Lebanon Movie Review
19 Oct 2010   Reviews

Lebanon Movie Review

Four scenes totally ruined a movie for me. And many more. Basically it’s not Inglorious Basterds but Incompetent Basterds all around…

I regularly go to sneak previews and over the years my fellow sneakers and I learned to look out for the right signs to spot a bad movie. Besides the one minute rule there’s another way by looking at the production companies involved: When there’s Canal+ involved, it’s probably bad if the movie title is unknown. If it’s Arte (a cultural broadcaster in Europe) it’s bad. If it’s German public funding you’re in for a wild ride. If it’s a combination of all three it’s like Godzilla marching through your house.

Why do I tell you all this? When Lebanon started playing, we could see the horror unfold before our eyes…we got all three of them at once: Arte, Canal+ and some German funding! The moaning in the theater was deafening. And Lebanon proved to be just the movie we expected: it was bad.

For the record: Lebanon is a (anti-)war movie that tells the story of the first day of the Lebanon war through the eyes of some soldiers in a tank. Almost the whole time we’re in the tank and only see the outside world through the gunsight. The movie was directed by Samuel Maoz who basically retold his own story on screen.

You know, it seems to me that regarding to highly political movies there’s the real life stuff and the movie stuff. A movie can be pretty bad but since it’s connected to some political stuff, it will be hailed as if The Biggest Thing Ever got invented. I am quite sure that this happened with Lebanon.

Please don't ask me who's whom. I seriously forgot or never cared about.

Please don't ask me who's who. I seriously forgot or never cared about.

And I am also quite sure that the independent arthouse cinema feeling of this movie played another role. If you regularly watch The Simpsons: do you remember the moment, when Lisa and her family watch some obscure anti-war movie from Serbia? Lebanon.Is.The.Same.Thing.

No, I have to correct myself: Lebanon is worse than that. Way worse! At least the movie in The Simpsons somehow felt philosophical and strange, Lebanon only offers in-your-face anti-war imagery of the worst kind:

  • A woman looks right into the eyes of the viewers for half a minute after her family got killed
  • A donkey is crying in close-up while dying
  • One character who wants to call his mom of course dies
  • The tank at one time in the movie takes aim at a picture of the twin towers

Okay, the last one isn’t totally a war image but the first two already were way enough for my taste because when there’s one thing I absolutely loathe it’s a preachy movie that shoves its message down my throat. Those moments were so overdone with their “war-is-so-bad”-agenda that I thought I was watching a satire for a moment. But it wasn’t. The director was serious about this.

If it were only those moments and the rest good executed I think I could’ve overlooked that. Yet the rest wasn’t any better. In the end, Lebanon simply didn’t work for me as a movie. Of course, the feeling of claustrophobia was well executed but that’s to be expected for a movie taking place inside a tank. Anything else would be amazing.

On the other hand, I almost never felt any tension whatsoever because…well, the characters are in a tank. Come on, a tank is one rather safe and sturdy harbor in the depths of hell called war. Heck, Maoz even established that the tank could withstand a rocket. So what’s the problem? I didn’t see one. The war was outside, the characters inside.

Blood is our armor and passion our weapon! Or something similar...

Blood is our armor and passion our weapon! Or something similar...

Oh yeah, the characters. That’s another point where Maoz totally messed things up. We are introduced to the characters being a bunch of wranglers and they more or less stay that way. They argue at the beginning of Lebanon, they argue in the middle, they somehow argue at the end.

At one moment in the movie I seriously started to smile in pure joy because everyone in the tank slowly but surely began to lose it. “Fuck yeah, tension, how I missed ya” I thought. That was the moment when Maoz could have brought the horror from the outside to the inside. But god dammit he didn’t. Did he forget to let them go crazy, or didn’t he want to just because it never happened in real life? The icing on the cake is the fact that one character almost goes Hannibal but shortly after that reverts back to his normal self. WTF?

