SERGIO was renowned Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira del Mello (1948-2003), who spent 34 years working for the United Nations on various humanitarian missions to global hotspots. Brazil’s estimable Wagner Moura plays him in this 2020 dramatization of the latter part of his career, focusing a good deal of attention on his romantic relationship with economic consultant Carolina Larriera, played by Ana de Armas. The screenplay was written by Craig Borden (The 33, The Dallas Buyers Club), and directed– as his first narrative feature film—by documentarian Greg Barker. In 2009, Barker did a documentary on the subject, also titled Sergio, based on Samantha Powers biography “Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World”.

For this dramatization, Barker & Borden choose to begin with Sergio’s final posting in Iraq and use it as flashback fulcrum for looking  at Sergio and Carolina’s teamwork and love affair during their initial pairing in East Timor. Moura, so quietly powerful in the Brazilian crime epics Elite Squad, its sequel Elite Squad:The Enemy Within and the stunning miniseries Narcos, isn’t well-served by the rote writing and direction here, and too often his performance comes off as over-emphatic. Co star de Armas, who fetches attention from anyone else in any scene she’s in, is more affecting. As a quick-fix history lesson and honorific to a decent man, it gets a passing grade, but should have carried a stronger punch. Even though the passionate relationship between del Mello and Larriera was the genuine article, by focusing on it the script dilutes the import of what they were trying to accomplish in their work.

Production budget of $16,000,000 helped cover location filming in Thailand (subbing for Cambodia and East Timor), Jordan (once again used as Iraq), Rio de Janiero and New York City.

With Brian F. O’Bryne, Bradley Whitford (as sleazebag Paul Bremer), Garret Dillahunt, Clemens Schick and Pedro Hossi. 118 minutes.


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