Movie Review: Embedded

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Last year in the digital section of the Venice International Film Festival, Tim Robbins came to the Lido with a filmed theater piece: Embedded. The digital section at Venice is known for presenting the latest innovations in digital cinematic art, such as The Tulse Luper Suitcase project by Peter Greenaway.

The subject of Embedded is innovative-- a satire on the US military intervention of Iraq under the command of the ensemble cast of George W Bush --the military command, government advisors and their willing accomplices--prime time TV news journalists.

The main problem with the film is that it IS theater, and the effort to bring to cinematic terms the complexities of this performance piece goes flat. Not that the play is without virtue. Robbins takes artistic liberty in telling a modern day parable of the invasion of a mythic Gomorrah,located in the Middle East, by the US military.

Danish director Lars von Trier has brilliantly made use of a Brechtian stage with simple props in both Dogville and Manderlay but Robbins does not have anywhere near the same success when bringing his play to digital. His focus is on theater acting, having created The Actor's Gang in 1981. He is thereby content with telling the story not showing it visually, and true to its theater origin, the actors shout,scream and stomp, and wear masks. No doubt the best medium for this piece is the theater, but propping a camera in front of the stage does not make a film.

Venice is a festival that gracefully weaves art with politics and Robbins was a welcome guest. The title of the film represents the enmeshment of the US government and media in creating military Television theater. Prime Time War is the main entertainment channel broadcast 24 hours a day, where journalists are pawns of the military machine who work to keep the real news off the front page.

The Butcher of Babylon, clearly the defunct Sadam Hussein has to be swiftly eliminated for leading a regime harboring weapons of mass destruction, and involving satanic worship and infanticide --And the war has to be over before the NBA playoffs. Make no mistake that Rum-Rum IS (Donald Rumsfeld), Pearly White IS (Richard Perle), Gondola IS (Condoleezza Rice) and Woof IS (Paul Wolfowitz),all brandishing masks.

In essense Robbins story is a satire of the way Fox News and CNN receives and creates breaking news to make war the biggest show on earth. The film was a welcome addition at Venice for Italian journalists who got the opportunity to reflect on how the media works hand and hand with the government, in a country where their own Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi enjoys cross ownership of national television and newspapers.

For Movie Magazine, This is Moira Sullivan Venice Italy
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USA 2005