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Jon Stewart
Gael Garcia Bernal, Kim Bodnia, Dimitri Leonidas, Haluk Bilginer
Writing Credits:
Jon Stewart

Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari is detained by Iranian forces who brutally interrogate him under suspicion that he is a spy.

Box Office:
$5 million.
Opening Weekend
$1,154,303 on 371 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 2/10/2015

• Five Featurettes
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Rosewater [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 8, 2015)

Given his background, one might expect Jon Stewart’s cinematic debut as a director to provide a sharp political satire. Instead, Stewart went the dramatic route with 2014’s Rosewater, a tale that covers events related to the 2009 elections in Iran.

Born in Tehran, Maziar Bahari (Gael Garcia Bernal) makes a career as a journalist in west. He returns to his homeland to cover the aforementioned 2009 Iranian elections, but this doesn’t go well for him.

Authorities apprehend Bahari and accuse him of espionage. Bahari undergoes long-term interrogation under the authority of a man he knows as “Rosewater” (Kim Bodnia). We follow Bahari’s experiences and the journey he takes during this period.

At the start of this review, I noted that Stewart went down a path one wouldn’t expect with Rosewater, as it eschews his signature style of political satire – mostly. One shouldn’t mistake Rosewater for a humorless movie, as Stewart interjects levity on occasion.

However, Stewart mostly plays things straight – very, very straight, and probably too straight. Because of this, Rosewater works more as a lesson in civic activism and encouragement than an actual dramatic narrative.

Take the movie’s first act, for example. Rosewater informs us and involves us in matters related to the 2009 elections and the protests that followed. Clearly, the film needs some of this material, as Stewart can’t assume the audience will already understand the circumstances, especially as they relate to Bahari himself.

However, Rosewater really takes a sluggish path, as it spends far too much time on background material. We get more than 35 minutes into the story before Bahari gets imprisoned, and Rosewater doesn’t use those 35 minutes all that well. I suspect Stewart could have related all the necessary information in half the time and the movie would’ve been tighter and better paced if he had.

Once Bahari enters prison, Rosewater doesn’t become much stronger. While I don’t want to trivialize the experiences on display here, they rarely convey the misery through which Bahari lived. Oh, occasional scenes give us a feel for his state, but those occur infrequently.

Instead, Rosewater makes weeks of torture and solitary confinement seem… not that bad. We get little sense of how beaten down Bahari would’ve felt, as he rarely seems all that off-kilter in physical or mental ways.

Stewart simply appears to lack the heart to give Rosewater the grit and intensity it needs. Instead, it feels like Stewart wants to give us the eighth grade Civics class version of events. Rosewater has just enough darkness to offer some sense of reality, but it never goes to a place that creates a truly harrowing experience.

Perhaps Stewart should’ve gone the expected route and treated the material in a satirical way. When Rosewater indulges comedy – such as with Bahari’s description of New Jersey as a form of pleasure paradise – it becomes more interesting. If Stewart doesn’t want to depict the horror of Bahari’s situation, maybe he should’ve mocked the authorities and their idiocy.

Instead, Rosewater becomes an earnest little lesson without much impact. I’m not sure how a movie about a man’s unjust imprisonment by a corrupt regime can seem so soft and bland, but Rosewater comes across that way.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Rosewater appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The digital video source limited the picture’s positives, but it usually looked good.

Sharpness varied from excellent to okay. Daylight exteriors looked terrific, but interior shots or nighttime elements seemed less accurate. I wouldn’t call them soft, but they lacked great clarity.

I saw no signs of shimmering or jagged edges, and the movie lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to appear, so we got a clean, blemish-free image.

Colors tended toward the teal side of the street. This wasn’t an overwhelming orientation, though, and it suited the material, so it felt less gratuitous than with most movies. Blacks were acceptably dark, but shadows tended to seem a bit murky. This was a slightly mixed bag but it came with enough positives to merit a “B”.

Given the chatty character orientation of Rosewater, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked a whole lot of pizzazz. Much of the movie stayed with general atmosphere as well as stereo music. A few sequences – like those on the street – added some breadth, but these remained in the minority.

Audio quality seemed fine. Speech remained natural and concise, while the score showed good breadth and range. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, though they didn’t stretch the track’s capabilities. I felt the soundtrack fit the movie.

Five very brief featurettes fill out the disc. These include “Iran’s Controversial Election” (48 seconds), “The Story of Maziar Bahari” (0:49), “Real Spies Have TV Shows” (0:49), “What Happens In New Jersey…” (0:51) and “A Director’s Perspective” (0:51).

Across these, we get notes from writer/director Jon Stewart and author/journalist Maziar Bahari. They tell us a little about story/characters and the movie’s background – very little, as these short promo pieces lack any form of substance. Instead, they just make us annoyed that the disc fails to present more informative extras.

The disc opens with ads for The Theory of Everything, Dragonheart 3: The Sorcerer’s Curse, Unbroken, Kill the Messenger and Nightcrawler. Previews adds promos for End of Watch, Side Effects, Homefront, Jobs and Killer Elite. No trailer for Rosewater appears here.

A second disc presents a DVD copy of Rosewater. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

While well-meaning, Rosewater doesn’t play as an especially interesting story. It sheds little light on circumstances and seems more like an earnest attempt to bolster activism than anything else. The Blu-ray provides mostly good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. Though not a bad movie, Rosewater falls flat much of the time.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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