During the First Lebanon War in June, 1982, a lone Israeli tank and a paratrooper platoon are dispatched to search a hostile town that has already been bombarded by the Air Force. The mission gets out of control. The young tank crew – Shmulik (Yoav Donat) the gunner, Assi (Itay Tiran) the commander, Hertzel (Oshri Cohen) the loader and Yigal (Michael Moshonov) the driver - are aged just 20, operating a killing machine. Motivated by fear and the survival instinct, they try to follow orders, even when they don’t understand them.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this film is that it’s a coproduction between Israel, Lebanon, Germany and France. Given the subject matter, this collaborative effort is promising, although perhaps it is also the reason for the film’s loss of direction . . . a bit like the tank. Shot entirely within the cabin – except for the bookend shots – the film gives us a very real sense of the claustrophobia and disorientation which engulfs these young men. If this were the way to deliver its message, it would work well, but it seems to be the very message itself.
But that message goes to that senseless Lebanon war which traumatised Israel as much as it traumatised Lebanon. Filmmaker Samuel Maoz was a tank gunner there and now immerses us all in its awful garbled idiocy.
A commander speaks to the men via radio, but the commands don’t make much sense. Nor does the tank’s mission stack up; they’re told to clean up a small Lebanese village after it’s been attacked by the air force. Then there’s unexpected resistance, mayhem on the street – all observed in fear through the tank’s scope.
When the tank is stuck, help is on its way via two phalangists, but they turn out to be useless thugs who don’t help them at all. All the while the young men are becoming more and more traumatised.
Their inexperience and their hopeless situation is compounded when a prison is taken inside. The sense of chaos is multiplied by the camera seemingly fixed onto some structure within the cabin so that every shake and shudder is magnified and sometimes all we see is a dark blur.
The young cast deliver credible and harrowing performances and the veracity of the war is hell scenario is executed with skill, but the film probably has more meaning and impact at home than for those who are, no matter how empathetic – distanced from the events.
For an immersive, claustrophobic war movie Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot (1981) is hard to beat, with its relentless and clear storyline to give it meaning and context in full. (Lebanon won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.)
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CAST: Reymond Amsalem, Ashraf Barhom, Oshri Cohen, Yoav Donat, Guy Kapulnik, Michael Moshonov, Zohar Shtrauss, Dudu Tassa, Itay Tiran
PRODUCER: Anat Bikel, Leon Edery, Moshe Edery, Ilann Girard, Benjamina Mirnik, Uri Sabag, David Silber
DIRECTOR: Samuel Maoz
SCRIPT: Samuel Maoz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Giora Bejach
EDITOR: Arik Leibovitch
MUSIC: Nicolas Becker, Benoît Delbecq
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ariel Roshko
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 2, 2010