June 1982- The First Lebanon War. After the Israeli Air Force bombed a town, a paratrooper’s platoon along with one tank must make sure it is cleared out. The lone tank and the four men inside are the main focus, as they must find the courage and motivation to fight through incomprehensible danger and fear.
LEBANON opens with a beautiful sunny landscape of a sunflower field. Take a deep breath because that is the last fresh air you will get for an hour and a half as the camera and audience is trapped inside a tank with our four scared men for the remainder of the film. Shmulik (Yoav Donat) is the gunner, Assi (Itay Tiran) is the Commander, Hertzel (Oshri Cohen) is the loader and Yigal (Michael Moshonov) is the driver. These young men are inexperienced and confused among the chaos of war.
Director Samuel Maoz cleverly immerses the audience into the tank by keeping the camera within the boundaries of the iron machine. The only escape we get is through the eye view of the tank. Anytime the gunner is looking through the telescope we see what he sees. Unfortunately, everything outside is so horrific the inside feels that much scarier anticipating the impending doom. With all the chaos on the outside, the intense claustrophobia on the inside is heightened. Nothing appears to go right and our characters are frustratingly relatable. They are best described as a driver who can’t read dials, a gunman who won’t shoot, a commander who doesn’t lead and a supplier that refuses to take orders. Obviously frustrating because of the lack of skills and maturity our heroes display, but relatable because of the commonality from their actions and dialogue. Who among us would understand the hardship brought upon them having never faced their hopeless situation? These men immediately tell stories and speak as characters that we all know and understand from our own lives making them easy to care for.
The situations and decisions that arise and must be made are ripe for moral discussions. Any decent person would share the undesirable will to fire on unarmed or unknown targets however in doing so may result in harm toward oneself and other brothers in arms. These situations are what make LEBANON both intriguing and excruciatingly tough. I found myself yelling at the screen in misery and disbelief but this is meant as a compliment to the realism and unthinkable scenarios. These scenarios are very probable and very scary within the context of war.
Breathtakingly beautiful, LEBANON highlights the horror among battle and individuals all within the confines of a tank. It isn’t the best war film ever made but definitely gives a new aspect from a different viewpoint that will stick with you long after it’s over. With great character development and an intriguing plot, LEBANON succeeds but not without its share of a few dents and scratches.
Video: (Widescreen 1:78.1) The picture is gorgeous, which is saying a lot since most of the picture is looking inside a tank.
Audio: (Hebrew 5.1 DTS-HD MA) The bass levels from explosions and whizzing bullets filled out the surround sound nicely.
Notes On A War Film (24:24): Seeing the process and techniques used for the film was impressive making for a pretty good documentary style behind the scenes featurette.