Backstabbing for Beginners (2018)
User ReviewsReview this title
This was a very big scandal, there is a reviewer here on IMDB who stated it is a fictional movie and that he/she was actually involved in Food-for-Oil which was nothing but sunshine and rainbows. I have a hard time believing that. Why did the people involved fled, why did all those companies settled and paid enormous fines, just not to go thru a hassle of proving oneself innocent? I am sure there are very fine men and women in the UN who really try to help but any and every organization is susceptible to corruption and UN is no different, where there is power there is abuse of power.
I wish there were more movies that are doing scandals of the time past so we dont forget and dont let them repeat.
Theo James takes on the role of Michal Soussan as he unravels the tale of the misappropriation of United Nations money in the Oil for Food program that was intended to supply food and medicine to the victims of Saddam Hussein's brutal madness in Iraq 2002 - 2003. The cast is uniformly excellent with the superb Ben Kingsley as the UN undersecretary Pasha in charge of the Oil for Food humanitarian effort to aid the desperate Iraqi citizens. He hires the somewhat naïve Michael Soussan to go to Baghdad to oversee the supposed infiltration of evil in the humanitarian program. Michael's naïveté fails to face the complex dealings of Christine Dupre (Jacqueline Bisset), the Kurdish Nashim (Belçim Bilgin), the evil Rasnetsov (Brian Markinson), and other characters portrayed by Rossif Sutherland, Rachel Wilson, Peshang Rad, among others.
The depth and extent of corruption in the manipulation of the billions of dollars sent for humanitarian aid but foiled by Hussein and the governments and big businesses of the world leading up to the attack on Iraq by President George Bush's included photomontage speech is horrifying. Yes, we all have heard and read about the extent of global corruption, but to watch it occur along with mass killings and degrading behaviors is staggeringly real and disgusting. Did the film need to be made? Yes, if we all care about somehow finding a means to end the greed and hypocrisy that still remains a global plague. Not an inspiring film, but a necessary one. And well done.
And as such it is an important film, so those that are too young to have lived it or just have forgot the story have it told/refreshed. (It was big back then).
It is well played by the actors, and the director -as usual- does a good job. But some parts gave me a dry and dusty feeling in the mouth (and no, not due to the sand...), but for obvious reasons not all parts of a real story are equally dramatic, but the slightly boring parts are important to get the full story.
8 is a bit high, but 7 is a bit too stingy...
(I'm not sure about the spoiler tag, since it is based on a real story)
The sandal ranks about number 4 in the common man's ability to understand what happened behind BCCI, Indonesiagate, and the 2008 Bank/mortgage crash. And for that reason much of the film was boring. Kickbacks and explosions. Internal drama.
Guide: F-word. sex. No nudity.
The seemingly naive Michael will soon find himself in the midst of massive corruption, kickbacks, yes-backstabbing, and even murder, with so many billions of dollars at stake. Some of the decision making by him and others had me often shaking my head in disbelief. Moving into the ridiculous, why did Kingsley's character "Pasha" find it necessary to use the "f" word in just about every sentence?
Overall, just not enough dramatic tension here to make this a really engrossing movie. It did have its moments but I can't rate it higher than fair.
Michael Soussan (Theo James) is an idealistic young man, successful in his career handling figures but wanting to contribute more to the world. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his father, a career diplomat killed in a bombing when he was a child. He gets his opportunity when his resume crosses the desk of Pasha (Ben Kingsley), the man running the oil-for-food program for the United Nations.
Michael is immediately tossed into the mix with a sink or swim move to have him condense research on the program for Pasha. Having worked with his father, Pasha guides him and instructs him to learn to narrow down the focus of any presentation he has to offer. And like that the two are off to pre-war Iraq.
Once arriving Michael begins to question some of the things he's seeing and hearing about. Supplies that are being sent aren't being distributed equally with some sects of the country with close ties to Saddam Hussein getting the lion's share and the Kurds receiving next to nothing or spoiled goods, including medicine. He also begins to question the funding as bits and pieces of the money move about on the books.
Pasha assures him that this is nothing more than how diplomats negotiate transactions. But Pasha hasn't convinced Christina Dupree (Jacqueline Bisset) who's been doing her own investigation. Discovering widespread corruption and the channeling of funds into the pockets of others than who it was intended for she makes sure Pasha knows that her report to the UN Security Council will not be a whitewashed job for his sake.
Michael develops close ties with his interpreter, Nashim (Belcim Bilgin), a young woman who wants to do all she can to help those in her country. He learns from her that his predecessor was murdered for information he had, a list of everyone who'd taken kickbacks and payoffs from the program. As he learns this Dupree is also killed and her report tossed aside and replaced with one Michael has helped Pasha put together, one that he is called on to present before the UN.
Finding himself in the midst of what will turn out to be one of the most major corruption scandals of all time Michael searches for a way to either justify the actions of those around him or to leave it all behind. The list is passed on to him for protection and the decision of how to handle it goes to him. Along the way lives will be placed in danger and his career placed in jeopardy. But is it his career he is most focused on or his original goal to help others?
Much of the story told here was provided to news readers when it took place but the facts, figures and casts of characters involved were so vast that most would go on to forget it took place altogether. But in truth it displayed the amount of corruption that was found at the highest levels in the UN. It showed the weaknesses of the system put in place and this film does a great job of summing that up and making it much easier to understand.
James, known mainly for his role as Four in the Divergent series of films, presents himself well here. As Michael his character moves from nave to overwhelmed to seeking justice. In lesser hands the part would have come off as just lost start to finish. Kingsley's Pasha is well played and his penchant for accents put to use here. Some will find humor in the fact that whoever taught this character English apparently used the F bomb so frequently that Pasha accentuates nearly everything he says with the word.
