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Review: Stateless (2020)

Review: Stateless (2020)
22 Jul
2020
Not in Hall of Fame

Cast:

Yvonne Strahovski                     Sofie Werner

Jai Courtney                              Cam Sandford

Asher Keddie                            Clare Kowitz

Fayssal Bazzi                             Ameer

Dominic West                           Gordon Masters

Cate Blanchett                          Pat Masters

When we finished watching “You” on NETFLIX, we searched for another program to replace it. My wife was searching for something new and innovative and came across “Stateless”. She zoned in on this program for a few reasons, during the winter we got hooked on an Australian program on NETFLIX starring Asher Keddie. This program was called “Offspring” where Keddie was the main character, a Pediatrician who got involved in everyone’s life, and it seemed that every child she delivered was related to her in some way or form. It was very amusing, and we got to like her as an actress. So that was the first indication that we were going to watch Stateless next. Additionally, we looked at the main cast and found that several of the other characters were also played by actors/actresses that we have liked. The principal character, Sofie Werner was played by Yvonne Strahovski. Strahovski came to our attention in the series Chuck, we loved that show, especially the first 3 seasons. She was new and fresh and her chemistry with Zachary Levi was phenomenal! To round out the cast of Stateless, there is Cate Blanchet, Dominic West and Jai Courtney, and several other supporting cast that we had become familiar with on “Offspring”.   

To give further impetus for giving this show a try was the fact that it was based on actual events. Whenever possible, we try to find “real” movies instead of the tripe that Hollywood seems to be putting out lately. Which means it is either a remake, a sequel/prequel or just a blatant rip-off of some one else’s idea. With respect too Stateless, it is inspired by the story of Cornelia Rau, who was illegally interned in a detention centre run by the Australian Immigration department. While there are some aspects of the show that tell Rau’s story, there is a lot of artistic licence in it as well. 

In the case of the limited series, Stateless tells the tale of 4 principal characters whose lives get intertwined at the Barton Detention Centre in Australia. These characters are:

Sofie Werner (Strahovski), a flight attendant who is mentally-ill and is trying to escape the clutches of a twisted cult and their megalomaniacal leaders, Gordon and Pat Masters (West and Blanchett respectively).  

Cam Sandford (Courtney), a guard hired by the Korvo corporation who is feeling conflicted between what is right/wrong, his family responsibilities and his own personal morals.

Clare Kowitz (Keddie), a bureaucrat from the Australian Immigration department, recently promoted and now has to implement the policies that she had previously written. She too has to fight her own morale issues, follow the policies and directions from government superiors or trying to do what is right. 

Ameer (Bazzi), a refugee from Afghanistan, who has fled this war-torn nation to try and make a better life for his wife and two daughters, unfortunately losing half his family, he tries to do everything properly so that he can give his sole remaining daughter a life that she deserves.  

The series commences with Sofie Werner (Strahovski) flying home to visit her family for Christmas. Her family, immigrants from Austria have made Australia their home. We learn that the mother is a very stern, cold woman who favours the other daughter and only wants to get Sofie (Strahovski) married off. Her father, a weak willed man is completely under the wife’s thumb and that of his other daughter Margot. Due to her troubled home life, we see that Sofie (Strahovski) has joined a “dance troop” with extremely cult like aspects. Embracing this “self help, dance school, cult” and joining bunch of whack jobs being manipulated by the Masters (West and Blanchett). We discover that Gordon Masters (West) is really just a sick a..hole, who uses his position of “authority” to take advantage (rape) the troubled members, while his wife Pat (Blanchett) is aware of it and lets it happen. 

Unable to deal with rape attempt, she escapes from their clutches, and as she is mentally unstable, changes her identity, her voice, name and accent. This results in her getting apprehended by Immigration as an unlawful entry and gets put into a detention camp.

Meanwhile we find Sandford (Courtney), a nice family man who is kind of down on his luck. His friend gets him a job with Korvo. This new position means that he is now a guard at the detention centre and he quickly finds out that the mentality of the other guards does not really mesh with his version of right and wrong, not to mention common decency to your fellow man/woman. But, as we see, he needs this job to please his wife and 3 kids. He also is conflicted with his sister who is an activist and is totally against the detention centres themselves.

Concurrently, Ameer (Bazzi) and his family are in India having recently escaped from Afghanistan. Trusting a people smuggler, he gives all his money to him in order that Ameer and his family can make a new start in Australia. As this smuggler is really just a scammer, he takes their money and leaves them on a beach to fend for themselves. Ameer and a friend take matters in their own hands and go back to retrieve their lost money. Killing the smuggler, Ameer manages to get his family away on a boat while he is left to make the voyage on his own later. When he arrives in Australia and subsequently the interment camp, he comes across some of his friends from India and also discovers that only one of his daughters had made it. His wife and youngest child had passed during the voyage to Australia. Devastated, he tries to console his daughter while they wait for the requisite paperwork to become landed immigrants. 

