By Rich Cline
On the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War, Israeli gunman Shmulik (Donat) joins team leader Assi (Tiran), shell-loader Hertzel (Cohen) and driver Yigal (Moshonov) in a tank called Rhino. As they move, field commander Jamil (Shtrauss) pops in occasionally to give instructions, many of which are rather dodgy. And before the day is half over, their mission has gone badly wrong.
Stranded in enemy territory, rules cease to matter as they just try to get back to safe ground.
The purely subjective camera work vividly captures the clanky, clammy, cluttered atmosphere inside the tank. We only look outside through Shmulik's telescopic sight, and the only change in the interpersonal dynamic comes when Jamil or someone else drops in through the hatch. While this creates a gripping sense of horror, it also feels a little deliberate in the way it's assembled, especially as the script packs so many tank experiences into this one day.
In this sense, the film feels like a stage play with a contained cast and setting and a script that's trying to be educational. Maoz is careful to document violations of international law, pointing the finger at Israelis using illegal bombs and Phalangists indulging in rough justice. Although the Arabs mainly appear as victims (including a captured bomber). This is most notable when a family is caught in the ghastly crossfire. Due to its raw humanity, this is the film's most moving and memorable scene.
The cast is very good, conveying the sheer terror and emotional carnage. This certainly isn't a film about the heroism of war; battle is depicted as confusing and conflicted, destroying good intentions and innocent lives. The soldiers respond to this with paralysis, panic and devastation. They simply don't have the stomach to be the ruthless killers their government is asking them to be. And this is where the film finds real resonance, undercutting the propaganda to say something important and true about the nature of warfare. Not that it'll change anything.
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 15th October 2009
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Distributed by: Sony Classic Pictures
Production compaines: Paralite Productions Ltd., Arsam International, Arte France, Israeli Film Fund, Metro Communications, Torus, Ariel Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 90 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Samuel Maoz
Producer: Anat Bikel, Leon Edery, Moshe Edery, Ilann Girard, Benjamina Mirnik, Uri Sabag, David Silber
Screenwriter: Samuel Maoz
Starring: Oshri Cohen as Herzel, Michael Moshonov as Yigal, Yoav Donat as Shmulik, Itay Tiran as Asi, Zohar Shtrauss as Gamil
Also starring: Ashraf Barhom
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