Some war movies depend on epic vistas, massive armies and battle scenes that would test the best CGI people, while others are somewhat more down beat, tight and personal, Beaufort is one of them. From the opening acts we see people trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Joseph Cedar’s 2007 work does not come across as a war glorification or justification piece, it is a story about some young men and women in a war setting. Based on the novel by Ron Leshman, Cedar wrote the screen play. It is smartly done, after 18 years of ensuring Hezbollah did not blow up the fort, it is now their last act to be done. Before they can leave the fort and destroy it, they must first actually safely leave the fort. This is not as easy as it seems as they are in effect the rear-guard of the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon. There is also the added issue of the road-side explosives which will prevent them from leaving.
Young officer Commander (Lieutenant) Liraz (Oshri Cohen , Lebanon, 2009) is the person in charge. While his troops respect him there is still tension, not least of all from the visiting senior officers who do not seem to consider or understand their situation. 18 years previously Israeli forces took Mount Beaufort, as much out of bravado as anything else, faced with the crusader fort now in their hands they had to keep it, what we see are the last troops preparing to leave. To leave they must make the road safe and that is the responsibility of bomb disposal expert Ziv (Ohad Knoller, Yossi and Jagger, 2002). The tension between the bomb disposal officer and the troops mirrors the overall tension – they want to get out, but get out alive.
The setting contrasts the decrepit and often claustrophobic nature of the camp. Inside we see tunnels, corners, sparse but effective rooms and resources which contrast with the picturesque beauty of their mountain setting. In deed we hear that the ancient castle is a type of “No-man’s land” where an easy peace exists, as much out of a sense of reverence and history for the place as well as anything else. The Camp often takes on the air of a space-craft with the long angled tunnels or corridors it almost a cross between a 25th century space ship and a WWI trench. It is an ensemble piece crafted to bring together a world of different people all trying to survive their common situation but each in their own way. It is a war movie but not one which requires constant bloody action to keep us engaged, as I mentioned this is more about the people, much like Das Boot (Wolfgang Peterson, 1981), indeed we see some of the same claustrophobia and witness some of the tension between the ordinary officers and the political or staff officers.
As the film moves to its logical conclusion we are kept from achieving that end until Cedar says so, it is a full story and if you are not familiar with the works of Joseph Cedar, this is a good place to start. To his credit the movie side-steps the mine field that is the real political situation which gives place to the movie. This is not a political movie in a small ‘p’ sense of the word, the Arab, Israeli situation is kept to a minimum, however we are shown some of the many ways the larger conflict has impacted the young soldiers. Death hangs over everybody on the mountain, we are left in no illusions about that, a fact that adds to the tension of what we see, at any stage any of the troops can die. Life is at the disposal of others, either those bombing them or their senior leadership.