Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Natalie Portman (Closer, V for Vendetta) stars as Rebecca, an American living in Jerusalem who moments after breaking off her engagement, jumps into a cab driven by Hanna, a strong-willed, charismatic Israeli woman. Hanna is on her way to Jordan, to an ungoverned economic free zone of shady business transactions bordered by Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Looking for a quick "escape", Rebecca convinces Hanna to take her along and the two set off to see "the American," a mysterious businessman that owes Hanna's husband money. But when Hanna and Rebecca reach his office, they are confronted by Leila, a Palestinian who tells Hanna that "the American" and the money are missing.
Determined not to leave the Free Zone without her husband's debt paid, Hanna forces Leila to join her - with Rebecca tagging along - and the three woman begin their search. Soon the relationship between them turns into an emotional solidarity that will affect each of their lives forever.
An ambitious film with both political and emotional agendas, Free Zone
stars Natalie Portman as an American woman living in Jerusalem whose quest for adventure and escape leads to serious consequences. Rebecca (Portman), newlyt broken up with her fiancé, has a chance encounter with a cab driver named Hanna (played by Hanna Laslo, who won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her work in this film) finds Rebecca accompanying her to the Free Zone--a tax-free area in northeast Jordan--so Hanna can collect money from a businessman who owes her husband. Instead of finding the businessman, they encounter a mysterious Palestinian woman who joins them on their journey. It would be too easy to write this film off as a politically tinged Thelma & Louise
. As the women argue about Israeli-Palestinian issues, we sense that there is imminent danger. And that suspense ultimately carries more impact than the dialogue, which is well intentioned but often misguided. Portman is gorgeous and does a fine job emoting (and crying), but this is really Laslo's movie. Appropriately passionate and stoic, she adds dignity (and at times humor) to a film that is thought provoking, but flawed. --Jae-Ha Kim