#REVIEW: “BACKSTABBING FOR BEGINNERS”
Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Nothing says suspense like a good scandal at the United Nations. The UN Oil for Food Program was conceived with best of intentions in the wake of 9/11 with the purpose of selling Iraq’s oil in exchange for necessities which would be given to Iraqi people who otherwise would not have access to food and medicine due to UN sanctions. In what was certainly a shocking turn of events, politicians realized this do-goodery would be a great extra source of income and were soon exploiting the program for their own gain. Backstabbing for Beginners is a fly on the wall look the politics of charity.
Michael Soussan (Theo James) is a second-generation Diplomat who is above bribery, dishonesty, and frowns upon all forms of wrong doing. The saintly young man finds himself as the assistant to UN bigwig, Pasha (Sir Ben Kingsley) a former colleague of his father’s. Michael finds himself on a flight to Iraq on his second day work mere hours after being told by his new boss that there are shades of truth that don’t all need to be shared in the favour of the greater good. Once in Iraq, Michael and Pasha are set against Pasha’s nemesis, the honest Christina Dupré (Jacqueline Bisset) and translator Nashim (Belçim Bilgin).
James gamely tries to keep-up with his talented Costars but stumbles time and again when he is forced to keep the audience’s attention solo. Kingsley, on the other hand makes the most of his camp take on the Cypriot Diplomat. He leaves the audience wondering about the fine line between half-truths and lies while ensuring that no one ever fully dislikes his duplicitous Pasha.
Director Per Fly co-wrote the Script with Daniel Pyne based Soussan’s Memoir of the same name. Fly’s big twist relies on the audience buying into the shocking idea that politicians are corrupt. The underwhelming script drowns under an excessive use of voice overs that inundate the audience with exposition and constant reminders of Soussan’s unimpeachable honour.
Movies based on true stories are often a challenge for audiences who are familiar the outcome. Although the Oil for Food Scandal drew headlines in its day, it is safe to say most people have forgotten the finer details and will be drawn into the intrigue and beautiful international filming locations, including Toronto. Despite a lackluster Script, Backstabbing for Beginners is held together with consistent performances and steady direction.
eOne Films release Backstabbing for Beginners on Friday, May 4, 2018.