Take a Drink: every time Yaron mentions his wife’s pregnancy or due date
Take a Drink: for alpha male posturing
Take a Drink: for revolutionary “poetry” and posturing
Do a Shot: for massages
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Israeli/Palestinian terrorism dramas have become a bit of an Oscar staple in the last decade. Paradise Now, Ajami, and Omar (and to a lesser thematic extent Beaufort and Waltz With Bashir) have all gone onto nominations since 2005, and several others, like last year’s Bethlehem, have gotten close. All are far from bad films, but touch on similar enough subject material that the genre is beginning to feel played out.
But… have you tried vampires?
Policeman turns that notion on its head. It’s focus is a bit different, at first following a counterterrorism officer, Yaron (Yiftach Klein), whose team is accused of killing several innocents during an operation, then switching to a young Israeli activist, Shira (Yaara Pelzig) caught up in some sort of terrorist plot against Israel’s 1%. Of course, their destinies must collide.
Policeman moves in very different rhythms and tones than other films, which makes its message and denouement extremely powerful. Director Nadav Lapid shows a masterful hand at creating and managing these elements, taking two largely different stories and approaches and merging them into a seamless, searing whole.
The first, almost separate story is that of the titular policeman and his band of brothers. Lapid establishes their camaraderie and family life first, then uses juxtaposition, gradually revealed hypocrisies, and a strangely tongue-in-cheek comic air to expose the emptiness lurking beneath the machismo and bravado they cling to.
A fairly decent probability…
Then we cut suddenly to the terrorist cell’s story, and the plot becomes deadly serious, full of escalating tension and creeping despair. Lapid beautifully fleshes out each character with a minimum of brushstrokes, and at first you think that the vitality and gravitas he shoots these scenes with belie his sympathies. But the self-serious “poetry” and attitudes of the revolutionaries also reveal undercurrents of absurdity…
Technique-wise, he and DP Shai Goldman get great mileage out of hand-held camerawork and slow-burning, dread-inducing long takes. Some of the framing they employ tells more of a story than the plot or dialogue. One shot of the hale, muscular Yaron and his cancer-stricken colleague on the beach side by side speaks volumes.
Policeman is definitely a slow starter, and while it’s admirable that the film takes an oblique approach setting up its characters and setting, probably a long exercise sequence or pregnant woman massage coulda hit the chopping block.
Or, if you swing a different way…
Policeman is a familiar story of order and rebellion told in an atypical way. Once you get used to its rhythms, it’s impossible not to be swept up right to its devastating conclusion.