This rather tense drama opens with Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari been awoken by Investigators in his mother’s house in Tehran and subsequently hauled off to jail. Then in a flashback, we see Bahari in London 11 days previously with his heavily pregnant English wife discussing his assignment from Newsweek Magazine to cover the impending Presidential Elections in Iran. They are both aware of the danger particularly as both his late father and sister had both been imprisoned by Ayatollah Khomeini for being communists.
When Bahari arrives in Tehran a chance meeting hooks him up with a young driver who zips him around the city on his motor bike introducing the Journalist to his own liberal minded friends who are concerned that the present corrupt regime will rig the Elections to insure that their Candidate running against the incumbent President fails completely. When their worse fears are realised and the Government falsely declares that the President has been reelected with a landslide majority, the streets of the city are overrun with hundreds of thousands of protesters. The authorities react by sending out armed troopers to fire into the crowds, and when Bahari captures some of this on video that is shown on US TV, he has become a wanted man.
He is thrown into solitary confinement in Evin prison and is accused of being a spy for the CIA, the MI6, or any other Western organisation his captors claim are set on bringing the downfall of the Iranian Nation. Its a combination of paranoia and panic as the Investigator clutches at straws to make his claims stick. Bahari is blindfolded most of the time, and he establishes some sort of relationship with his tormentor…. known as Rosewater for his predilection for spraying himself liberally with the scent … who seems to bumble his way through their daily sessions of interrogation without gaining any information or a ‘confession’ from Bahari after several weeks.
As time passes and ‘Rosewater’ is pressured by his Superior to get a ‘result’ he taunts Bahari more and deprives him of anything to read and feeds him with ant infested food, but beyond depriving him of his liberty and hope, he surprisingly never really resorts to physical torture that one may have expected
This re-telling of the ghastly imprisonment of London based Iranian Newsweek Journalist Maziar Bahari in a Tehran jail for 118 days is the directing/writing debut of US TV journalist Jon Stewart whose own celebrity rather overshadows that of his subject.
Whilst Stewart does an admirable job, he still doesn’t quite succeed in overcoming his main difficulty in maintaining the tension in a true story the greater part of which is just about these two men in jail, that we already know the outcome off, and that Bahari will survive.
Gael Garcia Bernal however does an excellent job portraying the scared imprisoned journalist, and Shohrer Aghdashloo steals all her scenes in the cameo role of his mother.