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Directed by Samuel Maoz
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“Lebanon” is an Israeli film that deals with the first day of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by the Israelis. The fascinating point of the film is that it is set within the confined, claustrophobic inside of a tank, with a crew of four: the driver, the loader, the gunner, and the crew chief – an officer.
They keep getting messages from headquarters as to where to go, whom to fire at, and some unexpected things: a dead Israeli soldier is pushed down inside – a helicopter will come and pick him up from the tank. A Falangist soldier brings a Syrian prisoner to be held in the tank, then tells the prisoner (in Arabic, which the Israelis don’t understand, just what kinds of tortures he will inflict when the tank gets to his headquarters.
Everything is seen only from inside the tank, or through the gunsight (though this is a cheat; the filmmaker has simply put crosshairs on the shots of the tank’s targets). The men don’t have much to say about what they’re doing, but at one point we see a truck coming toward the tank. They are ordered to fire at it, but the gunner can’t bring himself to do it. The truck turns out to be full of Lebanese fighters, and they fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the tank, which knocks out the instruments. Then another truck comes by, and the gunner fires at it, which turns out to be full of chickens. The film is telling us that there is cowardice, there are wrong targets, and even, occasionally, right ones. Finally, they are told to go to a coordinate named ‘San Tropez’ and simply wait there for further orders They do, and that’s where the film ends.
“Lebanon” is the film that the writer-director, Samuel Maoz, has wanted to make for twenty years, since he was the gunner in the tank back in 1982. Maoz, trying not to imitate the war films in which each character reveals everything about himself, has gone too far the other way; his people hardly speak, and when they do it’s only about where they are and what they should do next. “Lebanon” has its moments, but doesn’t live up to its premise of war as seen through a peep hole.