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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A descent into darknessJan. 20 2011
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"Lebanon" is the last of a small crop of acclaimed Israeli war films that addresses the First Lebanese War of 1982. The first was "Beaufort", released in 2007, followed by "Waltz with Bashir" in 2008. Curiously the first of these movies, Beaufort, depicts the last chapter of the war that involves the precipitous Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon. Waltz with Bashir is an animated film mostly centered around the massacre of Palestinian refugees in the camp of Sabra and Shatila. Beaufort was honest, sad and difficult to watch due to the slow motion prevailing in the film. Waltz with Bashir is enthralling but morally murky for eventually placing almost the entirety of the culpability of the massacre on the actions of the Lebanese Phalanges. Lebanon, I feel, is by far the best of the three. It has a unique form of presenting its story. The movie alternates scenes of the inside of a tank with views through the gunsight of the gun turret. The four Israeli soldiers inside the combat vehicle experience the events of the first 24 hours of the war in a progressively deteriorating atmosphere, suffused with broken equipment, stench, filth and smoke. Through the gunsight, the audience can visualize the war in its total depravity. The movie does not preach, take sides or sanitize the insanity of combat. The horrific scenes of destruction of property, dead and dying civilians, and unending pain and suffering are only matched by the quick psychological deterioration of the soldiers. The tank crew is not in control of their fate or environment, and there is no attempt to create false heroism or glorify their actions. Samuel Maoz, the director, delivers an astonishing cinematic experience. It is difficult to make comments about this movie that will not involve spoilers. Lebanon certainly more than deserved the Golden Lion Award it received at the 66th Venice International Film Festival. So far, Hollywood has still to match the boldness and calculated delivery of this movie. One may need to understand the context of the never ending conflict between Israel and Lebanon to better appreciate Mr. Maoz's work. Lebanese movies about the Second Lebanese War such as "Beirut Diaries & 33 Days" and "Under the Bombs" are a good complement to "Lebanon" for those interested in this tragic confrontation. Lebanon is not a movie for those who believe that war provides acceptable solutions for political disputes. I wish without much hope that one day the leaders of these two creative nations will attain the insight, compassion and sensibility of their movie directors and bring an end to the hatred and destruction that still go on.
16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
The Worst War Film Ever MadeDec 18 2012
R. A Forczyk
- Published on Amazon.com
Despite what his bio says, it is clear that Israeli director Samuel Maoz has either never been inside a tank (it is claimed that he was a gunner in the June 1982 War) or has forgotten everything he ever saw inside one. The 2009 Israeli film Lebanon, about an Israeli tank crew on the first few days of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, is easily the worst war film ever made. It is multiple sins: it is completely unrealistic in important details, the characters are ridiculous and unsympathetic and is essentially built around a gimmick, rather than a story. The director's idea was clearly to capture the claustrophobia of tank warfare and the intensity of frontline action through a "gunner's eye" view of events. This is not a bad idea in itself, just horribly executed here. For starters, I have never seen a tanker (having been one myself) suffer from claustrophobia; exact opposite - "man, oh man, am I glad to have all this armor wrapped around me instead of being outside like the bloody infantry." Tankers love their tanks (exact when they are broken down), and do not treat them like garbage piles as depicted here. The film is also very anti-Israeli at its core, which explains why it was both blocked by the Government of Israel and given an award - for political reasons - in the Venice Film Festival. It was an awful choice.
To begin with, none of the film is actually filmed inside a real tank and the only hint as to what kind of vehicle it is supposed to represent appears in the last few seconds of the film - a brief exterior shot of a Centurion tank amidst a field of sunflowers. It is clear that the Israeli military provided no help in making this film (why would it? - it makes them look like thugs). It's hard to believe that this is the same country where the best tanker movie ever made - the Beast (1988) - was filmed. It is clear that the director made a tank interior set, which is about three times too large inside. In one scene of the drivers compartment, one can see that the "radio" is actually just a plate with dials attached to a wall. The director also seems to have forgotten from his military service that Israeli tankers wear CVC helmets and talk via intercoms - there is no way that the tank commander could direct the driver without it. The water and trash on the floor, the water dripping on the hull inside (from where?), ammunition lying on the floor of the turret basket - these are all horrible mistakes.
The film is essentially built around the gimmick of the "gunner's eye view," except the view doesn't look anything like a real gunner's primary sight (or 105-D secondary sight). The reticule has no numbers on it, so how would the gunner determine range. Most of the "sight pictures" are zoomed in to 100x mag, looking right at people's faces and even showing the hairs on their face. This is ridiculous. The gunner never scans for targets, but instead focuses on a picture, on a dead chicken, on a Seven-Up can. Folks, this is NOTHING like what a real tank gunner does or sees. It is pure fantasy. At times, the director seems to forget how "big" his tank is and we see it moving under low overhangs and other times he seems to forget that there is a main gun attached to his sight and that it can traverse so quickly or easily in a city street. The crew never gets out of the "tank" - again ridiculous - but other people are constantly coming inside as if it were a bus station. Israeli tank commanders are known for fighting "unbuttoned" so they have better situational awareness and can use their .50 cal machinegun against infantry. Operating buttoned up as in this film, would be suicidal. However, it is clear that the gimmick became essential when the Israeli Army refused to loan Maoz a real tank for his anti-war film.
