The Gatekeepers (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/04/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Dror Moreh's Oscar-nominated documentary is riveting, haunting and depressing in equal measure, offering a sobering assessment of the Israel-Palestine conflict from a unique perspective.

What's it all about?
Directed by Dror Moreh, The Gatekeepers looks at the last 45 years of conflict between Israel and Palestine, since the Six Day War in 1967, seen through the eyes of six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel's secret service agency (between them, the interviewees account for all but two of the intervening years). Each of the men reveals chilling details about specific operations and reflects upon the morality of the decisions they had to make; ultimately, they all reach similar conclusions about the future of the conflict.

The Good
Moreh's chief coup is to secure interviews with all six men (it's mind-boggling to wonder how he went about such a task, hopefully the DVD will provide some answers on that score) and the film duly unfolds through their to-camera interviews, interspersed with newsreel footage for context and some reconstruction video using archive photographs. The film is also broken up into chapters based on things the interviewees say, such as ‘One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter’ and ‘No strategy, just tactics’ (a criticism levelled at politicians).

It's grimly fascinating to hear the men talk us through the various security operations and some of the sequences play out like excerpts from TV shows like 24, especially early on when aerial surveillance footage tracks a car and a voice discusses the weighing up of the pros and cons of ordering the hit – yes, you might be able to take out a terrorist, but he might have other people in the car with him too – before the car we're watching is hit by a missile and explodes. Later on, a planned assassination involving a mobile phone rigged with explosives unfolds like a nail-biting thriller, amusingly capped with the interviewee sighing and saying, 'If only all such operations were as nice and tidy'.

The Great
The film essentially works on two different levels: firstly, it's a compelling portrait of six men who've all played a specific part in the conflict, with the life-or-death consequences of their decisions clearly still haunting them, no matter how much they have rationalised it away to themselves (‘There is no morality in terrorism!’, one exclaims). Secondly, the film functions as a sobering overview of the Israel-Palestine conflict from a uniquely positioned perspective; as such it's profoundly depressing that all six men reach similar conclusions regarding both politicians and the future of the conflict.

Worth seeing?
The Gatekeepers is a well made, grimly fascinating documentary that deserved its Oscar nomination and marks first-timer Dror Moreh out as a talent to watch. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/07/2018 13:29

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