During a 2009 Daily Show interview with Maziar Bahari, the Canadian-Iranian journalist who, earlier that year, had been imprisoned in Iran for 118 days on espionage charges, Jon Stewart said, "We hear a lot about the banality of evil, but so little about the stupidity of evil." Or about its total humorlessness. Bahari had been arrested the previous June partly as the result of a Daily Show skit: Comedian Jason Jones, posing as the most phony-baloney spy imaginable, interviewed Bahari in a Tehran café just before a fraught and ultimately explosive election. Why was Iran so evil? Jones demanded. The perfect straight man, Bahari gave a response that was deflective, sensitive, and articulate. That didn’t stop Iranian authorities from arresting him, using The Daily Show as proof that Bahari himself was a spy.
We all know Stewart is a smart guy who's good at talking. What's surprising is how good he is at filmmaking. Stewart understands that even a story relying largely on dialogue, as this one does, also needs to be cinematic. As Bahari (Gael García Bernal), pre-arrest, walks down a Tehran street, he thinks of his father and sister, both now dead: We see their images hazily reflected in windows he passes, ghosts brought vividly to life.
Bernal gives a thoughtful, delicately calibrated performance, and he’s funny, too.
Rosewater doesn't take pains to remind us that some people are just culturally "different" and thus can't be held responsible for adhering to warped religious and political dogma. Instead, Stewart puts it pretty plainly: Some people are just idiots, and the stupidity of evil can kill you.