Beaufort (variously pronounced). 2007. Directed by (also written by): Joseph Cedar (set in Lebanon, too… get it? cedars? Lebanon? Lebanon? Cedar? Sorry to do that, but you had that look again, dummy). Starring: Alon Abutbul (who played the bandito in the Magnificent Seven); Daniel Brook (the evil Chinese guy in Year of the Dragon); Oshri Cohen (Red Will Danaher in the Quiet Man); Nevo Kimchi (Saito in Bridge On the River Kwai); Ohad Knoller (voice of Oscar the Grouch); Arthur… wait a minute! What the silly hell have those guys got on their heads? What is that thing? Look like the bag the U.N. building came in. Some kinda voluminous, flaccid, sacklike, elasticized something-or-other, I’d say a helmet cover if it weren’t the size of Dee-troit and what they need cover for in urban enviro, anyhow? Whaaa…? Most of us have come to respect the equipment Israel has forged out of necessity and whole-cloth for her soldiers (Uzi, Galil, Desert Eagle, Merkava…), but Jeeeeezus, what is that thing? A bridge too far. Sheeesh! Make the guys look like they’ve got head stuck in a condor’s nest (or kite, or whatever flockin’ bird they got in Middle East…).
Put me right off the whole—quite good—movie right there. You better be a MAN to walk around with one of them things on your head…and better not walk into a bar unless you’re carrying an Uzi, Galil, Desert…
A stiff-necked people. We forget sometimes that although American Jews and Israelis subscribe to the same religon in principle, the ones have their backs against the wall in a desperate fight for life and security and dignity while the others live in relative comfort… on the shores of the Mediterranean (Urf! Urf!). Professional military men admire out of confraternity… Hold on, again… Mensch, what the flock have those guys got on their heads? Afterbirth? What possible purpose could those things serve that would compensate how silly they look? And they all have them… apparently nobody able to tell the other to take that foolish thing off. All the other gear looks right enough, except maybe the size Extra-Elk coveralls, which I thought at first an Israeli MOPP suit, but do not see any masks. What are those things? Sorry… bugs me… …admire out of confraternity the vigor, imagination, the grit of the Israeli Defen©e Force if not always the deployments of same in dubious political expediency though things may look different from within the Valley of the Shadow. Here in Beaufort a small detachment of what I take to be reservists mans (there are no women except those posted on the walls, photos of sloe-eyed sirens provided with an uncommon allotment of haunch like she of the Psalms) a crumbling crusader fort on a bluff (and sustained by bluff, too, since any major force could likely overrun it in the tricky moments of disengagement) on the eve of evacuation, ordinary human men, swaddled in immense, shapeless bundles of gear, weapons, and uniform, like—doubtless—the crusaders whose relief against the minions of the desert they now take up (in a final scene, the ordeal over, the troops safe, his mission accomplished, Liraz steps aside, strips off his bulky panoply, reveals himself, through sobs of release, to be one of us, a small, frail man… capable of greatness).
As in the redoubtable Pork Chop Hill, politics defines the nature and duration of the commitment of these men to an absurd occupation, the utility of which, if it has not evaporated, has at least gone begging for the men charged with its execution. They hang on out of obstinacy and the vague, willful insistence of Liraz, the young platoon leader, a failed lieutenant (took the test several times, flunked), who nonetheless insists on a modicum of discipline or at least nominal adherence to purpose from his heterogeneous detachment of slack, clueless, recalcitrant occupiers in this useless outpost soon to be abandoned, perhaps along with the memory of their buddies who’ve suffered, died within its precincts. Liraz faces the ages-old dilemma of peer leadership: only just stepped out from among the troops, he now must impose upon them the same sort of authority he likely resisted as one of their number. He employs the few instruments available to the peer leader—example, persuasion, obduracy—to garner grudging respect as the pointlessness of their mission and the proximity of evacuation impose themselves. When finally the order does come down to bug out… Hey! Do you see those sack thingies on their helmets? See what I mean? What in Go Jeh Yah Adon Eloh Shab Heaven’s name are they? And how on earth do you get grunts, from any army on the planet, to stick their heads in them? I mean at least on the point of death, even an infantryman is entitled to a little dignity. How can you assume any posture before your Creator with your head stuck in a 3-mil Glad ™ Bag? I may just trade back in my Desert Eagle Point Five Oh… Anyhow… when the order does come to bug out, it requires them to demolish the installation, as if to obliterate any trace of their sacrifice, leave a tabula rasa (Latin for “Coulda swore I had a castle around here five mintues ago…”) which, they know well enough, either the indefatigable adversary or the relentless desert will immediately reclaim.
Not much of a story, that is to say, the eternal story of the scapegoat-soldier deployed beyond the perimeter of society to freight out there the values (and sins) of the multitude, to die perhaps, perhaps not, to kill in society’s name, then come home, to a welcome perhaps, perhaps not, at society’s whim. The banality of soldier patter gets retrieved with a universal authority and authenticity, as, regretfully, do the uniforms and gear of the Israeli troops… including that silly-ass helmet cover, which still irks me. Take a look at that thing and tell me I’m crazy. Who can have designed that thing? Got to be big enough to fit over Jamaica with room enough for a Doberman in there, too. Pretty sure nobody laughs at advancing Israeli infantry, but (W)hol(l)y Mackerel, got to provoke bewilderment as morel mushrooms lunge at you out of the smoke lugging Galils (these guys carry M-4’s, by the bye, made in Connecticut by Mexicans)… okay, okay… alas, there’s a pro and a con to “authentic,” evidently (us French have some stuff about “vrai” and “vraisemblable”… on account of which which our butt is sometimes butter). Watchable flick with above cited caveat (Latin for “What you got on your head, dude?”).