got a movie that oftentimes feels strangely more like a more edgy romance movie than a gripping drama like it should’ve been.
Ana de Armas and Wagner Moura are wonderous in Sergio, a movie that is otherwise disappointingly bland and tells its story in an unrewarding, traditional manner.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: R for language, some bloody images and a scene of sexuality
Directed by: Greg Barker
Distributed by: Netflix
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Running Time: 118 minutes