Like many 2013 films, The Attack blurs genre. It is a mystery, a character study, a road movie, and a message film all at once, a combination that makes it memorable and powerful.
As does its balanced analysis of a politically, socially, emotionally and theologically charged issue. The Attack doesn’t take sides and aims to make both Palestinians and Israelis somewhat sympathetic as well as somewhat guilty.
This picture vilifies suicide bombing, but it doesn’t pretend terroristic acts exist in a vacuum. In so doing, Writer/Director Ziad Doueiri skillfully communicates the dire conditions that make the Palestinian/Israeli conflict such a morass, such a lengthy and unsolvable puzzle.
The director even suggests that Muslims are not the only group prone to terroristic acts, something the west is reluctant to acknowledge.
That said, the director missteps, however slightly, in developing Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman). Amin is relatively complex and multi-dimensional, but he is also a touch too naive. Someone ingrained in both societies, the way Amin is, should have a more thorough understanding of both arguments.
Perhaps the problem is less in Amin and more in how The Attack investigates the issue. Outside of including Christian terrorists, Doueiri only scratches the surface of both sides’ arguments. Had he delved more deeply, Amin’s naivete might have been more believable.
The Attack also suffers, at least a little, from the volume of characters to whom it introduces us, and in how quickly it does so. Amin’s Israeli friends are given only basic definition, and his Palestinian family doesn’t receive even that much treatment. Given that this film is theme and plot-driven, it probably doesn’t need three dimensional secondary characters, but it would have been more emotionally moving if we understood them a little more than we do.
To wit, I’m not even certain of The Priest’s (Ramzi Maqdisi) role in Siham’s (Reymond Amsellem) journey or in the film’s unnamed terrorist group. I wish he’d been better defined.
Yet, The Attack remains a very good movie. Doueiri uses his camera skillfully. When Amin is confused, the camera is placed such that we are also confused. When he’s disgusted, the camera closes in such a way as to disgust us, as well. This emotional thread continues throughout, and is impressive.
Doueiri also employs minimalist music, frequently not even including a soundtrack, which is another clever tactic that serves the picture well.
The performances are all good to very good. Ali Suliman makes Amin’s grief palpable, a considerable accomplishment given his character’s emotional unavailability. Reymond Amsellem makes us care about Siham, no matter her role in the titular event, another impressive feat.
Though it would have benefitted from increased development of secondary characters and might have done well to explore its content more deeply, The Attack is a quality film. Its merits are prevalent and its flaws relatively minor.