7/10 (Spielberg = sappy)
I saw this once in 2006 and remembered liking it. I recently got the desire to see it again and thought it was rather incredible. Admittedly, I am biased against Steven Spielberg for being so goddamn sentimental, but this movie only had a couple of egregious moments. It is definitely one of Spielberg’s best “films.”
The best part of the movie by far was Eric Bana. His performance was staggering. The first thing I noticed was his accent, which was spot on and actually brought back memories of some Israeli friends I have known. Sometimes his puppy-dog eyes can annoy me, but those moments didn’t happen in this film, mostly because it was necessary to his character I suppose. There were two real standout scenes that I had to rewind just to watch Bana. The first was when he’s talking to his daughter on the phone and hears her say “Dada” for the first time and then busts out crying. The second was when he busts into the Israeli embassy towards the end of the film and goes apeshit on the consular official. My lord was he pissed, and he channeled that rage into a perfect crescendo of fury.
The cinematography (and to some degree I suppose the direction) was wonderful. I find it difficult to distinguish the two. But I generally liked how the shots were set-up, the camera angles, etc. The action scenes were particularly well-choreographed, with the most memorable being the hotel bomb that blows Bana into the wall, a seat-jumper for sure.
The film’s biggest weakness was the script and/or direction (again, difficult for me to discern). This area did have a major plus, which was the smartness of the script. It didn’t overly explain too much, and a lot of the plot got passed on by innuendo, which I like. This could make it confusing for some people on the first viewing, but I prefer to be a little confused than to have the plot totally spoonfed.
One of my major problems with the script was that I found it hard to believe that Avner would ever agree to do this sort of mission. Really? This loving almost-father in a perfect, harmonious marriage would leave his family for years, give up all security, risk his life and the lives of his family, and all for revenge? They attempted to explain this in a one-minute scene when his wife artificially stated how his own mother abandoned him so now “he thinks of Israel as his mother.” That is bullshit, especially with the character that Spielberg (or perhaps the author) created: a devoted family man who is very sensitive and caring. You can’t have both a doting husband/father and a badass uber-patriot killer. This is sappy Spielberg trying to manipulate the hell out of us. (As an aside and bonus negative, most of the film’s dialogue was pretty heavy-handed, synthetic, and unrealistic. . . in all of the household scenes I found myself wondering, Do they ever have conversations that are not about incredibly significant life-or-death decisions? Granted, this impression comes after viewing the hyper-realistic “Reservoir Dogs” dialogue)
My 2nd and largest problem with the script was the Athens sequence, where they are improbably set up to camp with a PLO group. Maybe I’m missing some sort of really intelligent explanation for how this happened (besides that Louis, their connection, was fucking with them), but are you serious? Of course it’s obviously there so Avner can have the conversation with the Arab about their “home” and blah blah blah, a sentiment which I respect. But really? I’m supposed to believe that they would stay there with each other? Don’t you think you could have inserted that conversation in a more realistic scenario, perhaps in the “interview” sequence in Paris? Fuck you, Steven, for being so obnoxious about it. Oh no, and then Avner has to shoot him! Oh how sad! Goddamn you Spielberg for being such an asshole manipulator. Oh yeah, and the part where Daniel Craig’s character and the other Arab are fighting over the radio? I definitely choked back a little vomit on that one. The entire sequence should have been cut.
Okay, so as angry as I seemed in that last paragraph, it was really my only major problem with the film. And for as long as it was (2.40), it was really quite engaging the entire time. I still recommend the film highly, for Bana’s performance and the cinematography/direction. Hell, the former alone is worth watching. It’s just wishful thinking to hope that Spielberg will ever stop being a damn sentimental jerk. By the way (and quite beside the point I think), isn’t it funny how they tell actors to speak English with an Israeli accent and it’s supposed to somehow make up for the fact that they’re quite falsely speaking English in a predominantly Hebrew-speaking country?
17 March 2010