Monday, February 11, 2008

Beaufort **1/2

Director: Joseph Cedar
Cast: Oshri Cohen, Itay Tiran,
Eli Altonio, Ohad Knoller, Itay Turgeman
Set in the midst of the Israeli army retreat from Lebanon in the year 2000, the film, tells the story of the last group of soldiers who had to guard the title fortress; which has been a battle site since the Crusades.
Based on real life experiences of the people who lived through it, the plot mostly concentrates on Liraz Librati (Cohen) the bunker commander, who has to make the hardest decisions and is mediator between his soldiers and his superiors.
Considering that the soldiers desperately want to leave and the high rank officers, who dispatch their orders from Israel, infuse their decision making with lethargy, the soldiers must wait there trying to avoid being hit by enemy missiles and surviving until they can go home.
Other soldiers featured include Ziv (Knoller) a bomb specialist who at first we think will be the film's lead, Koris ( Tiran) a sensitive medic who becomes especially affected by casualties, aspiring musician Zitlaui (Turgeman) and Oshri (Eltonio) who seems to be the only guy who likes Liraz.
All of the actor's performances are superb and must've been quite demanding considering that most of them served in the army, but you don't really get to know them enough to single out anyone; perhaps for the film's need to feel universal.
While sometimes the pace drags, along with the soldier's patience, the moments between the men feel real and express perfectly the anguish of people trying to serve their country, even when it asks of them things they would rather avoid doing.
But sometimes the film falls into genre clichés: everyone knows what will happen to a soldier who tells everyone he is getting his leave soon, especially when the film has him reminding us of it all the time.
And sometimes Liraz's character is handled more as a spoiled brat, than a bruised soldier trying to be tough.
Everyone by now, is aware of the horrors that come with any sort of war and director Cedar provides this with some interesting stylistic choices that include not showing any physical enemies.
But in trying to be extremely proactive, he has forgotten that wars aren't started by the people who fight them, but by powers above, who in this film are removed of every ulterior political interest and become some sort of cinematic villains whose weapon is indecision.
While the film ends on a high, if too sappy, note, it has made no use of its strongest asset: the fortress of Beaufort itself, which with its centuries standing is a powerful, albeit sad, reminder that war has existed for as long as mankind has inhabited the planet.
That the soldiers (and filmmakers) wander through it, without ever considering its rich history and that of its rightful owners, with the very same authority as every country that has ever invaded another does, is perhaps the best example of how a wronged sense of justice always leads to pain on both sides.

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