The Attack
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 5, 2013
Racism, terrorism, controversial societal conditions; these are all hot-button subjects and ones that get a lot of attention whether it be in the news, in social forums or in the movies. Since 9/11, these have become even more common, and while not every film that revolves around terrorism stakes its home in the 9/11 tragedy, it’s safe to say that they owe the attention they receive to the social consciousness every living person took home from that event.

A film like ‘The Attack’ had a great opportunity to answer some questions that many unrelated to the issues at hand may have about the social environment in the Middle East. With a strong core story that follows one man’s quest to uncover the truth about his wife’s involvement with a terrorist act, ‘The Attack’ sets us up for what promises to be a very informative and engaging thrill ride.

Sadly, the ball was dropped here.

For me, ‘The Attack’ suffers from too many unanswered questions and not enough clear character development. When we get to the big reveal, everything feels so anticlimactic that we are left just as inquisitive and confused as we were in the beginning, even if our main protagonist acts as if all questions are answered. It also fails at depicting a logical series of events, for the actions of the protagonist are never met with a reasonable end. In other words, there is no way that he would have survived his abrasive inquiry of such a quiet and secretive faction and yet, he walks away with his answers, unscathed. It makes very little sense, the way that this was mapped out, and it saddens me that the approach was more along the lines of a non-plausible Hollywood thriller as opposed to a direct and gritty look at real life scenarios. What makes this approach all the more disappointing is that the pacing and dynamics of the film are of a more relaxed drama, and so the film winds up being slow AND unrealistic and so it just kind of becomes boring.

I hate to sound all Debby Downer here, but the more I think of the this the more I’m baffled at how much potential was squandered here.

On a positive note, Ali Suliman is VERY good here. Despite having some pretty ridiculous character development, he handles the reality of his character’s grappling with his situation really well, and he sells it in its entirety.

Like I said, the core story is a really rich one. A successful man who is happily married finds himself questioning everything when his wife is not only killed in a terrorist bombing, but is being accused of being the terrorist herself. It had so much opportunity to really flesh out the inner madness that the husband was experiencing (which is does, to an extent) and then show the counterbalance of what that truth really represented, but it feels so underwhelming that all context is lost and the impact is pretty much nonexistent.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
"The Attack" (2013 release from Lebanon; 102 min.) brings the story of Amin (play by Ali Suliman), a successful Arab-Israeli surgeon who is about to receive the highest honor any doctor can receive in Israel for his professional accomplishments. His wife Siham (played by Reymond Amsalem), also Arab, is not with him, though. The next day a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv kills 17 people, including 11 children, and severely wounds scores more, when setting off explosives in a restaurant. Many of them end up in Amin's hospital and he tries all he can to save lives. Later that night, he is called back to the hospital. It turns out Siham was killed in the attack and all signs point to her being the suicide bomber. Amin simply refuses to believe it when pressed by the Israeli police. At this point we're only 25-30 min. into the movie. Was Siham a terrorist? Is Amin being set up by the Israeli police? Could Amin possibly have completely misread his wife? To tell you more would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: first, the movie is based on the 2007 book of the same name by Algerian author Yasmina Khadra. I haven't read the book so I cannot comment on how this compares to the book. Second, many people are unaware that Arab-Israelis make up about 20 percent of Israel's population, and are often very torn in their feelings for their country (Israel) and their spiritual brothers and at times roots in Palestine and other Arab areas. Third, the movie does an excellent job exposing those tormented feelings of Amin as he is on a path to find out what really happened leading up to the attack. As one point Amin is upset with everyone and everything and one of his Jewish friends offers "Don't let grief your spoil your perspective" but that's of course easier said than done. This movie flew by in no time and had my attention from start to finish. Beware, the hospital scenes where the wounded are treated make for difficult viewing (I closed my eyes a few times). Bottom line: "The Attack" is a great addition to the collection of movies looking at the Israeli-Palestine conflict (another recent movie I'd readily recommend on this topic is "A Bottle In the Gaza Sea"). As such, "The Attack" deserves and needs to be seen by both sides. But to give you an idea how absurd things have become, the movie has been banned by all Arab countries, for the "crime" of filming part of the movie in Israel. My oh my.

