Soldiers wait for a landmine to be defused in smart war flick Beaufort.
BEAUFORT (Joseph Cedar). 125 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (August 22). For venues and times, see film times. Rating: NNNN
Beaufort isn't the first war movie to portray the anxiety, moral confusion and sheer boredom that define life on the battlefront.
Nor is it the first to point out that such inner turmoil can be as destructive to the soul as a bomb blast. But thanks to its steadfast refusal to serve up a bloody catharsis, Beaufort makes a more compelling statement than most of its guts-and-glory brethren.
A group of Israeli soldiers are guarding a 12th-century castle captured by the army in the 1982 war against Lebanon. After the Israeli government announces plans to end its 18-year occupation, the young men are left to wonder why they've put their lives on the line for a building whose value is primarily symbolic. When several of them die in missile attacks in the days before their departure, the answers become much more elusive.
Writer/director Joseph Cedar offers few answers. Instead, he focuses on the characters, particularly the unit's young commander (a brilliant Oshri Cohen), a man torn between patriotism and conscience.
Deliberately paced and filmed in greyed colours, Beaufort - which was nominated for this year's best-foreign-language-film Oscar - is a tough slog at times. But its thoughtful, nuanced insights make it worth the march through the mud.