The Rig (1994)

Hi all, Nate here. Just thought I’d tell you all about a pretty entertaining Iranian movie I watched this morning. Yes, I know, we hate Iran (yawn), but let‘s give it a chance anyway. The Rig takes place during the dark days of the Siege of Abadan in the winter of 1980, as the invading Iraqis have surrounded the city and shelled it to rubble, driving 95% of the civilians out. Left behind are a plucky band of dashingly handsome young men who take up arms and defend their fair city, all the while chasing burka-wearing girls, racing motorcycles, and staging impromptu freeform jazz ensembles. All of that really happens, totes. Yes, The Rig is Red Dawn, Persian-style, but a version of Red Dawn where there’s more preening and wistful gazing than stabbing and maiming, which is fine by me. The censorship board in Iran was pretty strict about showing graphic violence, so directors had to spend a lot more time on character building and plot development than their Western counterparts who could just film Chuck Norris eviscerating commies for 90 straight minutes and call it a day. Did I mention there’s a musical interlude, just because Iran?

Chuck Norris never sings. Ever.

So anyway, our gang of white-teethed, trendy-haired dudes is led by Hamid, he of the absolutely perfect beard and knit scarf tossed devil-may-care over his shoulder at all times. Hamid is obsessed with blowing up this one particular tower (“rig”) on the siege line that the dastardly Iraqis are using for something bad (maybe to FO artillery strikes). To that end he gathers up his guyfriends and they train half the movie for the third-act attack. All the guys put their sweat and moxie into it, practicing exploding stuff and aiming mortars and trimming their beards in unison, all that’s missing is a driving synth-metal 1980’s rock ballad and some MTV jump-cuts to make this the quintessential (if overly long) training montage.

So, whachathinkingbout, Hamid?

Frat brothers in arms.

But before they can put their plan into action they have to stand around and talk about stuff/things. A lot. Like, 75% of the damn movie is just bros earnestly chatting with each other over braziers of fish and mashed beans. What are they talking about? I have no idea, my copy is not dubbed or subtitled and I don’t speak Persian, but I can guess they are waxing deeply on the meaning of honor and duty and sacrifice and eyebrow cream because ohmygod their eyebrows are just chiseled!

Boys chattering like girls.

Yes, your hands are so soft.

Hey, where is the Iranian Army? You know, the adults, the guys who are actually paid to do this shooting and bombing stuff? Well, they seem to have run off to hide, leaving the defense of the entire city to the kids and their fabulous khaki pants, we never see any of the Army at all. Of course, except for a couple mustachioed frogmen glimpsed for a few minutes in the very last quarter-hour of the movie, we never actually see an enemy Iraqi soldier either. The bad guys are primary just anonymous artillery shells and rocket barrages that provide our crew with some drama and pathos when needed. It’s pretty refreshing, in my opinion, to have an action/war movie where the bad guys are virtually invisible, omnipresent boogymen instead of waves of hapless stuntmen with blood squibs under their shirts.

Iraqi‘s always laying down on the job.

A nice Chinook shows up right before the credits.

Anyway, that tower has to go down and Hamid and his boys are just the on-winter-break college kids to do it. Chastely kissing their girlfriends goodbye, the men move to the front line under the cover of darkness and set up their weapons. Hamid waves the flag, mortars thump, rockets whoosh, AK-47s rattle, and the tower crumples under the withering fire. Yay, go them! The Iraqis shoot back, but of course none of the Iranian kids die (and only one is even injured) and we close out with some stirring patriotic speeches and long, introspective gazing out across the war zone, perfectly styled locks gently flicking in the wind. Surely the take-away message is that the nation’s youth is an untapped resource of courage and manly vigor and the survival of Iran, past and future, depends on their willingness to pick up a gun and a tube of hair gel and man the trenches. Except for the ugly kids, of course, and the Kurds and Azeris, they’re best left at home with their goats and their first-cousins.

Exploding things are loud.

“Update my Facebook profile to Tower Killer!”

The End. Worth a look, especially if you speak Persian (no, you don’t).

Written in April 2014 by Nathan Decker.

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