Keeping war at a distance

Review: `Kippur' tells a horrific wartime story with an impersonal air.

April 12, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Weinraub and Ruso, longtime friends who signed up for military duty together, can't wait to take on the Syrians. Regrettably, they have no clue what they're getting themselves into.

Writer-director Amos Gitai's semi-autobiographical "Kippur" has plenty to say about the inevitable and unexpected horrors of war. But this strangely cold and distant film never offers anything beyond an intellectual understanding. It never allows its audience to experience the horrors viscerally - mostly because of a camera that resolutely keeps its distance. We're left with a film that suggests war is hell, but what's new about that?

Set on the opening day of the 1973 Yom Kippur War with Syria, we meet these two spanking-new officers (Liron Levo and Tomer Ruso) as they blithely drive their car to the front, unable to understand why they're having a problem wending their way through all this mayhem.

Eventually they make it, only to discover their unit has already left. So they link up with a Dr. Klauzner (Uri Ran Klauzner) and some helicopter pilots and form an evacuation team, charged with transporting the wounded.

What follows is relentlessly horrific, as the team continually finds itself either too late or too ill-prepared to help.

But Gitai's decision to shoot almost everything in long shot keeps viewers at an emotional distance that ill serves his film. And the actors' blank-slate expressions also keep them at arm's length.

I suspect Gitai is trying to make a point about how soldiers have to disconnect from the carnage around them by insisting audiences do the same thing. But a little of that goes a long way; Gitai has a moving story to tell about youth and bravery and dealing with the enemy and the limits of what young soldiers should have to endure. It's too bad his filmmaking skill, so perfectly on display in last year's "Kadosh," doesn't serve that story better.

"Kippur" plays at 7:30 tonight at Gordon Center, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills.


Starring Liron Levo, Tomer Ruso

Directed by Amos Gitai

Released by Kino International

Rating: Unrated (language, wartime violence)

Running time: 123 minutes

Sun score: * *

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