Review: 'Beaufort' works on multiple levels

“Beaufort” dramatizes an Israeli military unit’s withdrawal from a mountain fortress that Israel has long occupied in Lebanon, with an emphasis on the anticipation and anxiety experienced by young soldiers stationed at the fort.

The result, courtesy of writer-director Joseph Cedar (“Campfire”), has merit both as a site-specific war story and as a slice of universal soldierhood.

More philosophical than political, the drama transpires at the history-exuding Beaufort fortress and castle, built on a Lebanese mountain by Crusader hands. Israel captured Beaufort from the PLO in 1982 and, 18 years later, withdrew from Lebanon and blew up the fort. Adapted by Cedar and Ron Leshem from a Leshem novel, the drama presents the 2000 evacuation.

Delivering predicament over plot, Cedar takes us into the labyrinthic, bunker-like structure where weary soldiers — rule-obeying commander Liraz (Oshri Cohen) and broody medic Koris (Itay Tiran) among them — share small talk and big-picture reflections as they await orders to vacate Beaufort, destroy the fort and go home.

For a lengthy spell, no instructions come. The delay increases their risk of dying in the Hezbollah missile attacks that occur regularly, and the once-dedicated men question whether the Israeli military truly values their lives.

Unlike the other current Israeliimport, “The Band’s Visit,” “Beaufort” doesn’t charm you. Some of the guys — one has a girlfriend in New Jersey, one sings like an angel — are war-flick clichés. After a character gets his close-up and details his dream, you can expect something terrible to befall him.

But Cedar is better at supplying plight than personality, and as these soldiers joke around, watch TV accounts of the situation, mourn their dead and worry about survival, the drama thickens and deepens.

While Cedar, a former Israeli infantryman who has described the 2000 withdrawal as the “most optimistic event in Israel’s recent history,” doesn’t overtly comment on Israel’s Lebanon occupation, he imbues the film with a gripping unease.

Initially slow-going, the individual stories jell into a compelling picture of the frustrations of this particular war and — as suggested by the presence of Beaufort itself — the futility and tragedy of war in general.

There’s moving stuff here. Scenes in which the soldiers support one another in environs where death happens mundanely and senselessly are particularly affecting. Humorous bits nicely offset the grimness. The climax indeed delivers the bang. The private moments that follow are even more memorable.

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Outdoor dining, as seen here at Mama’s on Washington Square in North Beach in September, is expected to resume in San Franisco this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF to reopen outdoor dining, personal services

San Francisco will allow outdoor dining and other limited business activity to… Continue reading

Patients line up in their cars to receive a shot at The City’s first mass COVID-19 vaccination site at City College of San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Legislation would require SF to create a public COVID-19 vaccine plan — fast

San Francisco’s Department of Public Health would have to come up with… Continue reading

Ian Jameson (center) organized a group of tenant rights activists and assembled at the El Monte City Hall to demand that the City Council there pass an eviction moratorium barring all evictions during the coronavirus pandemic on Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
California would extend eviction protections to June 30 under proposal

Legislation released Monday would also subsidize rent for low-income tenants

William DeMeritt appears in Marin Theatre Co. and Round House Theatre’s timely production of “The Catastrophist.” (Courtesy Marin Theatre Co.)
Marin Theatre’s ‘Catastrophist’ couldn’t be more relevant

‘Review’ takes on New York art world, post 9/11

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Most Read