The hull of a M60 Patton tank is 22 feet long, 12 feet wide and carries a crew of four. About 250 square feet is able space for four people to lounge around. But if the crew are ill disciplined, inexperienced, drafted soldiers, who just want the war to be over - it makes the insides of the tank feel a lot smaller and more claustrophobic. Which is precisely the feeling conveyed by the movie Lebanon, which traces the first few days of the First Lebanon war of 1982. When the tank along with the small team of soldiers find themselves in a potentially deadly situation, it is up to a stern commander and blind luck to get them out.

The entire movie is shot from within the tank, and all action outside is filmed as seen from the tank's periscopes. The inside of the tank is grimy, oily and for the most part littered with cereal. The crew are ill disciplined and immature, to a degree that stretches credulity. The movie makes as much of a claim of representing a median soldier as Trainspotting does of representing a median addict. Both movies are allegorical, in the sense that they tend to visually depict the psychological. In that sense, Lebanon holds up a mirror to the murky, fear-ridden, bravado of the modern professional military.

Most of the action in the movie centers around the relationships between the commander of the tank and his crew, one of whom is an outspoken friend. Unable to assert his authority and incapable of providing direction, the crew are rendered virtually useless in conflict. Unable to contribute, the tank and crew find themselves mute spectators as war unfolds around them. When at last the burden of their own survival falls to them, the fact hits home that the cost of inaction is death.

The director (Samuel Moaz) is definitely making a political statement with the movie. The interviews in the DVD extras confirm as much. While there may be a political statement that needed to be made, there certainly is a philosophical one that is. The movie offers no great moments of victory or redemption; there are no heroes, no moments of realization, just survivors. It is through this aimless tale that the director seeks to elicit commentary upon the futility of war; an attempt he largely succeeds in.

Lebanon is not a war movie in the traditional sense. There are no objectives with insurmountable odds. It is a cog-in-the wheel look at the face of urban fighting. And after having recently watched Platoon and Apocalypse Now, nothing like Lebanon to strip war of all pretense at grandeur.

February 07, 2011


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