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Friday, June 10, 2011

BEAUFORT (2007)

This highly praised Israeli pic is a tightly focused character study about a small military unit charged with closing down the last outpost in Lebanon 18 years after the 1982 border war. The young soldiers, barely older than the occupation, are well aware that their lives are being used as fodder by various political factions and that their officers have been vamping with contradictory missions & pointless tactical efforts. Suddenly, everyone’s tour is ending, but they’re still dodging incoming mortar attacks and trying not to be careless as they prep the fort for end-game. Joseph Cedar’s script & helming offer a welcome, believable respite from the current testosterone-charged Hollywood battlefield norm, and his measured pacing only accentuates the brief, but terrifying episodes of violence & nail-biting suspense. (The action is strikingly book-ended with the unnervingly calm precision of two opposing demolition experts.) If only the film’s execution matched Cedar’s intentions/ambitions. Made for a mere 2.5 mill, the film belies its budget (the atmosphere is very well caught) and the young cast all turn in memorable characterizations. But Cedar hasn’t quite developed the technical control needed to carry us all the way along with his melancholy outfit. Too often, the film feels worthy rather than compelling, as if Cedar is giving us talking-points for a post-screening discussion at the local Jewish Community Center. But he’s definitely a guy to watch.

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