Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Attack

A few weeks ago, you may recall, we had a bomb go off during the Boston Marathon. There was a manhunt, they shut the whole city down to catch the guys responsible. It was a big deal. Anyway, one of the more worrisome things I saw afterwards was people sharing a Facebook status (and sentiment) about not wanting there to be any press coverage of the trial, or why the ones responsible did it, because they didn't care about the motives, so don't give these people any more publicity.

I get the idea behind it, that giving murderers a platform is the exact opposite of how we should respond to that sort of crime, especially since that it is, on a certain level, what the criminals want. There is a very strong, and sensible, feeling that this sort of violence should not be a viable means to an end. But on the other side - if we're not open to learning what motivates an attack like that, what sort of feeling of otherwise being disenfranchised pushes someone to feel that this is the only way to make their feelings known, how are we making the world any better? It just leads to more escalation on the one side and a tighter, more authoritarian government on the other - and does anybody really want to live in a society built on intimidation?

That ran through my mind after watching The Attack. The groups in this movie have gone so far down that road that the ultimate message is that they simply can't understand each other, and any attempt to do so is treated as treacherous and threatening. Granted, it's not just ideological - I think Amin, the film's main character, is stunned and disgusted by how he is treated as a pariah for trying to save lives while a suicide bomber is venerated for killing children - but ultimately, I think this is what I find the most shaking about the movie and the reaction to the Marathon bombing: That we are so dug-in and worried about ceding any ground, so afraid of letting the other guy have any sort of victory, that we can't examine the world as it is and try to figure out what kind of changes can be made to prevent people from wanting to commit this sort of violence, rather than just using force to intercept it or, more often, try to capture and punish the perpetrators.

L'attentat (The Attack)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 4 June 2013 in the Regent Theatre (Gathr Preview Series, digital)

There have been a fair number of movies, books, and the like about terrorism over the years, but many, in their perfectly reasonable attempt to illuminate the phenomenon, ignore a simple truth: Most people just can't understand. This is a good thing - murder should be seen as aberrant! - but it can also be disquieting knowledge, and that's what gives the last act of The Attack (L'attentat) a fair amount of power.

The man about to come face to face with this idea is Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman), an ethnically Palestinian but non-religious surgeon who lives and works in Tel Aviv. He receives an award for his outstanding work - the first Arab to be so honored - the day before an explosion at a cafe puts him to work saving lives. It's after that a personal bombshell hits him: One of the victims is his wife Siham (Reymond Amsalem), and her injuries are consistent with a suicide bomb. He cannot believe this is possible, and returns to his hometown of Nablus to find answers.

That search consumes the latter half of the movie, but the lead-up to it is somewhat interesting as well; co-writer and director Ziad Doueiri spends some time painting terror attacks and their aftermath not as commonplace, but as something akin to bad weather: Not an everyday occurrence or something you can predict, but there are systems in place and inconveniences you accept. There's not pure visceral horror in the far-off bang that Amin hears from the hospital roof, and while the Shin Bet guy who torments and interrogates him is unpleasant... Well, we may not approve even if we weren't relatively sure of Amin's innocence, but it's part of the landscape now. Doueiri could choose to push these events as horrific, but if he did, it might be taken as justification for what comes later. Instead, we're allowed to disapprove but still think we understand the world we live in.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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