Con­stricted con­flict

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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

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