The last principal character in the show, Clare (Keddie) arrives at the internment camp as the latest government administrator in what seems a long line of failed supervisors. Finding the camp in disarray, the security forces, nothing more than either babysitters or bullies (depending on the character) she is totally distraught and tries to straighten things out. Fighting a bureaucratic nightmare from her supervisor, the media, and various human rights groups, compounded by basically an incompetent or vacant staff she is left to her own devices to try and figure things out. Formerly a policy writer, she is now put into a position that she has to enforce what is written and finds out that it is not always black and white. 

Not wanting to give out too many spoilers, needless to say all the characters are now intertwined at the camp and their lives are either further destroyed or repaired depending on the character and their storyline. While the main story is about is about Sofie (Strahovski) the other story lines are apparently taken from other immigration stories or composites thereof. The characters are well written and extremely well acted. You (the audience) can feel the stress, the anguish and their pain. This program really brings forward the plight of new (illegal) immigrants/refugees to various nations and how they can further be mistreated or left to rot. Actually for some of them, they left a place that was a horrible existence only to find themselves in the same situation again. Just the country and place had changed. Now, this program did demonstrate that some got to depart the internment camp and start a new life, but not very many. Overall, a very well written and acted limited series with a stellar cast. 

Speaking of the cast, to touch on the main characters a bit further.

Yvonne Strahovski as Sofie Werner: As mentioned at the start, we became fans of Strahovski when we were watching her in “Chuck”. In “Stateless” she really stretched her acting skills and (to us) gave an outstanding performance. Her ability to project a person who was mentally ill, and confused was believable. One thing I did not know till I watched this show was that she was Australian herself, so when she talked with the Aussie accent, I was impressed…(till my wife said she was Australian!) then not so impressed, but her german accent was well done! We felt for her character throughout the program and were hoping that she would be saved. This was a great performance and we look forward to seeing her in future programs!

Jai Courtney as Cam Sandford: Courtney as Sandford, the guard with a conscience also does an admirable job. Usually seen in action roles (Spartacus, Die Hard, Divergent, Suicide Squad) this is the first time I have actually seen him act instead of beating up/blowing up or stabbing someone. He was not bad and I think that this role might give him the opportunity to build a more diverse resume of work. He effectively demonstrated the inner anguish of trying to still be a father and husband while his job slowly changed his personality to that of a bully/brute. I really hope that he takes on more roles that will stretch his acting capability instead of always playing the villain in the action films. 

Asher Keddie as Clare Kowitz: We have grown to like Keddie in all of her roles to date, from Offspring too Stateless she manages to portray a person with a conscience and a desire to always do the right thing. In Stateless, she did not disappoint. Her character displayed a great deal of empathy and turmoil as she tried to do the right thing but still tried to save her position and career at the same time. What we also found amusing was to see her interact with other characters previously worked with in Offspring in a completely different fashion. We continue to be a fan and look forward to her future work.

Fayssal Bazzi as Ameer: Bazzi was completely new to us. He did a bang up job as the Afghan refugee who is just trying to make a life for his daughter. He projected his pain, and you could feel it along with him. He consistently strove to do the right thing and make sure that he was a model for his daughter to look up to. Even when he had to lie to protect her, you know he was doing it for all the right reasons, but the fact that he had to go against his own beliefs was killing him. A very accomplished actor, we look forward to seeing him in future projects.

Dominic West as Gordon Masters: West always plays a douche, but he does it so well. In Stateless as well as his other appearances he is a slimy P.O.S. The kind of character you love to hate. I cannot think of any role that I have watched him in that I actually liked the character. Even if he tries to play the good guy, I just don’t like him. I guess it’s a testament to his acting skill. In this role, as the “Cult” leader and head A..hole, he continues to perform and does not disappoint.

Cate Blanchett as Pat Masters: Blanchett, while not having a major role in this production is actually the biggest name. A very accomplished actress with a prolific resume on stage and screen, Blanchett never fails, her roles are always spot on and provided great entertainment while on screen. We always enjoy her performances and I am sure will continue to do so.

Too sum up, were we entertained? Yes, we were. Stateless is a thought provoking limited series that brought to light several issues that are currently plaguing Australia. It has a dynamite cast of accomplished actors/actresses that you may or may not be familiar with depending on your tastes in television. Additionally, as it is a show based on real life occurrences it brought further authenticity to the show that in this day and age is sorely missed. I would highly recommend this program if you are looking for something real, but not overly sensationalized. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Our rating: 7.5/10

If you are looking for something with the key actors, please consider the following recommendations.

Yvonne Strahovski                     Chuck, Dexter, The Handmaids tale

Jai Courtney                              Spartacus, Divergent, Suicide Squad

Asher Keddie                            Offspring

Dominic West                           Centurion, Tomb Raider, 300

Cate Blanchett                          Thor: Ragnarok, The Hobbit (Franchise), The Lord of the Rings, The Gift