I saw this movie in early July at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati, and I'm happy to say that the screening where I saw this at, was very nicely attended, giving me hope that there is a strong demand for this movie, be it in the theatre or on DVD/Blu-ray. If you are in the mood for compelling movie that adds to the debate on the Israeli-Palestine conflict, you cannot go wrong with this. "The Attack" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The husband in a close loving relationship sets on a journey to disprove that his wife, killed in a terrorists bombing was a victim and not the suicide bomber as officials charge, placing him also under suspicion., A celebrated and much loved surgeon , He and his wife also of Arab heritage and she a christian,seem, even to those closest to them for years, to have lives somehow apart not only from the extreme violence of Israeli/Palestinian violence, but beyond politics and all ideologic passions. The story unfolds in almost dream like unconnected ,snippits building first to revelation and then to a resolution so profound and so intensely personal he cannot speak of it ever to anyone. The viewer shares just enough of this mans journey to be almost literally in his heart when the revelation comes but we are not in on the resolution. We are left to ponder and rework and explore all the layers of meaning and truth in this film. Anyone who loves David Mamet would love this film. This film has so many dimensions and facets it should be in a permanent home collection, and is a good choice for gifting to your local library.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2014
This was an amazing movie. The conflict in the Middle East is so challenging to address. This movie was graphic and at times I had to close my eyes however the storyline was amazing. I loved it. We have a charity that does work in the Middle East twice yearly and we help all peoples. It was wonderful to see some of the venues that we frequent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2014
The fact that it is not a Hollywood movie makes the difference: the languages, the sites, the actors. As close to the book as possible for a movie. Read the book first. IRMA DICKINSON
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2014
A deep and fascinating look into the problem of being a well adjusted Arabic citizen in Israel. Being like everybody else is only an illusion and will only hold as long as everything is OK but will crumble as soon as there is a problem.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2014
This Lebanese-French-Israeli film is the most even-handed presentation of the excruciating, long-standing detente between Palestinians and Israelis I have yet to see. I would recommend, perhaps surprisingly, that as many North Americans and Europeans as possible see this work of art, ponder, and discuss it. We here especially in the United States are simply out of touch with, and don't know enough about, the complexity of this aggravated issue, one that has had far-reaching often devastating effects in not only the Levant but also in all of the Middle Eastern Islamic and Christian world. The next-to-final scene of a brilliant Palestinian Arab surgeon, favored by the Israeli establishment for his work in securing the health and well-being of its society and finally confronted by a Palestinian Orthodox-Catholic priest, in the glowing, Rembrandtesque ambiance of an historic Christian church in the West Bank is an emotional and artistic masterpiece. In it, with the stimulus of the gentle, exquisitely articulate priest who draws out this man of science, he comes to terms with himself; what he has perceived to that point as his betrayal by his beautiful Orthodox-Catholic wife, also Palestinian; and, the meaning of the Intifada. It-- and the entire film-- is almost Biblical in its revelations-- and intimations-- for him personally, and for the greater society of his troubled homeland. Bravo! To all who made this larger-than- life creation possible, my heartfelt thanks. DrJ
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on December 12, 2014
Brilliantly done! Excellent soundtrack and acting from unknown (to me) actors. My takeaway from watching this so very sad film is that hatred and violence never accomplish anything. And I mean this for both sides of the conflict. One can only hope that there will be a sea change in the hearts and minds of Israelis and Palestinians, each of whom have their own point of view. What is heartbreaking is that this probably won't happen any day soon. Or maybe, like the Berlin wall, the hatred and discontent will simply vanish one day.
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on June 16, 2015
Brilliant film. I can't stop thinking about it's many messages, who is the enemy? How do we deal with betrayal? Grief? Loss? It offers just one explanation how one who has it all can cross over and commit hideous acts of violence perpetrated upon the innocent. You will be left scratching your head and wondering how our world will ever get out of this cycle. Extraordinary performances.
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