"The Hussein Room"
Written and Directed by Stephen Gaghan
Music by Danny Elfman
Based on a “60 Minutes” News Report by Scott Pelley
Matt Dillon (George Piro)
Armin Mueller-Stahl (Saddam Hussein)
Juliette Lewis (Amy)
Jill Clayburgh (Lynn Piro)
Tagline: "George Piro. CIA. Enrolled with the Agency for Slightly Over 3 Years. He will be in Control of the Most Dangerous Man Alive"
Synopsis: If one were to look through a profile of every CIA Agent, George Piro’s would certainly be one of the blandest. Single…35 years old…enrolled for about 3 years…no significant honors or mentions…completely normal. The only thing that one could possibly say is unique about him is that he learned to speak Arabic in college. No one had any idea, however, that that skill would lead him into the most shocking 9 months of his life.
On December 13, 2003, people across the country awoke to the most reassuring news they had heard in ages: Saddam Hussein, the heinous dictator of Iraq, had been captured after an extensive search. Once brought into captivity, the immediate instinct was to lock him up for life. He is at once placed into a maximum security, windowless room. No one disagrees that something must be done, and yet, there are so many questions left that only he can answer. That is where Piro steps in.
For the next nine months, George Piro would go to Hussein’s cell every day and converse with him, sometimes about the issues, and sometimes just about life. As time goes on, Hussein begins to view Piro as a comrade; his only friend. Piro finds himself alarmed when, on a quest to become a savior to his country, he starts becoming somewhat sympathetic to America’s most notorious enemy. Soon enough, it starts affecting his relationship with his mother, Lynn, his girlfriend, Amy, and every other aspect of his life. Tension, emotion and violence build up throughout the film all the way up to the end in one of the most fascinating, unbelievable true stories ever revealed in American history.
What the Press would say:
It is a fairly safe generalization to say that every American has heard something about Stephen Gaghan’s “The Hussein Room”, the new film telling the remarkable story of George Piro, an inexperienced CIA agent, who is given the task of drawing information from Saddam Hussein, the infamous former dictator of Iraq, for nine months. Many were afraid that the film would portray terror in a favorable light and sympathize with a man responsible for countless deaths of innocent people. The brilliance of this film, however, is that it is not at all like that. It simply tells us what happened, leaving it up to us to decide if the actions we saw are right or wrong. More importantly, however, it is a blatantly great film.
Directed to absolute perfection by Syriana’s Stephen Gaghan, “The Hussein Room” is disturbing and powerful, but also a very intimate and engrossing movie. A great deal of that can be attributed to the blissful performances. Jill Clayburgh can expect an Oscar coming her way for her stellar performance as George Piro’s mother, who is concerned about her son’s well-being and loyalty to his country. She has about 10 minutes of screen time, but uses it to her full advantage and gives the film emotional strength. About halfway through the film, you will probably have forgotten about her first scene, which simply shows the normalcy between her and her son. However, about an hour and a half into the film, there is an explosive scene where Dillon asks her to bake a cake for Hussein’s birthday. And that is where she engraves her name on an Oscar statuette. Matt Dillon, an actor who has remained relatively quiet since his Oscar nominated work in “Crash” also turns in a terrific performance as the protagonist, George Piro. Dillon is given the enormously challenging task of creating a main character that we aren’t sure if we like or not. And yet, somehow, he pulls off the task flawlessly. Dillon has been collecting buzz for the Best Actor Oscar all year long, and he has truly legitimized it. However, throughout this review I have been ignoring the elephant in the room. I am speaking, of course, of the masterwork that is Armin Mueller-Stahl as Saddam Hussein. His performance is the most essential for the film’s success, and he not only made it work, but soared above the requirements and gave one of the best performances I’ve seen in years. Throughout the film, we find ourselves strangely drawn to Hussein’s character, simply because we want to see what Mueller-Stahl is going to do next. He defies every acting trick, secret and standard in the book to give a performance unlike anything we have ever seen. I don’t know how he was able to make such a universally hated character into something honest and three-dimensional, but I do know that he will be picking up the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in a cakewalk. Any other choice would be simply embarrassing for the Academy.
I can confidently say that “The Hussein Room” is the best film of the past few years. Every rave you’ve heard for the film is completely correct. It is a deep, compelling masterpiece that we know for a fact will go down as one of the best films of all time—and the provider of one of the greatest supporting performances of all time. The cast and crew of the film should prepare to make acceptance speeches in the following Oscar categories…
Best Director (Stephen Gaghan)
Best Actor (Matt Dillon)
Best Supporting Actor (Armin Mueller-Stahl)
Best Supporting Actress (Jill Clayburgh)
Best Adapted Screenplay (Stephen Gaghan)
Best Film Editing
Best Original Score