Review: U.N. diplomat gets hero treatment in so-so 'Sergio'

Wagner Moura and Ana de Armas star in story of Sérgio Vieira de Mello

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

United Nations diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello gets a respectful if muddled biopic in "Sergio," which presents its subject as a political Superman.

There's no doubting the filmmakers' respect for Sergio, the U.N.'s high commissioner for human rights. But try as they might, the inner workings of international diplomacy don't sizzle on screen.   

Ana de Armas and Wagner Moura in "Sergio."

Wagner Moura plays the Brazilian peacekeeper, known as "The World's Mr. Fix-It," as a guy so even-keeled he could make Barack Obama look like a hothead.

The story's dramatic crux comes from the Aug. 2003 bombing of the Canal Hotel in Iraq, which ultimately took his life; as Sergio lies in the rubble waiting for rescue, key moments in his life are played out in flashback. 

"Kinives Out" standout Ana de Armas plays his girlfriend, Carolina Larriera, and we see their love story play out from initial flirtation — Sergio first spots her while jogging — to full-on love affair.

Sergio was no saint in his personal life — he had a wife and kids back home, whom we only see briefly — which casts his love affair with Carolina in a scandalous light that writer Craig Borten and director Greg Barker mostly soften.   

Elsewhere, we see Sergio in action, fearlessly engaging with world leaders and warlords, his optimism always his guiding light. He was slick but earnest, and believed that good would win out over evil in the end. 

Which it did, until it didn't. "Sergio" honors a man whom not everyone knows, but should. Yet its dry telling and skewed emphasis on his love life trivialize a man whose life was much more than skin deep.




Rated R: for language, some bloody images and a scene of sexuality

Running time: 118 minutes

On Netflix