Lebanon (2009)

 

 

 

Director:     Samuel Moaz. 

Starring:     Yoav Donat (Shmulik), Itay Tiran (Assi), Oshri Cohen (Hertzel), Michael Moshonov (Yigal), Zohar Shtrauss (Gamil), Dudu Tassa (Syrian Captive), Ashraf Barhom (1st Phalangist), Fares Hananya (2nd Phalangist), Reymond Amsalem (Lebanese Mother), Bian Antir (Lebanese Father), Khaled Salam (Lebanese Boy), Iad Abu Nama (BMW Driver), Hussein Mahagna (Truck Driver), David Volach (Army Doctor), Aryeh Cherner (Cornelia).

1982, four young Israeli tank crewmen find themselves in a nightmarish deathtrap

The names in the subtitles of the characters are often a bit different than in the list of the actors and the characters they play. 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

There's a huge field of sunflowers in bloom. In this very serene area, there is a tank.  What's it doing in the sunflower field? 

6th June 1982, 3 a.m., the first day of the Lebanon War.  An Israeli soldier named Shmulik, the gunner, jumps down into a tank.  There he meets the tank commander, Assi.  Shmulik next meets Hertzel, the loader.  And the fourth crew member is Yigal, the driver.  Orders are given to start the tank and drive north.  Then it's welcome to Lebanon. 

An Israeli Major named Jamil comes walking toward the tank, which stops.  The fellow jumps on top of the tank and jumps down inside.  He tells commander Assi that he has a unit of 12 paratroopers. He says he has a to-do list that should take three weeks to accomplish.  Their first assignment will be an easy one.  They will head north/north-east to a small town that the Israeli air force wiped off the map.  They will enter the town at 7 a.m. and make sure that nothing's left.  They then continue north and around 10 a.m. they will reach a friendly area. The San Tropez hotel is there and that's where they will have their breakfast.  After breakfast they go onto their next assignment.  Meanwhile, the tank is to sit here blocking the road.  Jamil will be their direct commander.  Just before Jamil leaves he says it will be a walk in the park until San Tropez. 

Hertzel is being a big pain in the ass to his friend Assi.  He wants to know why he was picked to be the guard for the next half hour?  The guy just won't shut up.  Hertzel says all he wants is for the new guy Shmulik to replace him as the guard.  Hertzel asks Shmulik if he would mind being the guard and Shmulik tells him he wouldn't mind.  But Assi tells Shmulik to butt out of this.  Hertzel keeps protesting for awhile longer.  Then Assi cuts the lights out so he and the others can get some sleep. 

It's light outside now and Assi gets a message that a BMW is headed straight toward them.  Assi tells the gunner to fire the machine gun on either side of the car to try to get the driver to stop.  The driver doesn't stop.  So now the fire is directed toward the car's engine.  The car finally stops after being hit by the submachine gun bursts of fire from the 12 paratroopers.   Assi now asks Shmulik why didn't he fire directly at the BMW?  Shmulik looks very unnerved by the experience.  He finally says:  "I got confused.  Till now I shot only barrels."  Because Shmulik didn't fire, an Israeli soldier has been badly wounded. The fellow dies. 

The dead body is dropped into the tank.  Jamil says there are to be no more warning shots.  A pick-up truck is headed toward the tank.  Shmulik is still very shaken and he makes a rushed decision to fire a shell into the truck.  He does so and the truck is hit.  Chickens in cages are blown sky ward and land in the road.  The poor driver has lost his right arm and both of his legs.  To put him out of his misery, he is shot in the head.  The paratroopers give Shmulik some really disgusted looks. 

Now the tank is in the town.  They pass a dying mule on the street.  The paratroopers proceed ahead of the tank.  The paratroopers find a boy, who runs from them.  They decide not to shoot him.  

Yigal and Hertzel both tell Assi that they feel sick, especially from the stench of the dead body.  A helicopter arrives to take the dead body.  It lowers a cable to the tank and the men tie the harnesses around the dead body.  Up goes the body. 

