Review: Too Soon for House of Saddam?

July 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

House of Saddam ReviewHouse of Saddam

BBC 2, Wednesday 30th July, 9pm

Is it too soon for this particular drama? That was the first thing that came into my head when I saw this Saddam Hussein biopic, House of Saddam. It seems a strange story choice, given the continuing war in Iraq and the still current consequences of this particular man. Is it even possible to portray the drama with accuracy and complexity given its still politically laden central character?

So it was with slight apprehension that I sat down to watch this new BBC drama.

It opens with actual footage of George Bush making his famous speech, ordering Saddam Hussein and his family from Iraq. Amidst explosions and war, the family frantically pack.

Cut to 1979, and suddenly we are at the beginning of the story. At his daughter’s birthday celebrations Saddam is on the cusp of power as the deputy President. He appears as a family man, close to his wife, brothers and mother, doting on his children. In the centre of this family he quietly, confidently forces the retirement of the President. So begins his rise to power.

In a weird way it’s all a bit Soprano’s actually. Glamour, power, money and corruption amidst an extended Mafioso style family. It quickly turns to darker material though, as Saddam’s coup becomes bloody. There are moments, such as the execution of many politicians, that are quite brutal to watch.

This first episode is without doubt intriguing; however it doesn’t seem to go far enough in making the character complex or his moral decisions interesting. The reputation that precedes him makes him a difficult character to be surprised by, but I’d hoped they would do that. The fine line the writers have had to tread in keeping him both truthful to his actions and human is done so perhaps too delicately to make this drama as good as it could be.

A compelling, but somehow lacking, drama that is impressively ambitious. For this alone it deserves viewing.