As I watch this movie from an outsider’s perspective (being a Canadian and all) I am astonished at the difficulties and the hardships it takes to become an American Citizen, to stay in America or even achieve a working permit as according to Wayne Kramer, the films writer and director.
Max Brogan (Harrison Ford) is an Immigration agent who actually has a heart and shows compassion for most of the people he is suppose to track down and deport. His partner, Hamid (Cliff Curtis who is one of those actors I love and never really get to see enough of) an Iranian-American (Hmmmm, a Kiwi – playing an Iranian–American. Love it!!) who is completely loyal to his family and is feeling torn between his cultural traditions and being an American (which is hard to toggle between sometimes). Hamid has one of the most moving monologues later in the film – however, I don’t want to give up too much…
Denise is an Immigration Defense Attorney (Ashley Judd, who is slightly forgettable in this role as apparently she was drained of all acting ability after an unbelievable performance in BUG) is in the midst of trying to find a family for an orphaned child from Africa as well as dealing with the deportation of a 15-year old girl from Bangladesh (even though she hasn’t been there since she was three years old and does not speak a word of her traditional language), after she presents a paper at school stating that people should try to understand the 9/11 hijackers, which the school’s principal reports to authorities as promoting terrorism (because I guess in the US, they are so afraid of something like that happening again that they would report to homeland security on a 15 year old girl who wrote an essay! By the way, when you watch the scene, she is not promoting and is going through things that most normal teenage girls go through). This story upset me most of all as it turns out that her parents and her are still not American Citizens and one parent must choose which is to go back with the girl and who is to stay in the US with the girl’s two younger siblings as they are citizens, being that they were born there.
Other stories intertwine such as Gavin (Jim Sturgess) who is jewish and is trying to use his jewish background to secure a job at a jewish school, even though he has never practiced his faith (actually he considers himself an atheist, but whatever works!). There is Cole (Ray Liotta who pulls off slimy agent guy perfectly), the husband of Denise, who is using his position as a green card approval supervisor to force an aussie actress trying to get her status, into a sexual relationship. There are a few more stories however, if I tell you about them, we’ll be here all day!
As difficult as it was to watch some of the storylines, and even though I wonder if some of the difficulties are fabricated or embellished to the umpteenth degree (I hope some of it was because if not then I feel sad for those desperately trying to seek a better life and angry at a government who has little compassion for those less fortunate) this is one of those movies you should definitely see, even if it is to get an understanding to some degree of what it is like to become a citizen of another country (including Canada).
As much as it was upsetting, some of the performances were heartwrenching and wonderful and if you can get past the anger and sadness you feel for some of the characters, you’ll find this movie pushes some boundaries of its own.