Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ohad Knoller, Oshri Cohen, Alon Abutbul, Eli Altonio, Daniel Brook, Gal Friedman, Nevo Kimchi, Arthur Perzev, Ygal Resnik, Itay Schor, Itay Tiran, Itay Turgeman, Ami Weinberg, Hanan Yishai, Danny Zahavi
Written by: Joseph Cedar, Ron Leshem, based on a novel by Ron Leshem
Directed by: Joseph Cedar
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Hebrew, with English subtitles
Running Time: 132
Date: 02/14/2007

Beaufort (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Disorder in the Fort

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Joseph Cedar's Beaufort is the second of the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language film to screen in the United States, and -- surprise, surprise -- it's another war film. But happily, it's a drastic improvement over the first one, The Counterfeiters. Set in 2000 near the Lebanese border, the film tells the story of a band of Israeli soldiers stationed in an old fortress at the end of 18 years' worth of occupation. The Israeli army prepares to withdraw the troops and shut down the fort, but the process takes forever. Meanwhile, the troops suffer needless attacks, numbing boredom and helpless frustration. A bomb expert, played by Ohad Knoller -- a familiar face from Eytan Fox's films Yossi & Jagger and The Bubble, as well as Brian De Palma's Redacted -- arrives to help clear a deadly device from the road, and the troops' commanding officer (Oshri Cohen) questions his own effectiveness in battle. Cedar, who also directed the very interesting Campfire (2004), prefers to let his expansive set and hard-boiled characters tell the story from a ground level rather than implying a commentary about the bigger picture and the futile nature of war. It's as if a weight were lifted, and the 132-minute film moves like a breeze. The soldiers scuttle like beetles through the twisty underground tunnels, and the play of light on the octagonal walls makes for some striking effects (one of these amazing shots has been used for the film's poster). Cedar eventually succumbs to the urge for speeches and overwrought emotion, but Beaufort is still a solid film.

DVD Details: Kino's DVD comes with a behind-the-scenes featurette (23 minutes) with actual behind-the-scenes footage and not just talking heads, deleted scenes, trailers and a still gallery. The audio is available in both 2.0 and 5.1. Interestingly, the director has chosen to master the DVD in 1:1.85 widescreen rather than the theatrical 1:2.35 aspect ratio. In a note, he explains that he believes it will make home viewing more intimate.

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