Beaufort, an ancient stone fortress atop a Lebanese mountain, is the setting for this muted war drama by director Joseph Cedar. He also wrote the script based on Ron Leshem's novel, recounting the last days of Israeli occupation in 2000. The end result is a meditative portrait of the soldiers' day-to-day battle, not just to stay alive, but to maintain a sense of purpose. There is sometimes a tendency to overplay the drama, but the talented cast is a grounding force.
Young officer Liraz (Oshri Cohen) commands a small band of soldiers posted at Beaufort, but finds it increasingly difficult to assert his authority when the Israeli government announces plans to withdraw from Southern Lebanon in a matter of weeks. Hezbollah responds with a salvo of missiles to claim a victory and amidst the chaos, Liraz makes a decision that has fatal consequences for one of his men. Unit medic Koris (Itay Tiran) pokes at the chink suddenly exposed in his armour, but Liraz's greatest struggle is always with his own conscience.
"AN IMPRESSIVE CAST OF YOUNG ACTORS"
Dialogue about the futility of war and scenes of gentle weeping mark the weak spots in a script littered with clichés. And although there is discussion between the soldiers about the whys and wherefores of the conflict, Cedar takes a myopic view. It's the idle banter and quieter moments that make a real impression. Grimy snapshots from the lookout post are contrasted with sweeping, sunny vistas from the mountain peak and more effectively convey the absurdity of the mission. Whether framed against this vast landscape or in the poky, subterranean living quarters, an impressive cast of young actors are able to express a growing sense of claustrophobia without words, and music rarely interrupts. Action scenes are few and fleeting; the tension is in the stillness and a worrying sense that the future is already set in stone.
Beaufort is out in the UK on 28th March 2008.