I can’t begin to describe how excited I was during the opening scenes of Lebanon. A movie entirely set inside an army tank? Awesome! We never get to see outside, except what the crew see through periscope thingy? Brilliant! They’re entirely reliant on the instructions of their commander, who’s on foot ahead of them in the crumbling city? Genius! Why has this film never been made before?

We’ve had a tonne of war movies. We’ve had lots of fighter pilot movies too. We even have a submarine movie genre.Lebanon But a movie about a tank crew? I don’t think I’ve ever come across this before. In fact, the only time I ever really remember seeing inside a tank was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The superior firepower, confined quarters, low visibility and poor manoeuvrability are a great combination – a perfect setting for a war thriller.

But then we have the film itself. Lebanon is a bit of a mess. First off, we don’t really get to know the characters. They’re too similar. None of them want to be there (understandably) yet there’s very little to distinguish them. Then there’s the fact that the narrative pays no mind to the concept of escalation whatsoever. Ten minutes in, and our gunner is freaking out – he can’t shoot. Why? We don’t really know.

Then we’re subjected to 15 minutes or so of misery and suffering. Through the periscope we see dead and dying women and children. Destroyed houses. An ever so perfectly placed piece of religious iconography. The idea is all very well and good – war is horrid. But we’re just bombarded with these images one after the other all at once, and it’s gauche and frustrating all at the same time.

First thing you’d think filmmakers would do in such a movie? Maybe let us know what the inside of the tank looks like, where everyone sits and what each of their duties are. Lebanon does no such thing. In fact, by the end of the film, I still didn’t really understand who was doing what, nor their position relative to their fellow crewmen.

I simply don’t know how this script reached the production stage. Everything is here – the tense scenes, the horrific war imagery – but it’s all slapped onto the screen in a bafflingly random order. The story doesn’t build and, if anything, is annoyingly episodic.

I can’t credit how anyone could fumble such a perfect concept. It’s such an original, perfect idea that the film should almost make itself. I’m genuinely sorry that Lebanon is such a disappointment, especially because I occasionally got glimmers of how great it could have been.

Whilst this isn’t the worst film I have ever seen, it does anger me in ways that a shit movie never could. There’s so much wasted potential. As such, I’m going to write possibly one of the harshest and most negative sentences I’ve ever written in hoopla.nu’s history. I never though I’d say this, but Lebanon just brought it out of me:

I can’t wait for the Hollywood remake.

Rating: 2 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 9th August 2010
Hoopla Factor: 1.5 stars

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