out of Five
Running time: 125
Engaging war drama that subtly mixes in several different genres to intriguing effect, though it occasionally relies too heavily on cliches.
What's it all about?
Set in 2000, Beaufort centres on Liraz (Oshiri Cohen), a 22-year-old officer in charge of the soldiers guarding the Israeli outpost at Beaufort, a 12th-century fortress that has been occupied by the Israeli army for the past 18 years. As the soldiers wait for their orders to finally withdraw from the fortress, they undergo mixed emotions, ranging from their anger at having to defend an already-conceded post, to frustration at the continued attacks from an unseen enemy, and also a sense of loss, at having to leave the fortress that has become their home.
The pointlessness of their maintained position is heightened by the arrival of a bomb-disposal expert, Ziv (Ohad Knoller), who is tasked with defusing a bomb that could easily be left alone. Ziv's initial assessment is to leave well alone, but when Liraz persuades him to complete his task, he has to deal with the consequences of his decision.
Beaufort works on several different levels – as a suspenseful war movie, as an allegorical comment on the Lebanese conflict, as a black comedy (there are several flashes of dark humour) and also as a sort of horror movie, because the soldiers keep getting picked off one by one, usually as soon as they've expressed any kind of hope or desire. (This is where the cliches kick in, because as soon as someone tells one of the soldiers that he should consider becoming a musician, you know he's next to go.)
The cast are excellent, particularly Cohen, who manages to retain our sympathy even when he's making bad decisions. The script is based on first-hand accounts of the last few months of the occupation, which lends the film a documentary-like feel that sits oddly alongside the more cliched moments.
Beaufort is an engaging film that builds to a surprisingly moving conclusion and can be enjoyed on several levels. Recommended.