“Tanks are made of iron. Men are made of steel” states a stencil inside of the Israeli tank at the center of this intense war drama set at the beginning of the 1st Lebanon war in 1982.
More than one critic has called it "the DAS BOOT of tank movies" and that's pretty apt except for the first and final shots that depict the tank in a field of sunflowers.
In DAS BOOT there were often exterior long shots of the submarine, here we're inside the tank non-stop for the 90-something percent of the film's 93 minute running time.
Through sweaty sometimes bloody close-ups we get to know the four members of the tank crew (Reymond Amsalem, Yoav Donat, Michael Moshonov, and Oshri Cohen).
Donat is manning the gunner's scope and doing a frantic close to incompetent job of it - accidentally firing upon a old man's chicken truck for starters, and his crew members are fretting just as frantically because of it.
“You can't run a war in this mess” Donat says at one point, but it seems a futile comment - it's not like there's a shower inside the tank. But on second thought - it seems a cutting commentary on trying to maintain some kind of order in the most extreme chaos.
Many war films have displayed that war is Hell, but in this film with in your face close-ups of face covered in sweat, dirt, blood, and army surplus salad croutons it's also grimy, disgusting, and incredibly demeaning every second of the way.
LEBANON is a gripping narrative that may be hard going, but it's definitely a essential entry in the modern claustrophobic thriller sweepstakes that includes Rodrigo Cortés BURIED starring an underground Ryan Reynolds and the upcoming Danny Boyle film 127 HOURS featuring a trapped mountaineering James Franco.
With it's sense of history and depiction of confined desperation "Lebanon" more than holds its own.