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Beaufort (2007)

Beaufort. Feature film. (2007, 131 mins) IMDB

...an anti-war film...

I

f you're a Canadian like me, Beaufort means something that is very different from what it means in this film. There's the literal translation from French to English, there's the Beaufort Sea and, to my discovery, there's a legendary castle in Lebanon that dates back to the crusades. The film is about the later.

The Israeli army controls this piece of land in Lebanon, but as the movie unfolds, control may be the wrong word. Soldiers live in a modern-day, fortified bunker on top a barren hill. It's steel and concrete and sand bags. Life inside is grim. Hygiene a luxury.

They are surrounded by the enemy--an enemy we never see or get to know. Every hour mortars scream into the compound, land and explode. The men run for cover. To them, the mortars seem more like a nuisance--like putting up with black flies or mosquitoes.

The men are solders. Always in full battle gear. Always thinking about getting out, saving their ass, bickering with one another. Besides that, they are simply a target. They aren't defending anything because there is nothing to defend. They never fire a shot. Never once do they see a target to shot at. They are biding time until they leave, and in this film, it's leaving the outpost for good.

In the first act, a bomb squad soldier arrives at Beaufort to dismantle a land mine (maybe an IUD) on the road leading to the fort. In a practical sense, it would be better to set it off and let it explode except the upper echelon want it dismantled to study what's inside. As the man works to dismantle the bomb, it goes off and is killed. His fellow soldiers are upset at the stupidity of the higher-ups. I don't blame them. What's effective about this moment is we don't know what will happen. The debate rages. Yes it will go off. No, it won't. There are reasons for both.

In Act II, a new development arises. The enemy has its hands on US-made TOW missiles. They are far more dangerous than the mortars. We're told these missiles can penetrate 800 centimetres--more than enough to penetrate their walls. Several soldiers die. There is a debate about what to do? Some want to leave the fort and fight--find who launched the missiles and kill them. The higher-ups simply add more concrete protection and wait for the evacuation.

Act III is about leaving the fort for good. Stripping it of what they can, ferrying out soldiers, and planting explosives to blow the place up.

The climax is predictable. With the push of a button, all the explosives go off and the fort blows up in a massive fireball. The direction of this action was poor. It was essentially one master shot. For such a critical moment in the film, I expected multiple camera angles with different views of what blew up. I fully expected a shot from inside the bunks but that never came.

I expected more because in previous explosion shots there was an element of realism that isn't usually found in feature films. Pieces of metal ripped by the screen in a way that was genuine and not computer generated.

The characters all speak Hebrew in this film--a language I don't know. The subtitles were a bit too fast to disappear. It's not that I'm a slow reader, it's that you want a chance to read the text and see the images--absorb the images and I found I didn't have enough time for both.

I knew Hebrew is a right to left language, but there was a discovery. Like almost all major languages, they use the Arabic number system, but the numbers are written left to right. For some reason I expected the numbers to be reversed. I also noticed a number of English language words have made their way into their language. Bullshit, shit and okay come to mind. There were a couple of others, but I can't remember them and didn't note them down.

Anytime a movie is made about war, it quickly becomes an issue of whether the film is a statement for war or against it. Given the retreat shown in the film, the soldiers' deaths, BEAUFORT an anti-war film.

Posted 2009/04/18 at 19h30ET in Movie Commentary.

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