Jamil drops into the tank again.  He doesn't say anything for awhile, but just looks at everyone slowly.  They got the message.  Jamil says now they are reaching the civilian area and they want to make it through to the other end of town in one hour.  It shouldn't be difficult. 

A report comes in over the radio that terrorists have been taking hostages.  Hertzel continues to be a real jerk.  He stars smoking and won't put out his cigarette when Assi tells him to. 

Shmulik has to scan the area looking for danger.  In doing so, he sees a lot of terrible scenes of dead bodies.  He sees a paratrooper throwing up at the same or similar sights. 

Shmulik says he has to urinate right now.  They tell him to hold it, so he grabs a ammunition box in order to urinate in it.  But then the action starts again.  Shmulik can see the hostages and the terrorists.  The order to fire is given.  Shmulik can't or won't fire at the civilians.  So the terrorists kill the hostages and then the paratroopers kill the terrorists.  A few seconds later the gunner fires a shell into the area.  The woman finally comes out of the door and onto the street.  She approaches a soldier asking him if he has seen her daughter Wafa?  She's only five years old.  She starts beating on the soldier asking him what did he do with her daughter?  Her dress catches on fire and the soldier rips off the flimsy night gown leaving her almost completely naked.  (Brief nudity.)  She goes over to a stack of clothes and the soldier gives her a garment to cover herself.  She gets up and walks toward the tank.  She stares so hard and long that Shmulik is becoming very upset again. 

Jamil now jumps down into the tank and tells Shmulik that next time he orders the tank to fire, he better fire an (illegal) phosphorus shell at the target.  Jamil then warns Assi about keeping control of his gunner.  He's holding Assi responsible for what the gunner does or doesn't do.  After Jamil leaves, Assi calls Shmulik a pussy and shouts at him that he is not going to die here because of some gunner named Shmulik.  Shmulik shouts back at him that he has a trigger too. Why didn't he fire?  He will lock onto the target and Assi can pull the trigger.  Hertzel tells Assi to sit down and chill out. 

Shmulik sees two soldiers set afire by a flame thrower.  They have now fallen and continue burning.  Shmulik moves the sight and sees an man fire a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) at him.  Instead of firing at the fellow the moment he saw the rocketeer. Shmulik seems to be frozen in place.  The RPG hits the tank. 

The Syrian fellow that hit the tank with the RPG is dropped down into the tank with chains around him.  The men tie the chains secure to make sure the fellow can't get at them.  Hertzel wonders what's a Syrian doing fighting in Lebanon?  The guys on the radio say that Jamil deviated from his assigned route.  Jamil answers back that he did not deviate off the route.  He is exactly where he is supposed to be.  Headquarters tells Jamil to hold his position and make no aggressive moves.  They will figure out what they want him to do. 

Jamil tells Assi to get the tank going and find themselves a place where they can clean themselves up.  He feels the morale in the tank is too low.  Yigal says that this tank is finished.  There is no oil and they don't have any electricity.  He doesn't even think he can start the tank.  Hertzel thinks that now that the tank is out of commission, they can be evacuated by helicopter.  He puts in a call to Jamil and then gives the phone over to Assi.  Assi doesn't say anything, so Jamil says he's coming to them.  Yigal tells Jamil that the tank is dead, according to his instruments.  Jamil tells him to try to get it started.  Yigal tries a couple of times, but fails.  The next time he tries, Jamil tells him to keep pumping and pumping until it starts.  And the tank finally does start.

Jamil is radioed that two phalangist soldiers  (i.e., Christian Arabs) will reach them soon.  They will evacuate Jamil and his men.   

One of the phalangist soldiers wants to see the Syrian captive.  So they let the man down into the tank.  The phalangist makes sure none of the Israelis understand Arabic.  Then he slowly tells the prisoner what he is going to do to him.  Among other things, the phalangist will take out one of the Syrian's eyes with a spoon.  Then he will cut off his penis.  Then in the morning they will tie him between two cars heading in opposite directions.  The phalangist leaves.  The guys think the phalangist helped quiet the Syrian down.  But all of a sudden the man starts screaming and banging his feet on the floor.  Later the man starts crying. 

