Israeli writer/director Samuel Maoz presents a vital, important war drama from his own experience on the front line.
In Lebanon (in Arabic, Farsi with English subtitles) the emotions and terror of the 1982 Israeli invasion of the titular Middle East nation bring immediacy to harrowing events over a 24-hour period, as the conflict begins.
Maoz interestingly offers the point of reference from a tank called Rhino on the move for attack. Inside are Israeli gunman Shmulik (Yoav Donat), squad leader Assi (Hay Tiran), ammunition expert Hertzel (Oshri Cohen), and driver Yigal (Michael Moshonov). It is their initiation into battle and they're the main focus of a tautly rendered tale encroaching into harsh justice out of bounds with international law.
The periscopic gunsight offers glimpse what lies outside with occasional intrusions from those like field boss Jamil (Zohar Shtrauss). Images are often of the clammy, cluttered close-up variety inside the war machine. There are the crazed, dying, and imprisoned who have an effect on four soldiers in what some may consider stagy and instructional or little propaganda-fueled.
Maoz exudes much confidence as plenty happens in a short running time with innocent lives and good intentions caught up in the conflict of battle with fear and survival being driving factors.
Through a quite capable cast, especially Donat, Lebanon espouses a raw, unflinching honest expression of warfare, responsive to panic, emotional paralysis, and devastation with its gritty, subjective lensing. A moral quandry is evident in the humanity, including desperation, of young men who simply aren't what their country wants them to be. Perhaps this often confined, grim take on heroism with its share of terror and carnage reaches an unbearably memorable moment when out of Rhino when an Arab family is caught in deadly crossfire.