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The antidote to the Brad Pitt vehicle “Fury”. I had this film sitting on the shelf for years, and I had a good expectation of it being a pretty good film, because everybody whose opinion I value said it was good. Still… it took an ill-conceived and wasted opportunity of putting a tank in the centre of a motion picture to make me watch a well-conceived and frighteningly realistic version to cleanse myself from the former.

Lebanon takes place in the first Israeli-Lebanese war, the opening titles explain, but it does not matter. The crew manning the tank is not political, they are not ideological, what they are is young, incompetent and scared. They are part of a very professional death machine, but the people making the plans and giving the orders are not in there with them (most of the time), most of the time they are on their own, and have plenty of time to doubt and to hesitate, to want to go home and to cry for their mothers.

Interestingly, the confinement to the inside of the tank does not, as you may expect, create a feeling of claustrophobia, the way Wolfgang Petersen managed with “Das Boot” and his submarine setting. That tank feels quite spacious, everybody has his little corner, and given what the hostile world outside looks like (apparently Syrian-controlled Lebanon), it feels rather cozy and protected inside. This outside world is exclusively seen through whatever the looking device is called in a tank, maybe periscope, and the whining of the maybe periscope’s engine when it scans the environment provides the main soundtrack of the film.

The tank follows a mission deeper inside hostile territory, the mission goes into unexpected directions, unpleasant directions, there is shooting, there are prisoners, there are executions without trial and there are burning civilians and shot children. There are very unpleasant allies who you would rather not entrust with your life.And in the end, there is the very real feeling of the fighters fighting a fight of which they neither know the rules nor the opponents nor have a clear understanding of the goal of the fight. Even inside a killing machine such as a battle tank, you can still feel like a pawn, pushed around the Middle-Eastern chess board. Grim!

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