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The Grand Suggests: "The Attack"

Israeli-Palestinian conflict film is a hard punch to the gut

This is not my beautiful wife. Photo credit: 3B Productions

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There was so much potential, so much possibility for success and perhaps even greatness.  Then one woman's inexplicably heinous act rent it all asunder. But that's enough about Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMAs.

The Attack is the latest film from Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, adapted from the international best-selling novel of the same name by Algerian author Yasmina Khadra and, like many great films, the story behind the story sounds like the plot of a movie in its own right. Mohammed Moulessehoul, who writes under the pen name Yasmina Khadra, fled his native Algeria in 2000 during the waning days of the Algerian Civil War in order to escape government censorship of his work as well as the possibility of violent or fatal reprisals from outside extremist sources and the government itself. He currently lives as a political exile in France. Doueiri, on the other hand, came under fire from the Arab League due to his decision to film his movie on location in Tel Aviv, Israel and use Israeli actors to play some of the roles. As a result of this unsanctioned collaboration, The Attack is essentially blacklisted in every Palestinian country in the Middle East, including Doueiri's home country of Lebanon. With so much opposition toward both author and director, you might assume their works tackle some very controversial and inflammatory subject matter.

You'd be right.

Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman, known to American audiences for his roles in Body of Lies and The Kingdom) is an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv, Israel. Despite living in a region of the world known for seemingly endless and endemic political, social, and religious upheaval, Amin wants no part of it. He's a compassionate, successful man whose dedication to his craft and indiscriminate regard for the welfare of his fellow human beings has gradually earned him the respect of his primarily Israeli colleagues and, at the start of the film, a career achievement award. To top it all off, he's happily married to his loving wife Siham, (Reymonde Amsellem). Alas, nothing gold can stay.  The day after Amin accepts his award, a suicide bombing claims Siham's life.  When her body is brought into Amin's hospital for autopsy, it becomes clear that Siham was the bomber.

Amin's struggle to come to terms with and uncover the mystery behind his wife's actions is juxtaposed with flashbacks to their happy courtship and wedding. These scenes of Amin and Siham's joyous past contrasted with Amin's abruptly joyless present are deeply moving, but also incredibly jarring for the audience. Of course, jarring the audience is precisely what Khadra and Doueri intended. The film challenges the viewer, much like Amin himself, to make sense of acts that by their very nature are senseless and to understand what none of us truly want to understand: there truly are no limits to the monstrous levels of inhumanity to which any of us can sink given the right circumstances and just a little prodding. It's a sobering thought.

THE GRAND CINEMA, 2:15 and 7:05 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 3, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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