Review: The Attack

10 Jul

Attack

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationSo, this week we kick off our series of utterly snark-proof films with The Attack.

Ike2Next week–The Sorrow and the Pity!

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationBased on the novel by Yasmina Khadra, who co-wrote the screenplay, The Attack comes to us from Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, who gave us 1998’s highly acclaimed West Beirut.

Ike2Which we haven’t seen, but definitely plan to, now that we know what Mr. Doueiri can do.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationDefinitely. The Attack is the story of an Arab surgeon who has attained the highest level of respect living and working in Israel, only to learn that his beloved wife is responsible for a devastating suicide bombing that occurs just a few blocks from the hospital where he works in Tel Aviv.

Ike2In fact, he’s on duty when the victims are brought in, and we get an idea of how precarious his life can be when an injured Israeli refuses to be treated by him–although I wasn’t exactly sure how the guy knew the doctor was an Arab just by looking at him.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationI wondered about that, too. In the previous scene we see Dr. Jaafari, played with a mixture of pride and enforced humility by Ali Suliman, receive a prestigious medical award from his Israeli peers, noting that he is the first Arab to be so honored. One possibility I considered is that that the Doctor might be well known enough that the wounded man recognized him. In any case, this is just one of several scenes in which we see that Jaafari walks a fine line in Israel between respect and suspicion, if not outright loathing.

Ike2He seems to do everything he can to be the ultimate non-threatening Arab. He’s completely secular, for one thing.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationYeah, the effort it must take to maintain is all internalized, at first. From the outside, he appears to just coast along. Like when someone at work insults him, it’s his Jewish friends who get upset, while he appears to just brush it off.

Ike2That all changes when the cops realize Jaafari’s wife is the bomber.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationIt’s pretty shocking how fast Jaafari’s status changes. When he realizes what’s happened, he’s obviously shell-shocked, but the Israeli police give him the Guantanamo treatment, using sleep deprivation and other forms of “enhanced interrogation” to get him to confess his involvement. Of course, he doesn’t know anything, but by the time they release him he’s lost everything–his wife, his job, and even his home, which is trashed by vandals.

Ike2Or the cops. I like the way his friends all stick with him, but he can’t accept it and just becomes resentful. Deep down, he knows he’s an outsider, and for a while it’s like he can accept himself as being within the fold even less than the people he thinks are rejecting him.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationBut that acceptance changes.

Ike2Everything changes, and it never seems to go exactly where you think it’s going. Like when he crosses the border to try to find the truth about his wife.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationRight. The first thing he learns is that she’s a hometown hero, with her picture plastered all over town. The family tells him how proud they are of her, but when he presses them, it seems as if they had no more idea than he did what she was up to.

Ike2What I love about this movie is how you feel like you understand everybody’s viewpoint, no matter how shocking or ugly it might seem at first. Like when some of his friends turn on him, at first you think they’re traitors, but then you think, well sure, why shouldn’t they be suspicious of him?

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationAnd it’s not as if the filmmakers try to paint it as if there is no right or wrong, but even the crazy Imam, who comes across as a villain as much as anybody–when we finally meet him, he’s not exactly what we expect. And most of the people on the Arab side Jaafari comes into contact with, all they want is for him to go away and not draw down the heat.

Ike2The wife is the trickiest character, though. It’s tough to humanize somebody who bombs a children’s birthday party, but Reymond Amsalem does it, even if we can’t grasp how she made that leap.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationThe weakest part of the film, for me, was some of the flashback material, in which we see how they met and fell in love. It’s a little Hallmark-y at first–

Ike2If Hallmark had sex scenes.

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationWell, yeah, but anyway, after the boy-meets-girl stuff is over, the pieces start to fit together as the doctor himself seems to realize that there were warning signs in the relationship from early on. In retrospect, it all works. And it ends with maybe the saddest missed phone call in movie history.

Ike2Which kind of sums up the whole thing about the Doctor. Like, “The world’s calling, Doc, wake up!”

Happy Red Haired Freckled Boy With Missing Front Teeth, Laughing Retro Clipart IllustrationA good message for all of us.

Our Review:

Gripping from first to last.

No finger-pointing, no easy answers.

Difficult issues, fluidly told.

No snark (but some Hallmark)

Five tail wags out of five.

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