Lebanon (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner13/05/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 94 mins

Claustrophobic war thriller with an intriguing setting and some nice ideas but it's often hard to tell the characters apart and it's strangely lacking in tension.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Samuel Maoz, Lebanon is set on the first day of the 1982 Lebanon war and takes place entirely within a tank called Rhino. As the film opens, Israeli gunner Shmulik (Yoav Donat) joins driver Yigal (Michael Moshonov), shell-loader Hertzel (Oshri Cohen) and captain Assi (Itay Tiran), none of whom have any battle experience.

The crew duly receive their instructions from field commander Jamil (Zohar Shtrauss) and are sent off on their first mission, but it isn't long before things go horribly wrong and they end up stuck behind enemy lines with both a dead soldier and a Syrian prisoner (Dudu Tassa) on board.

The Good
Maoz apparently based the script on his own experiences in the Israeli Armored Corps as a young man. To that end, the bickering dialogue rings true and Maoz creates a suitably claustrophobic atmosphere within the tank that works well, even if the story tries to pack in a little too much.

Giora Bejach's camerawork is extremely good and restricting the view of outside to Shmulik's view-finder is an inspired touch, though what really makes the film is its extraordinary sound design, which brilliantly captures the feel of being trapped inside the tank. Accordingly, Maoz wrings a surprising amount of tension out of something as simple as the radio crackle, which at any moment could send them to their deaths.

The Bad
The performances are fine, though it's often difficult to tell the characters apart. Indeed, you actually lose track of just how many characters are in the tank at any one time, because one of them, seemingly, isn't given anything to do and it's a bit of a surprise when he suddenly pops up again.

The obvious pitch for Lebanon is 'Das Boot in a tank', except that makes it sound much more exciting than it actually is. Indeed, the setting appears to promise 90 minutes of unbearable tension, but the story ultimately feels a little too stagey to really work properly, detracting from the realistic atmosphere built up by the camerawork and sound design.

Worth seeing?
Lebanon is a watchable thriller with some nice ideas but it's not as gripping or as emotionally engaging as it should have been.

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Content updated: 11/12/2019 18:47

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