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THE ATTACK Remains A Human Drama That Transcends Its Obvious Politics
on January 8, 2014
I tend to avoid watching most political dramas. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy them; rather, because I’m already kinda/sorta set in my convictions and those convictions don’t tend to match up with an awful lot of Hollywood and/or mainstream releases that are political in nature, I honestly figure, “Why bother?” I resent the typical Tinseltown indoctrination films – you know, the ones telling me how to think, to live, to pray (should I choose to). I prefer living my life freely with my own code of morality, but I’ll occasionally get wrapped up in that rare film that appears to only use a politically-charged situation as a backdrop with which to explore human conflict.
THE ATTACK – it’s apparently based on some relatively controversial international bestseller – is one such film. Sure, it’s easy to see how some might be either offended or insulted by some of the themes wrapped up in here; but I was able to look past much of that into the eyes of a man (largely because of a gripping, stirring performance) tortured not only by what he had seen but also more so by what he hadn’t.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Amin Jaafari (played with simmering intensity by Ali Suliman) is a physician in Israel. Although he’s of Palestinian descent, he’s clearly embraced what life has to offer him and his wife Siham (a radiant Reymond Amsellem). On the cusp of greatness, he’s being served an award for an exceptional career in medicine. All of this world suddenly comes crashing down around him when a suicide bombing leaves nineteen dead, and the Israeli authorities suspect Siham as the guilty culprit. Against the advice of his friends, Amin embarks on a journey to uncover her innocence, but what he finds waiting for him in an even greater secret that threatens his livelihood even more.
It’s no wonder that the film has garnered so much praise. It won Special Jury Mention at the 2012 San Sebastian International Film Festival, as well as playing to great acclaim at the 2012 Toronto, Mill Valley, and Telluride Film Festivals. Also, it won Best Picture at the 2012 Marrakech Film Festival. In 2013, it was nominated for the prestigious “New Blood” Award at the Cognac Festival du Film Policier. THE ATTACK is one of those rare films which critics embrace and regular Joes – if they give it a chance – can appreciate.
The adaptation penned by Joelle Touma and director Ziad Douieri deftly moves within the world struggling with both Israel and Palestinian influences. As I’m not familiar with the original novel, I couldn’t say how well the motion picture compares to the book, but I can tell you that despite the subject matter’s obvious controversy I found ATTACK to remain fairly impartial to both sides politically. This story didn’t seem all that obsessed with proving one right and another wrong. It was a drama about a noble man with tragic and sometimes dire circumstances forced on him secretly. Granted, someone with greater involvement or personal attachment to the situation in the Middle East may feel differently; instead, I found myself drawn closer and closer to Amin’s struggles, his quest to either prove his wife’s blamelessness or see his world torn apart by what he finds.
In that respect, Suliman is a master of his craft. We watch him move from the film’s opening – a humble physician trying to honor his profession as well as the wishes of those around him, even those who despise him for his heritage – into vastly deeper territory. He endures the stages of grief, then denial, then a kind of blind acceptance of Siham’s possible culpability; and he uses all of these emotions to ultimately push him onto a path of privately investigating the bombing and his wife’s death from it. At some point, he realizes that he isn’t seeking redemption for her any longer; tortured by each new revelation, he understands that, at this point, all that truly matters to him are answers … and answers is just what he gets.
Come the conclusion, he’s no longer certain about anything, as is aptly demonstrated by the closing scenes. One might say his journey is existentially “riches to rags” when the reality of his ignorance close in around him.
THE ATTACK (2012) is produced by 3B Productions, Scope Pictures, Douri Films, Canal+, Cine+, and Random House Films. DVD distribution is being handled by the Cohen Media Group. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is an Arabic and Hebrew spoken language film with English subtitles (there is no English dubbing available). As for the technical specifications, this is an impressively staged production with the highest quality sight and sound. Lastly, if it’s special features you want, then you’re going to be left wanting as the disc only boasts a brief interview with director Ziad Doueiri, a photo gallery, and the theatrical trailer – not unusual, but it’s a shame these foreign releases don’t have more frills, especially when they’re this good.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Sometimes the only alternative you have against a bad choice is an awful one, and that is a theme at work consistently throughout THE ATTACK. A single suicide bombing kills far more than those destroyed in the blast; it undoes lives in more ways any person sees imaginable. The film is highlighted by excellent performances by all of the players.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks a Cohen Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of THE ATTACK by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.