Lebanon, war drama, rated R, in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, with subtitles, Regal DeVargas, 3 chiles
IIf there is a lesson to be learned from Lebanon, and I think there is, it is this: stay out of tanks during a military campaign (and, Michael Dukakis might add, a political campaign.) But Samuel Moaz, the film’s writer-director, has made something of it — he served in a tank during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and he has turned the hell of that experience into the hell of this experience, a powerful and sometimes almost unbearable war movie.
Like Waltz With Bashir, Ari Folman’s animated revisiting of the horrors of the same conflict, Lebanon is a personal and nightmarish memoir of war, but in style and spirit the Moaz film is more a marriage of The Hurt Locker and Das Boot. With the exception of its opening and closing shots, which show a vast field of wilting sunflowers, the entire movie takes place inside an Israeli tank at the start of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
We enter the tank with Shmulik (Yoav Donat), who arrives as its gunner, as did the 20-year-old Moaz in 1982. He joins a small crew made up of the tank’s commander, Assi (Itay Tiran); its driver, Yigal (Michael Mosonov); and its loader, Hertzel (Oshri Cohen).
It is the first day of the war, but the tank already looks as if it had been through hell. Its floor is awash in a dark liquid, probably water and oil, in which the hatch is reflected as Shmulik opens it and drops in. From then on, the only gasps of daylight and fresh air come when somebody arrives or leaves.
Usually that person is Jamil (Zohar Strauss), the veteran officer who keeps turning up with orders. He is a career soldier, and his toughness is a stark contrast to the uncertainty and softness of the tank’s crew. They are citizen soldiers, putting in their time until they can get back to real life. Jamil is a warrior, and when he juts