And there’s an even better wtf moment. You remember the rocket I mentioned above? Well, the guy who shot that thing gets arrested and is being put inside the tank. From that moment on he remains there. And nothing happens at all. They don’t want to kill him or discuss what to do with him. Nothing happens! I even forgot for some time that the guy was even there. That’s one epic way to screw up! The most hilarious moment in a bad way in Lebanon is a scene where the arrested guy has to piss. Since he’s handcuffed someone has to help him. To make it short: one guy in the audience screamed: “For the love of God, start kissing!”

You know, for some days now I’ve been wondering if my opinion was wrong and the other guys are right. The movie won some awards, so Lebanon cannot suck that much. Right? Wrong. The more I thought about it, the more I came to the following conclusion: Lebanon won almost everything for political reasons, nothing else. It’s the message that counted, not the quality of the actual stuff happening on screen.

Conclusion

Lebanon is bad. In some moments it’s horrible with its display of in-your-face anti-war imagery, in other moments it feels cliché. What worse is that there’s no tension, the characters remain flat and many opportunities got thrown out of the window.

To me, Lebanon is no anti-war movie anyone could be proud of.

Rating
Manipulative, cheesy and bad anti-war movie. Don't waste your time.
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Comments

  • Seigworth

    Thanks for the review. Movie is playing at the Paloma Theatre in Encinitas CA.

    Won’t waste the 9 bucks and 2 hours of my life. Anyhow, the water is warm, sun is out in the afternoon and the waves are fun!

    Remember the best movie of all time is…..and I mean BETTER than PEE WEES great adventure is Shindlers List. Never saw it but that is what I heard from CNN. But I did see PEE WEE. That super long chain that he uses to lock up his bike………it has been years! and I still can’t stop from laughing out loud!

  • conner

    I got about 13 minutes into the film before I had to stop watching and, I’m sorry I just couldn’t take it seriously. it was so hokey. I mean I understand if you don’t have a big budget blah blah blah, that’s not a big deal, it just means you have to use a more subtle approach in getting your message across(which in this case is a message we’ve heard over and over since the beginning of time: war is bad)

    Unfortunately, Maoz decides to use the typical “shock” treatment, but it’s hard to do when you have shitty actors and low budget effects. The scenes of carnage are laughable, and it’s incredibly annoying when you see characters outside the tank staring directly at the screen every 2 fucking seconds, with that “I’m disgusted at this war and your actions” look on their faces. I mean what, was that supposed to make me feel involved in what was going on or something? Because it didn’t work, nothing the director tried in this movie worked. It sucked, It fucking sucked balls, don’t see it.

  • Haim

    No idea what’s your problem, I liked the movie.

    you should understand this isn’t a movie that was made to be a simple movie to entertain people, it was some way to show what soldiers were going through, I’m going to stop typing now, your not worth my time.

    Get Real.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      You liked it, I didn’t. Different minds have different opinions. This is absolutely okay and I surely won’t start to dislike you just for liking Lebanon ;)

      Andbyohtheway, I absolutely know what the movie was trying to convey but this doesn’t make the end result any better.

  • WLW

    As a male, I love war movies. Been watching them all my life. I picked this up at the local library and I saw the blurb mentioning that this is something like Das Uboat.

    Wow, was I sorely disappointed. this film not only sucked, but it was disgusting.

    The constant urination throughout the film. Was that necessary? And to end the film with a soldier unzipping an enemy soldier and holding his penis, is just outrageously sick. It is demented. It is about being in the gutter.

    For all the “tolerance and diversity” bs in our society, and a Jewish Anti-Defamation League in America to police the littlest bit of anti-semitism—the anti-Christian bigotry of this film is out-there. The tank takes a clear shot at the picture of the Madonna and Child and the naked woman running around is a Christian. For a film about fighting Muslims with Christians as Israeli allies, they never show any Islamic symbolism, but Christians. I would think blowing up a minaret with a sniper in it or a mosque with a machine gun nest. No, they blow up a Christian symbol and make a Christian woman dance in the nude as almost a parady of Blessed Mary. The hypocrisy of this film shows the complete vapidity of so-called “Jewish-Christian” relations. Christians are the allies of the Israelis, but they end up blowing up Christian symbols. Freudian slip? Art is the picture of the inner soul. And it shows.

