The animation in this film is a work of art -- a kind of 21st-century expressionism -- especially considering that no rotoscoping was used to produce it. But this is a must-see documentary even apart from its unique visual qualities.
Ari Folman began work on this film by sending out a request for veterans of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon to give their personal accounts of what happened (20 years after the fact). He got 300 responses, and selecting from these, recorded several interviews in the studio. The stories (and the men telling them) were then storyboarded, and the storyboards turned into animations (with the narration dubbed in English for the American release). If there is one quality that all these stories have in common, it's the horrifying absurdity of it all. Both factual events and nightmares are depicted here, and it's often difficult to tell the difference. As Folman remarks in one of the extras on the DVD, many films have been made with the message that war is hell, but in most of them the central characters manage to display some heroic qualities. That is emphatically not the case here; there is no trace of heroism, glory or even admirable qualities in these true stories of terrified youth blundering their way through impossible situations.
However, despite the variety of story sources, the film develops a compelling momentum. The story is held together by the thread of one man's efforts to recover his lost memories of that time, and to deal with those memories as the evidence accumulates for what really happened. It builds up steadily to a climax in the massacre of refugee Palestinians by the Christian Falangists, in revenge for their murdered leader Bashir -- while the Israeli soldiers (or rather their officers) look on and allow it to happen. In the end it's the filmmaker's determination to face the truth about this massacre that brings out the positive side of human nature.
This film does bear comparison with Persepolis, another animated film based on autobiographical sources. Both are visually stunning; Persepolis is perhaps more entertaining, but Waltz with Bashir is more rivetting, and in the end has a more powerful impact. See Persepolis to understand Iranians, and women everywhere; see this film to understand Israelis, and young men everywhere who get caught up in war, and what it does to them. And to understand the nature of memory -- which is the real "star" in this amazing film.