Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Attack: A Bit of Sorrow, but No Pity

Much like the bereaved husbands of The Descendants and Random Hearts, Dr. Amin Jafaari is quite upset to learn his late wife had been unfaithful.  However, rather than taking a lover, she had betrayed him with violent anti-Semitic extremism.  It is hard for the Arab Israeli doctor to accept his wife was a suicidal terrorist, but he will come to partial share her radicalism in Zaid Doueiri’s The Attack (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Successful and respected, Dr. Jafaari is about to receive Israel’s highest medical award.  His wife Siham is not with him.  She is visiting family in Nazareth, or so she says.  The next day a cruel suicide bombing cuts through a young girl’s birthday party.  Dr. Jafaari works alongside his colleagues trying to save the victims.  When he returns home that night his wife is still not there.  In the early morning hours, he is summoned to identify her body.  It seems she was at that fateful cafĂ©.  In fact, she is suspected of being the mass murderer.

Dr. Jafaari remains in denial throughout his rather strenuous interrogation.  However, he finally starts facing facts when a letter arrives from his now notorious wife.  Resigned to her guilt, he sets out for the anarchy zone to find the person or persons who convinced her to commit such a cruel act.

At its best, The Attack offers a chilling Hoffer-esque examination of the fanatical true believer’s mindset.  The images of Siham Jafaari’s “martyrdom” poster widely embraced by the “Palestinian” street are truly a disturbing sight to behold.  Unfortunately, just like its overwhelmed protagonist, Doueiri’s film soon loses sight of those tiny broken bodies that died on his operating table, forfeiting its soul as a result.  Yet even still, The Attack evidently is not sufficiently anti-Israel to pass muster with Hezbollah, whose servants have obediently banned the film in Lebanon, despite Doueiri’s attempts to reassure the terrorist organization.

Ali Suliman is a decent brooder as Dr. Jafaari, but he just does not convey the complex maelstrom of contradictions that are supposedly churning away in his psyche (but maybe really aren’t).  While Doueiri’s flashbacks and dream sequences of the Jafaaris as a couple are quite evocative, the homicidal Siham is a wafer thin character that Reymond Amsalem never fleshes out beyond her obvious symbolic value.  At least Uri Gavriel is interesting to look at, even if his Captain Moshe is a complete caricature.  God forbid, but if one of your loved ones is hurt in terrorist attack, you would want a cop like him on the case.

While Jafaari might be inclined to find his separate peace, the film clearly wants viewers to become true believers.  That is highly problematic.  Indeed, The Attack is undone by its clumsy didacticism.  Still, it is a wake-up call for Christians of good conscience, who perhaps ought to more closely examine what our co-religionist clerics are involved with in the West Bank.  Interesting at times, but not recommended, The Attack opens tomorrow (6/21) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.