Lebanon (2009)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Period Film, War Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 6, 2010 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - Germany, France, Israel, Lebanon  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Taking its most obvious inspiration from Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot, Samuel Maoz' Lebanon also fits in thematically with a number of contemporary films featuring men confined to small spaces, such as 127 Hours and Buried. Lebanon may not rely on claustrophobia as a source of tension to the extent those films do, but it compensates with the tension of the battlefield, as four Israeli soldiers witness/participate in the June 1982 invasion of Lebanon from the deceptive safety of their tank. What makes the tank interesting as the space of their confinement, similar to the submarine in Das Boot, is that it's simultaneously secure and vulnerable; secure in the sense that thick armor encases the men, but vulnerable in the sense that it's slow and has nowhere to hide other than its own protective shell. Maoz' decision to keep all the action inside the tank is a smart one, as it emphasizes the men's sense of removal -- both physical and emotional -- from the violence and chaos of the rubble-strewn streets a few short feet away. It's clear that the confusion and their separation from the events outside has the tendency to cloud their judgment, but Maoz doesn't intend to fault the men for this disconnect -- in fact, he spends down moments in the action on stories they tell each other, which reinforce their temporarily blunted humanity. As important as their interactions with potential targets are their interactions with each other, the bread and butter of movies where characters must share the same set of extreme circumstances. Lebanon may not constitute the most profound examination of those dynamics, and its messages about war are nothing new. However, the whole thing is a tight, watchable package, with just enough delight and just enough absurdity to remind us that everyone involved is merely human.