Lebanon Movie Review
The psychological effects on the average soldier have been explored many times before, but in Samuel Maoz's Lebanon, a few soldiers face battle from the most claustrophobic environment imaginable: a tank. Lebanon shows wars from a perspective largely ignored in previous efforts, but the overall experience isn't perfect.
Set in the first Israeli-Lebanese war in 1982, a lone tank and platoon are dispatched to a hostile village. But the soldiers in the tank are largely inexperienced and not used to actual battle; they struggle with the constant, often competing battle between orders and their own survival instincts.
Maoz's depiction of war is a gut-wrenching one, a gritty, filthy, sweaty, bloody and grimy portrayal set within confines not much larger than a bathroom. Most of the war is seen through a scope lens; the war is feet away and yet not seen in person. Comparisons to Das Boot are more than appropriate.
But while Lebanon is expertly filmed, there's one thing missing: characters you can relate to. As fragile and scared as the characters are, they also come off as incompetent and incapable of following simple orders. Heroes - even heroic acts - aren't necessary, but there's not a single relatable individual amongst the group.
The problem lies predominantly in the first few minutes; Maoz jumps into the action too quickly. No time is given to develop the characters before stress factors in, to establish a common ground with the audience. The characters are only shown in a state of fear, but it's challenging to relate to people who are panicking.
Back to the "expertly filmed" comment two paragraphs prior. Maoz has created a visually intense film, but he overreaches his bounds at times. His message comes on strong - a little too strong - and every snippet that the soldiers see through their gun sights seems to be some conveniently placed imagery that reminds us war is hell.
Thanks for reminding us. I thought it was like cotton candy.
Lebanon is an intense film, but it suffers from an overeager message and overanxious storytelling. As a result, it's a good war film but not the groundbreaking one it so easily could have been.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.