Shooting Script: The Situation zooms in on the violence in Iraq.

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Anyone needing a crash course on the occupation of Iraq will get one in The Situation. It’s conveniently front-loaded with a ready-made perspective: Americans are mostly assholes, and it was difficult to imagine that things could get worse since Saddam’s fall, yet here we are. The script isn’t exactly subtle: Screenwriter (and journalist) Wendell Steavenson shovels cookie-cutter speeches into many of her characters’ mouths, and the lines sound yanked from a lopsided debate (“The people here are angry. Full of hate.”) or come off like the utterances of politicos seeking their inner Maya Angelou (“Wesley? There is no truth, you know?”). Thankfully, Steavenson’s here’s-my-side-again-isms eventually abate a bit, and at least there’s a smokin’ blonde to distract the viewer. Connie Nielsen plays Anna, an American reporter working in Baghdad, who travels to the countryside after soldiers are suspected of throwing two Iraqi boys over a bridge at a checkpoint. She’s accompanied by Bashar (Omar Berdouni), a photographer, and gets information from Rafeeq (Nasser Memarzia), a gentle family man. After another tragedy strikes and Anna thinks she might have caused it, she becomes attracted to Bashar, finding her government-employee boyfriend, Dan (Damian Lewis), increasingly idiotic. (And, of course, she becomes determined to get the story, too.) As the script settles down, The Situation—the title refers to Ôªøpeople’s ostensible inclination to call the war “the situation”—becomes more involving as it shows the roadblocks that Anna faces, the complicated state of affairs Iraqis must now negotiate, as well as either the resignation or arrogance of Americans, both civilian and non-. (For some, the most infuriating detail of the film will be the giant, framed picture of Dubya hanging in an American ambassador’s office.) It’s a black-and-white story, but a welcome bit of color comes in when the diceyness of apparent affiliations, no matter whom one supports, becomes clear, especially within Iraqi circles. The Situation is successful at making one thing inarguable and compelling: Whichever way you lean, this situation is a mess.