Brutal and Short
A character scrubs and scrubs, trying to get the blood off of his hands. Another begs a commanding officer to call his mother and tell her that he’s all right. A tough young commander does exactly what’s asked of him, only to find out that his actions endanger his entire platoon.
Lebanon, a short, fairly powerful film based on the experiences of writer/director Samuel Moaz in Israel’s 1982 war with Lebanon, trucks in clichéd images, but that doesn’t entirely eviscerate its strength. The film’s almost entirely set inside a tank accompanying the paratrooper platoon that’s supposedly in a mop-up operation, a cakewalk, through a few urban areas and into San Tropez. But, as usual, aerial bombardment doesn’t wipe out every form of resistance, and the four guys in the tank aren’t in any way prepared for what lies ahead.
“Until now, I’ve only shot barrels,” says new gunner Shmulik (Yoav Donat), which is why. when he’s faced with shooting cars or buildings, he hesitates enough that others come to harm. But he’s not the one scrubbing blood off his hands; that’s tank commander Assi (Reymond Ansalem), who’s not any kind of wartime leader, just a guy who doesn’t want to get in trouble and worries more about his position in the military than injury and death.
Most reviews have called this a conventional war movie, with an aura of Das Boot, the famous WWII submarine movie, thanks to the completely claustrophobic nature of the tank with the only outside views coming through Shmulik’s viewfinder. True, the characters and even the plot fit neatly into certain war movie categories, but Moaz keeps the focus tight, alarming and filled with the moral quandaries that face young men (and women) in the middle of a confusing battle and a horridly unclear war. Lebanon () opens Friday, Oct. 8, at the Bijou. — Suzi Steffen