    In a war film, you look for comarderie, unit cohesiveness, some kind of discipline to win an achievment, even if it is just plain survival.

    This film had none of it. There was absolutely no redeeming scene, honorable action throughout this movie. The constant disobedience, infighting was quite infantile. If this is a picture of the Israeli Defense Force, this is quite disgusting. That this veteran of the war had not one good thing to see or notice about his own armed forces is quite stunning. As a former US Marine, the total lack of military discipline, cohesiveness and unit group esprit de corpe was just unbelievably bad and telling. I watched Das Uboat and the German film Stalingrad. Good was mixed with bad. But this film had not one single good element in it. The constant bickering and needling of the tank commander was just disgraceful. I would rather serve 20 years in the Wehrmacht on the Russian front than spend one second in the IDF.

    Even the role of “tank commander” was not even realistic. Sometimes they even ride from the top, pop the hood, and stick their heads out. Only when there is incoming fire or in the attack do they secure hatches! Was not even real. They did not act like a unit but a bunch of herded cats.

    Even the movie Apocalypse Now, with its anti-war message, was more real than this piece of garbage. There was some sort of military ethos and character to it. Not so Lebanon.

    The real disgusting thing about this movie was when the farmer was hit. An innocent Lebanese farmer going down the road gets blown up. He is seriously wounded with his right arm blown off. He is screaming in the middle of the road.

    Do they run up and give him aid? NO. They give him a coup-de-grace to the back of the head!!!! To a civilian? This man was not even an enemy combatant! They stand around, glare at him, and then shoot him. If this is a picture from a Veteran of the war itself, then this is doubly disturbing. What, not a single Israeli knows how to put on a tourniquet? How about a shot of morphine? How about calling a medivac for a civilian unjustly shot? No this is routine Israeli behavior. Compassion is not a virtue. I remember all sorts of news stories out of Vietnam, watched all of it on TV. Wounded civilians were given medical aid. This is Western culture. This giving a coup-de-grace to the back of a head of a wounded civilian is not a picture of Western culture. It is sickening and depraved.

    But the worst thing about this movie is the glowing reviews and the award it has received. These people are as demented as this movie is. This says alot about our ‘media elite’ and the total moral and virtuous vapidity of this culture we live in. Lebanon is one sick, anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-human movie. Art is a picture of the soul of the creator. And this movie paints a sordid picture of the inner workings of the people who created this filth. It is a gutter film and belongs in the gutter.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Wow, that is a long comment :)

      You mention some points about who shot whom and the religious elements but in that regard I’m not really your opinion. Sure, one group shoots and kills another, be it Muslim, Christian, civilian or christian civilian. There might be even some symbolism and elements in that regard. But in wars and war movies there’s basically always someone killed from a different ethnicity or (religious) group. You always have to two sides. Lebanon is bad enough as it is with its in your face imagery and scriptwriting, so let’s leave it with that.

  • AS

    Such a relief to find your review of the movie ‘Lebanon’. Within 5 minutes of the start of the movie I’m like, wtf?! What, did the IDF manage to find every nutcase in Israel and stick them in one tank? And where did they get the tank anyway, from a swap meet? I haven’t served in the military, I have a lot of problems with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and the first invasion of Lebanon was BS. In fact, all in all I consider myself pretty anti-war. But this movie was just a joke. A) because it was so over the top melodramatic and stuffed its message down my throat with no nuance at all, and B) b/c no army in the world could operate with the level of insubordination and incompetence that you see among the guys in that tank. Especially not Israel which has had to fight for its existence time and time again.

    The one thing I will grant the movie is that the idea of limiting our view to what can be seen from within the tank is creative, it does induce a sense of claustrophobia and force us to see the horrors of war more acutely than we might otherwise. War isn’t a video game and the movie does a good job of portraying that. But it’s clear that the director is more interested in exorcising his personal pain from having served than in crafting a decent movie. The only mystery to me is why virtually every critic out there called it a work of genius. Crazy.

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