As for the characters, the director chose the "small unit drama" format and employed the hackneyed formula of internal strife. Rather than a crew, the four men are portrayed as inmates in a small prison, constantly at each other's throats. The gunner - obviously a self portrait of Maoz himself - is a hysterical jerk who sees everything with wide-eyed astonishment. The anti-war sentiment of the film is ham-fisted and presents the hardly-unique notion that war is hell. I believe William T. Sherman said that already. Folks, this is not how a tank crew talks or functions - it is an anti-military caricature. In real combat, these guys would be dead very quickly. All in all, this film is an insult to the Israeli Army and tankers everywhere.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Counterview to Forczyk's reviewSept. 2 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
In response to the bad review by Forczyk, he seemed offended by the film's point of view, accusing it of making Israeli soldiers "look like thugs." I don't actually agree with that, as I saw more complexity in the soldiers depicted in the movie than Forczyk did. But for what it is worth, I was a peacekeeping (sic) marine in Lebanon in 1982 and the Israeli soldiers I encountered were brutal. The tankers in particular used recon-by-fire tactics frequently. They did not give a damn about the Lebanese and were not worried about wasting a few Americans as well with their Blackwater-in-Nisoor-Square-style tactics. I remember hearing about a marine captain jumping up on an Israeli tank at one point and threatening a particularly out-of-control tank commander with his pistol. (Google it for details, It was not my unit.) Regarding the cinematic depiction of a leaky tank and its dispirited crew, Forczyk offhandedly and arrogantly dismisses this as a ridiculous figment of the filmmaker's imagination, invoking his expertise as a former tank crewman as proof. Well, his opinion of Israeli soldiers is counter to my own personal experience. Unlike him, I do not expand this into any arrogant claims, but just add my story to the mix. As with the soldiers, one can figure that other tankers had different experiences than Forczyk. Perhaps they did not view their machines and their task with as much enthusiasm as he and his crew may have. I certainly have read many accounts of tankers in battle who found a tank to be claustrophobic. With the limited viewing slits available on a buttoned-up tank, it is an inevitable human reaction. It doesn't mean you want to jump out into the maelstrom, just that you must fight in a claustrophobic foul-smelling environment. At any rate, a veteran like Forczyk can decide a film is terrible, but judge it on its own merits, not through preconceived opinions which he has expanded from past experiences into universal truths! Get out of your own head: All our experiences are a legitimate part of the story.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Want to Discuss Arab-Israeli Conflicts in a Fresh Way? Get Lebanon.July 6 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
In 2011, Americans are once again celebrating Wolfgang Petersen's masterpiece of filmmaking about WWII German U-boat crews, Das Boot (Two-Disc Collector's Set) [Blu-ray]. Yet another edition of the movie was released this year to the acclaim of critics and even a special National Public Radio report on the movie.
By contrast, very few Americans have ever heard of this remarkable Israeli film, which might be described as the Das Boot of tank warfare in the Middle East. It's called just: Lebanon. Don't confuse this with another 2011 release, Lebanon, PA., which is the story of an American advertising executive who returns to his hometown. The award-winning Israeli film has just a single word for its English title: Lebanon.
While you could consider Lebanon as the Das Boot of tank warfare, that focus on the military hardware misses the kind of terrific discussions you can have with this film by director Samuel Maoz. Sure, if you're a "war buff," this movie is essential for your movie collection. But here's what makes Lebanon so eye-popping and so sure to fuel spirited conversation: Samuel Maoz was an Israeli army gunner on one of the first tanks that crossed the border in the 1982 Lebanon War. His experiences burned themselves into his psyche so deeply that he worked for years to create this 94-minute drama about a tank crew similar to his own. Watch the extras on this DVD in which Maoz steps from behind his camera and describes the trauma of his own experiences.
I've watched Lebanon with American viewers who don't know much about this film and their first guess is that it's an Arab-made movie. It's certainly an anti-war film and not what most Americans viewers would expect coming out of Israel. Yet, Maoz won 4 Israeli Academy Awards for his production of Lebanon--along with other international honors the movie has racked up. The film's shocking and deeply compassionate scenes ring with the truth of Maoz's own experience. No one could have created this script out of sheer imagination. In fact, if you're a fan of this film by Maoz, you should also consider Amos Gitai's Kippur, another war film based on the filmmaker's own trauma.
In my judgment, though, Lebanon is a far more fully realized drama than Yom Kippur. For instance, there's one final scene of compassion between an Israeli and an Arab soldier in Lebanon that's unlike any other war movie you've ever seen--period. Want to talk about Middle East conflict in a fresh and humane way? Get Lebanon.
BadNov. 14 2014
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I have no idea how this movie received 90% approval on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm assuming political because as a film it fails in several areas. The actors were extremely annoying and provided an undisciplined environment that would be surprising in any armed service, even with the stress of combat. The tank only view was unique but also failed in a lot of ways. Everyone in the movie looked right into the crosshairs with a weird soulful pained look. Speaking of the tank, it gave no sense of the tight confines that a real tank has, it was the the size of a small room! Just a bad story and bad way to tell that story. Watch Fury or The Beast if you are looking for tank drama.