I went into Lebanon convinced that I really didn't want to see another examination of the moral quandary that is the Middle East conflict. I came out of it -- head and heart racing -- convinced that I had seen one of the best films of the year. That's a considerable achievement, considering that Lebanon takes place primarily on one dark, constricted set, and that that set recreates a place that few of us would care to spend five minutes in, much less the 90 minutes of the film, much less -- from the characters point of view -- the desperate hours that form the opening day of the Lebanon War in 1982.
Save for the opening and closing shots, Lebanon is set completely within the confines of a tank, observing its crew -- four Israeli boys in their twenties -- as they get their first taste of war. Whatever we see of the outside world is only what they can see from inside, views limited to what can be observed through tiny windows and (tellingly) a gunsight. Whatever we can divine of the situation is only what they can figure out from those windows, from terse radio communications, and from limited dialogue with whichever superiors or purported allies drop down through their hatchway. In short, info is limited, which does not exempt the crew from making split-second decisions, many of them life-or-death. The experience is tense, claustrophobic, occasionally brutally graphic, and absolutely compelling; gripping drama with a higher goal.
It was a pleasure talking with Maoz about the motives and challenges of this incredible film. Click on the player to hear the interview.
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