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When a suicide bomber strikes at a Tel Aviv café, Dr. Amin Jaafari, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a highly respected surgeon... is called back to the hospital to identify the body of the bomber: his wife... Retracing his wife’s recent trip to the occupied West Bank, where she had claimed to be visiting relatives, Jaafari goes in search of the people who recruited her... Jaafari is forced to confront the sum of his own life’s choices and the shaky foundations of his overlapping identities: as a Palestinian, an Israeli citizen, a doctor, and a husband. Adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by the pseudonymous Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra is both a psychological thriller and an incisive exploration of one of the most complex political-ideological issues of our time.
For more about The Attack and the The Attack Blu-ray release, see the The Attack Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 3, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ali Suliman, Reymonde Amsellem, Reymond Amsalem
Director: Ziad Doueiri
» See full cast & crew
The Attack Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 3, 2013
Maybe Homeland's Carrie Mathison should settle down for a long log cabin based movie night and take in The Attack, hopefully bringing away one salient lesson: when you hitch your star to a terrorist, it usually doesn't end well. Based on a bestselling novel by Yasmina Khadra, The Attack purports to be about the ramifications felt by a spouse when his wife turns out to be a Middle Eastern suicide bomber. And truth be told, the film is searingly effective in its depiction of the after effects of the bombing on this "collateral damage" victim. But it also can't be denied that The Attack is (at times at least) intellectually dishonest in a way, none too subtly painting Israelis as status conscious hypocrites, and in one case, martinet torturers, while the Arabs are desperate freedom fighters utilizing any means they can to achieve a perhaps justifiable end. That aspect of The Attack actually works to counteract the incredibly tense and moving story of Dr. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman), a high profile Arab surgeon who has managed to matriculate into the highest echelons of Tel Aviv society and who considers himself a relatively non political transplant. Relatively. Even when he's accepting a prestigious award, supposedly the first Arab to ever be so fêted, he can't help but mention how when he first came to Israel, he had flashes of anger that were only mitigated by the fact that he was being offered a lucrative scholarship and the chance for an equally lucrative career. That might seem to make Jaafari out to be the opportunist, but in co-writer and director Ziad Doueiri's formulation, it seems it's actually the Israelis who are supposedly taking advantage of the situation here, inviting an educated Arab into their midst to ameliorate their collective guilt over their mistreatment of the Arab people. It's a questionable premise at best, and one which Doueiri doesn't deal with overtly until the film's winding story comes to a close, but it is perhaps one of the clues hinting at a subtext in The Attack that may be decidedly more political than the film's central character is supposed to be.
We first meet Amin and his wife Siham (Reymond Amsalem) as they bid a tearful farewell. Siham laments having to leave her husband as she avers that every time she does, a little bit of her dies in the process. Later that evening, Amin receives a prestigious award and dismisses Siham's supposed congratulatory cell phone with a quick "Can't talk now, I'll call you later". The next day while eating lunch at the hospital where he works, there's the sound of a far off explosion and within mere minutes Amin is knee deep in performing triage on a coterie of horribly injured people, including several children and one man who refuses to be helped by an Arab doctor.
It all seems to be pretty much in a day's work, so to speak, and Amin barely even glances at a horribly mutilated corpse that has obviously been shorn in half by the explosion and is now covered with a drape as it's wheeled onto the elevator as he leaves the hospital for the day. He makes his way through various checkpoints, a "high class" interloper who can easily pass through such obstacles, and returns home to his rather nice apartment. He's surprised that Siham is not back from her journey yet, but soon his nephew Adel (Karim Saleh) shows up, acting a bit furtive but saying he had left some clothes there the last time he had stayed the night. Despite a curfew, Adel refuses to stay that evening and takes off rather quickly in a cloud of dust.
Amin is rudely awakened the next morning by his friend Raveed (Dvir Benedek), evidently an Israeli policeman who works at the hospital (this particular aspect is never made overly clear). Raveed tells Amin he's needed immediately at the hospital, but then cryptically adds that Amin shouldn't rush as there's plenty of time. That obviously piques Amin's interest, but when he finally arrives at the hospital, he's suddenly thrust into a nightmare scenario where first he's forced to identify Siham's body at the morgue (it's that very same bifurcated corpse that had taken the elevator ride with Amin the previous evening), and then, even worse, subjected to shackling and days of torture and questioning by a bullying Israeli inspector (Uri Gavriel) who isn't just convinced that Siham set off the explosion, but that Amin knew about it and was a co-conspirator.
