Directed by: Jon Stewart. Possibly the only reason I saw this is because it was directed by Jon Stewart, and yet, now that I’ve seen it, and I didn’t like it all that much, I realize that I actually don’t like Jon Stewart all that much. Don’t get me wrong, he’s funny and everything (except for when he isn’t), and he’s an eloquent speaker on politics compared to mainstream American news networks (which isn’t saying a lot), but there was literally no reason why any of those things indicate a knack for quality filmmaking. And yet, there I was, like everyone else, naively hoping for a great film about freedom and truth in the face of oppression, with only the name “Jon Stewart” to reassure me. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fine movie, it’s not bad by any stretch. It’s just a bit…fluffy? What’s the word? Idealistic? Pandering? Sentimental? Stewart’s political insight was never mind-blowing or anything, and in fact I suspect his effectiveness rested largely on how dysfunctional, cartoonish, and outwardly awful the conservative right in the U.S. has become over the last few decades. In a one-line gag or a five-minute segment, his political views yielded some funny stuff, no doubt about it. In a two-hour human interest drama, it quickly devolves into stock Hollywood liberal, Democrat-with-a-capital-D, give-peace-a-chance humanism. That being said, the film does put a face on the bad guys, refusing to hide behind the “evil prison warden”, showing us how, in fact, everyone’s just doing their job and, in fact, everyone has a boss. It’s also a Hollywood film that takes a look at the non-white world (that’s how Hollywood views the world, unfortunately), and spends 2 hours there with only a few supporting white characters. This itself is pretty radical. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that I had to watch London Has Fallen, an openly Islamophobic turd of a movie, and here’s a film that’s all about the Muslim world and their internal struggles. Now, to nitpick, you could definitely argue that this film is mostly about the shining beacon of American democracy, whose pinnacle is the even shinier beacon of the American free press and television media (and you can’t help but notice that Stewart himself works in media, hmm…), which all of the reasonable Iranians in the movie are invested in. But again, the United States today is a country where the leading presidential candidate is openly advocating the forcible deportation of all Muslim citizens purely on the perception that their religion is inherently dangerous and barbaric, so a film, any film—good, great, or awful—that shows as much concern for Muslim lives as this one is a pretty amazing feat. But to be clear, this is definitely not a great film.