I’m trying to write about this movie (I just deleted a post and started again) and can’t do it justice. You absolutely must see it. Take tissues. It’s been described as a prayer for peace, but I see it equally as a testament to how messed up and sinful humanity is. This passed between Mathieu Kassovitz’s (Birthday Girl; Amélie; The Fifth Element) character, Robert, and Avner (Eric Bana — Australian. Troy; voice actor in Finding Nemo; Black Hawk Down):
“We’re Jews, Avner. Jews don’t do wrong because our enemies do wrong.“
“We can’t afford to be that decent anymore.“
“I don’t know that we ever were that decent. Thousands of years of hatred doesn’t make you decent. But we were supposed to be righteous. It’s a beautiful thing. That’s Jewish. That’s what I knew. That’s what I was taught. And now I’m losing that… and I lose that and… that’s… that’s everything. That’s my soul.”
— whilst Avner’s mother speaks of them fighting for a place… on earth. And all the while Avner is away from his child, whose voice brings him (and the audience) to tears. He speaks to his daughter afraid she won’t ever meet him/remember him, hear his voice in person.
This is the story of one man and the impact all this evil had on him, beautifully (hauntingly) told. His story feels real. There is nothing contrived here. His wife is not a device, a catalyst for a romantic sub-plot, a draw-card for a different audience. Daphna and Avner and their child are a part of a relationship that this violence threatens to break. That is a part of what Avner is torn away from every time he plans to kill another ‘target’. Targets, towards the end of the film, cease to be ‘targets’ and become people. The ‘safe-house’, shared with the enemy. The ‘local-honey trap’, murdered arbitrarily seemingly to avenge Carl’s (Ciarán Hinds — The Phantom of the Opera; Calendar Girls; Veronica Guerin) assassination. She is left naked, which seemingly exacerbates the depth of their actions and subsequent guilt. Hans is dead. It’s implied he was killed, though perhaps less than certain. Avner’s descent past the point of coping has begun, and an earlier allusion to someone who slept in a closet out of fear comes to fruition as Avner takes refuge in the same place. The bomb maker, Robert, dies at the hands of a ferris wheel. Any detachment from the murders of people we might once have had is now thoroughly dismissed, on both sides. The only ‘bias’ that potentially exists stems from the perspective from which the story is told… but Spielberg is sufficiently rancorous towards the Israeli establishment — in fact, probably a little more so (could just be my reading of it: either way, it was fairly neutral, but I sympathised more — if I did ‘sympathise’ at all — with the ‘opposition’ in this film for whatever reason).
Go watch the movie. It’s definitely not a pleasant film, nor, at 164 minutes, is it particularly quick… but it’s worth seeing.