Amin is ultimately cleared of suspicion, but the damage is done. Old friends have fallen away and Amin, who is convinced Siham couldn't have had anything to do with this despicable act of terrorism, sets out to discover the truth on his own. He ends up penetrating into the shadowy world of jihadist circles, but he's considered an outsider, something especially ironic considering his erstwhile insider status in his adopted home of Tel Aviv. The truth isn't especially surprising—Siham was indeed the perpetrator—but the slowly growing awareness, both personal and political, on the part of Amin provides The Attack with its central momentum and whatever emotional impact it manages to work up.
It's not fair to accuse The Attack of being an outright screed, but the film makes no bones about its tilt toward the Palestinian viewpoint. What might have been a penetrating examination of the horrors inflicted on Palestinians by those who blow themselves (and innocent bystanders) up instead has some occasionally annoying one sided arguments that never fully confront the atrocities that terrorism fosters. If Doueiri and co-scenarist Joelle Touma had given us some more stories of the wounded, or those left behind, on the Israeli side of the equation, this ultimately could have been a more moving experience. As it stands, we're offered only some passing lip service to the "17 deaths" caused by the bomb, but they remain an abstraction. Instead, we're only given Amin's story, and even he seems partly radicalized by the end of the film, refusing to share the information he's gleaned to the Israeli authorities.
What The Attack does very well is portray the hallucinatory isolation that Amin encounters as he reestablishes contact with his semi-estranged family and then penetrates into some jihadi enclaves, ultimately becoming a stranger in two strange lands, his native home and his adopted one. The film does have one minor trick up its sleeve, when the real mentor who "inspired" Siham is ultimately revealed. But even here, The Attack doesn't give us enough information. There's really no reason for Siham's behavior ever posited by the film, and so the audience is left, like Amin himself, to wonder why.
The Attack Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Attack is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Cohen Media Group with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This digitally shot feature looks quite elegant in high definition, bolstered by a burnished, dusty brown look a lot of the time that viscerally brings the arid climes of the Middle East alive. Doueiri and cinematographer Tommaso Fiorilli utilize the varied locations brilliantly, wandering through crowded urban environments as well as labyrinthine maze-like alleyways once Amin starts to try to track down the people he think radicalized his wife. Fine detail is frequently excellent, revealing the dappled stone patterns of the buildings or in the many close-ups, virtually every pore on individuals' faces. Color grading has been handled rather subtly, but runs pervasively throughout the movie. Some of the "contemporary" footage is just slightly drained of color, while Amin's memories of his happier times with Siham pop with a more vivid palette. Contrast is very strong, allowing the film the segue fairly seamlessly between the bright outdoor segments and more dimly lit interiors. There are no compression artifacts of any note to report.
The Attack Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Attack features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in both Arabic and Hebrew (our specs have no way to display simultaneous languages). This is largely an almost hushed, dialogue drivien affair, and the 5.1 mix does very well in that regard, though of course there's not a huge opportunity for surround activity. Even Éric Neveux's score is rather minimal, only sporadically engaging the surround channels. There are a couple of great moments, including the far off explosion that alerts Amin that tragedy has struck, as well as some really nicely done ambient environmental sounds once Amin begins his investigations in the shadowy mosque and its surrounding alleyways, but generally speaking this is a pretty restrained mix.
The Attack Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Attack Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I frankly have never read the source novel upon which The Attack is based, but a cursory look at several reviews of it seems to support the thesis that it was considerably more multi-layered than this film adaptation. There is a lot to like, even admire, about The Attack, but I couldn't help but take a step back every time the Palestinian movement was posited as somehow noble, despite the violence, while the carnage unleashed on the Israeli side of the equation was dealt with fairly discursively, if at all. Of course, there's no denying here that the focus is on Amin, an Arab by birth who has managed to permeate the upper echelons of Israeli society, but even here the film feels like it cheats a little bit, never giving us enough information about why his wife would have done such a thing, and therefore leaving the audience suspended in disbelief as much as Amin himself. All of this said, The Attack is still an incredibly interesting, thought provoking film. Some may not agree with its political subtext, but few will be able to forget Amin's journey to the dark side. Recommended.
The Attack Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Attack Blu-ray - August 7, 2013
Cohen Media Group has revealed that it is preparing a Blu-ray release of director Ziad Doueiri's The Attack a.k.a L'attentat (2012), starring Ali Suliman, Evgenia Dodena, and Reymond Amsalem. The preliminary release date set by the studio is November 12th.
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