The Israeli-Arab conflict is stripped to its most intensely personal level in “The Attack,” a haunting and heartbreaking meditation on violence, choice, love and duty that is one of the most remarkable films of the year.
Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman, “Paradise Now”) is a lauded surgeon of Palestinian descent working in Tel Aviv. His life is about as good as it could get: He has just been awarded a prestigious honor by a medical society, lives in a sleek apartment with a beautiful wife (Reymond Amsalem) and has lots of friends whose lunchtime talk veers to where he should buy a vacation home.
But when a suicide bombing rips apart an area restaurant, and his wife is not only one of the victims but it appears she was the one wearing the suicide vest, his entire life collapses. Jaafari, a nonpracticing, secular Muslim, is forced to realize that the life he lived with his apparently secretly radicalized wife may have been a lie, and his Israeli colleagues and neighbors (as well as the police) are now questioning his allegiances.
On the flip side, Jaafari’s family, living in humble conditions in the Palestinian city of Nablus, don’t really trust him either, since he divorced himself from his Muslim roots years ago. He’s a man uniquely alone, with only his shredded belief system as company.
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Directed by Lebanese-born, French-based Ziad Doueiri (“West Beirut”) from a novel by Yasmina Khadra, “The Attack” has sparked controversy in the Middle East, where it has been banned by the 22-member League of Arab States.
While that makes the film sound as if it’s some kind of inflammatory screed, it’s far from that. Instead, it’s a superbly drawn portrait of a man who’s a victim of generations of violence, even though he bears no physical scars.