Jamil comes back into the tank and tells the men that he dismissed the phalangists.  They will be heading separately to San Tropez.  Later Hertzel decides to violate orders and contact Pluto.  Assi tells him they will all get 40 days in the stockade for this.  Yigal gets the code number for Pluto. Hertzel gets onto the line and listens to Jamil's complaints to headquarters.  Jamil says he needs help and he needs it now for they are in a deathtrap here.  Headquarters still insists that they can't leave the tank behind.  Headquarters also tells Jamil that he is just going to have to trust the two phalangists to take them to San Tropez.  Headquarters tells him:  "Get out now before it's too late. 

And now it appears that Assi has lost it.  Hertzel says that he is in shock.  Assi starts giving himself a shave.  He says they must first clean the tank and then they will find a route northward.   Assi probably doesn't have a blade in his razor because his face does not look clean shaven. 

They are moving out.  The orders for Assi are to keep close behind the Mercedes car of the phalangist.  So they follow the Mercedes.  It's not long, however, before the phalangist stops their car and then stops the tank.  The phalangist jumps down into the tank and tells the men that they have to start walking and travel 3 km from here.  There is no time to wait, they have to go.  And the phalangist wants to take the Syrian prisoner with him.  He asks for the key, but Shmulik tells him that Jamil has the keys.  The phalangist leaves the Syrian behind.  The Mercedes starts taking off and quickly disappears. 

They suddenly hear music coming from somewhere outside the tank.  Yigal asks Assi what they should do, but Assi is completely out it.  Yigal had wanted to follow the phalangist's directions, but Hertzel tells them that they will stay put until they hear from Jamil.  Hertzel gets Jamil on the radio.  Jamil says they are in San Tropez already.  Is the tank on the move?  No.  Jamil tells them to start it and get moving.  He will give directions to the driver.  Jamil says they have to get out of there, right now.  Shmulik gets on the phone with Jamil.  Jamil tells him to get the tank started and get out of there.  Now Yigal starts to break down.  He says he wants to go home. 

Yigal can't start the engine.  Shots are now being fired at the tank.  Shmulik tells Yigal that he wants to fire back, but he can't if the engine isn't on because he needs the electricity to operate the gun.  Yigal tries again and gets it started.  Shmulik keeps yelling at him to just keep him driving forward.  Shmulik starts firing some of the shells, but at who?  The tank is really shaking as it proceeds forward.  Shmulik says that the tank got hit in the front.  He asks if Yigal is okay, but there is no answer.  So Hertzel and Shmulik  start pulling Yigal out of the driver's seat.  The tank stops moving.  Yigal dies on the floor of the tank. 

Jamil calls and asks if the tank is out of the urban area?  Affirmative.  So he calls it in that everyone is out of the urban area. 

The Syrian says he needs to urinate.  Shmulik is able to get a can over to the prisoner so he can urinate into it.  Mission accomplished. 

In the morning Shmulik gets on top of the tank.  He finds they are in a field of sunflowers.

 

Spoiler Warning:  Good film.  It has the feel of a Das Boot where the men are cramped into a submarine and try to stay alive, while depth charges explode all around them.  Four tank crewmen from Israel are part of the invasion force into Lebanon.  But the tank is a real clunker and they constantly have to do this or that task because of it.  Everything that can go wrong, seems to go wrong.  And the tank is extremely messy.  Water covers the floor and in the water floats a lot of dirt, paper and even cigarettes.  Later oil is splashed around the entire insides of the tank, and this oil becomes mixed together with some kind of oat puffs.  What a mess.  In addition, these guys are at each other's throat very quickly.  It's just one catastrophe after another.  The gunner has no battle experience and he has difficulty pulling the trigger to kill the enemy.   This gets one Israeli soldier killed.  The gunner then blows up a civilian in a pick-up truck,. The civilian loses his right arm and both legs.  An Israeli shoots him to put him out of his misery.  Later the tank commander goes bonkers and is out of it.  Next is the driver.  He starts losing it.  And if they don't get out of the town and the urban area, they are all going to die along with their tank.  All that mess and fighting keep the tension up nearly constantly.  I was just waiting for each next thing to occur that would challenge the abilities of the tank crew. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 

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