No movie can present every single fact about a story like this one. But perhaps in being made it will cause people to revisit this story or at least encourage young people to learn more about it. As a movie it's entertaining and keeps you riveted waiting to see what happens next. It might seem dry to most since it's not non-stop car chases and hand to hand combat but it does hold your interest and is worth a watch.
The film was adapted from the Michael Soussan book that exposed the duplicity and greed behind the United Nations multi-billion-dollar "Oil-for-Food" program that was rife with bribes, kickbacks, and sweetheart deals. The corruption was so widespread that it involved two thousand companies and fifty-six countries.
The screenplay depicted the intersection of the shady "Oil-for-Food" operation with the equally duplicitous pretext for the United States to invade Iraq. Occasionally, documentary footage is interspersed with the action of the film. Initially, Per Fly wanted to make a documentary film, then reshaped his screenplay into the fictionalized version of the story. But the blending of documentary and fictional styles is effective for this subject.
The film was successful in evoking the director's vision of the "grey area" of characters who may be simultaneously humanitarians and crooks. This dialectic is no more apparent than in the character of the diplomat Pasha, brilliantly performed by Ben Kingsley. Pasha has genuine concern for feeding and providing medical care to starving children. But that does not prevent him as well from becoming a cynic and a grifter.
One might even argue that Michael, the idealistic young protégé of Pasha, also lives in a grey area where he will sacrifice a vital piece of incriminating evidence in order to save Nashim, with whom he has fallen in love. Still, the young diplomat whom Pasha calls "The Kid" has enough integrity to continue the fight for of peace and justice.
It is unfortunate that we do not have many examples of "The Kid" in current diplomatic affairs. But when they do surface, it is a cause for celebrating our humanity and the desire to move closer to a peaceful world order.
The diplomat is in a huge dilemma, but he navigates the situation well and ends up way more fortunate than many others in the film. The film is a little slow, and can use tighter editing. Still, it is an interesting film to watch.
Michael Sullivan (Theo James) takes a job at the United Nations with supervisor Pasha (Ben Kingsley) a United Nations Under Secretary who runs the Oil for Food Program and Michael eventually learns how "diplomacy" really works. Michael learns that there is corruption everywhere he looks, but goes along with Pasha's "don't rock the boat" philosophy because Pasha wants to keep his job and also to insure the funding continues for the Program.
This is really NOT an entertaining story. It's more like a documentary about the corruption within the United Nations, and sometimes it's difficult to follow characters that come and go and we are not sure what they do except to say most are up to no good.
All you really have to do is to follow Michael and his take on everything. Remember, he took the job to make a difference in the world, but is constrained by Pasha and his don't rock the boat philosophy. Michael's change of heart started with Michael befriending and defending Nashim (Belcim Bilgin) a Kurdish woman who fears for her life if she is found out to be Kurdish in Iraq.
After the attack by the US on Iraq, Michael sees the opportunity to get the evidence for all the corruption that involves many well known companies and other countries who greased Saddam's hand. Ben Kingsley plays Pasha perfectly and we all know he is guilty and we wonder how Michael will expose him and all the rest. And this is where the major backstabbing takes place because Pasha is found guilty as well. Pasha admits to Michael later on that this was well-played by Michael.
Notable: Jacqueline Bisset as Christina Dupre, who is opposed to the Food for Oil program because she knows the program is corrupt and all the food never gets to the people and worse the drugs that are supposed to help cure illness are so out of date many deaths come about because of that.
Stay tuned to the end to see statements about what happened to everyone.
An aside: To see more backstabbing incidents, watch any daytime Soap on TV. Ha !
Again, not entertaining, but quite informative and this is a difficult story to follow, but Pasha does make it interesting. (7/10)
Violence: Yes. Sex: No Nudity: No. Humor: Some. Language: Yes. Rating: B
Ben Kingsley was solid in his portrayal of the UN Undersecretary General in charge of Oil For Food, Costa 'Pasha' Passaris, while Theo James appeared to be a bit out of his element as the new kid on the block. At twenty four years of age, he was just naive enough to believe that his work would 'matter', a pretty simplistic buzzword for those whose ideals outweigh real life circumstances. It was admirable that he felt conflicted about his position and that he eventually did the right thing by going to the Wall Street Journal to expose the nastiness going on. It's more than admirable that he didn't get whacked at some point along the way like his predecessor in the job.
I recall only vaguely the outcry over the massive corruption exposed by this incident back in the early 2000's. It convinced me, among other issues, of how ineffective and counter productive the United Nations can be in virtually every area in which it participates. One of the movie's end credits stated how the exposé led to numerous reforms at the UN, making me wonder how many days that might actually have lasted.
It was shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, pressure was being put on Saddam Hussein, and one UN-backed program was "oil for food" program where Iraq would supply oil and in return would get food and medicines for the suffering population.
Theo James plays the lead character, Michael, who takes a job working for the UN. His immediate boss is Ben Kingsley as Pasha, a man from Cyprus who nominally was in charge of the program. When Michael writes a summary report, including the data showing up to 30% of the money was being skimmed off illegally, Pasha took those pages and immediately shredded them. PLus food and medicines were not being distributed evenly to those in need.
This movie isn't overly interesting in its style, but the story is interesting, to show how widespread corruption is in high places all over the world.
This film actually sucks big time. Why we have to watch a stupid young guy kept doing bad works?