I don't want this to sound condescending, because I'm a big admirer of Jon Stewart's work and admire his courage in taking on something as massive as directing a movie while holding down a full-time job.
So when I say that this is not bad for a first film, that's meant as a compliment. It's not even bad, as movies go in general. On a regular basis, I see many worse movies out there than Rosewater, Stewart's sometimes affecting, sometimes overly earnest film about an Iranian journalist thrown into solitary confinement by a regime that thinks he's a spy.
They don't really think he's a spy -- they simply hate the freedom he has as an Iran-born journalist living in London. So they grab him while he's in Tehran covering the rigged elections of 2009 for Newsweek and put him in solitary, except when they're grilling him about his mission as a spy for the Western media. That four-month imprisonment was the basis of real-life journalist Maziar Bahari's memoir about his experience, which served as the source material for Stewart's script for his directing debut.
Stewart does fine with the film right up until Bahari is grabbed by the Iranian government and tossed in jail. Until that point, Rosewater is a compelling tale of political courage.
This review continues on my website.