I have just read an article in “Haaretz” (Israeli newspaper) titled “How Netflix fell in love with the Mossad”, written by Nissan Shor. I do not necessarily agree with the author’s theses but got inspired to share short reviews of films and series linked with Israel that I watched recently on Netflix.
Yes, I treat Netflix as an educational tool (not the main and certainly not the only one) and this is why I prefer to watch it rather than to sleep. And, well, I think the verb “to netflix” should already exist in dictionaries.
There are already a few Israel/Judaism-focused pieces on this platform. Only this week I watched two premieres – “Operation Finale” and “The Angel”. Let’s start from the beginning, though.
In my case, the adventure with Israel/Judaism-focused Netflix productions started with “Fauda”. It was recommended to me by my friends as soon as they got to know that I was moving to Tel Aviv. And… wow! Bingewatching in the purest form. Two seasons in less than two weeks. “Fauda” tells the story of a troubled agent of a secret unit of Israeli special forces, who just can’t escape his fate. He’s name is Doron Kavilio and he is played by Lior Raz who has more charisma than tens of other actors I’ve recently discovered. The rest of the cast is magnetic, too, especially Shadi Mar’i, who plays Walid El Abed, Laëtitia Eïdo, who plays dr Shirin El Abed, and Itzik Cohen who play Gabi “Captain Eyov”. Doron’s unit fights Palestinian terrorists. You will see some politics in the series, but you will also see as much family affairs and ethics’ dilemmas. I find the more or less unbiased, rather balanced (it gained criticism from many cirles anyway). I think it has everything. There are no black and white situations, there are many twists in the story, there are scenes that will leave you unease.
“Fauda” is a fiction, a sensational TV series. It is an Iraeli production bought by Netflix. It received several Israeli Television Academy Awards. I know people who know the dialogues from “Fauda” by heart.
Here’s the official trailer of Season 2 (I didn’t find the official trailes of Season 1):
Shortly after “Fauda” I watched “Maktub”… well, one of my favourite characters in “Fauda” was Gabi aka Captain Eyov played by Itzik Cohen. And when I saw him playing a quasi mafia boss in “Maktub”, I just couldn’t stop laughing. Laugh and smiles accompanied me all the time while watching this comedy. At the very beginning I thought it was a stupid film in the “Dude, where’s my car?” fashion, but no. Slowly, slowly I understood a secret charm of two gangsters trying to thank God for saving their lives (they survived a bomb explosion) through realising prayers put into the Wailing Wall. This comedy is crazy, positive and will certainly cheer you up – hope you’ll pick up the Israeli sense of humour! Here’s the trailer of “Maktub”:
Shortly after “Maktub” I embarked on a historic/political journey and watched the documentary “I am. Shimon Peres”. It is a portrait of the legendary president, prime minister and minister of Israel who passed away in 2016 (the film was released in 2014). It tells the story of political career of Shimon Peres from the very start – being a kind of a personal assistant to David Ben Gurion, through different governments and ministries, his role in various peace talks Israel conducted, through receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, to becoming the president of the State of Israel. The documentary also depicts the private life of Shimon Peres and the “it’s complicated” relationship he had with his late wife Sonia. It’s a very honest portrait of a statesman, of a red-blooded politician, of a visionary, as a man who knew how to get things done. If you want to learn a lot about the Israeli-type strength of character and understand the history of the country, have a look at this documentary. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a trailer.
Sticking to the (very, very) serious notes, here the documentary that will cause your insomnia: “One of us”, a Netflix original. It isn’t a movie about Israel – it is about living in and out of the Jewish diaspora. It tells three different stories of people who decided to leave the Hasidic (very orthodox Jews) community in Brooklyn and experience ostracism afterwards (to say the least). Like in the case of many diaposras worldwide, the Jewish diaspora is often more orthodox/conservative that ordinary Jews living in Israel (I live close to Bnei Brak and I know that the orthodoxy is here, too, naturally, but still…). These stories are sad/tragic/mindblowing. Etty leaves her abusive husband and fights for the right to raise her seven children outside the Hasidic community. Ari is a teenager who gets addicted to drugs as a result of sexual violence he fell a victim of as a child. Luzer left the community years ago due to religious doubts and tries to live his life as an aspiring actor in Los Angeles. No more spoilers, just turn on Netflix…
Here’s the official trailer of “One of us”:
Now, after very serious and moving documentaries, let’s come back to movies that are devoted to Israeli special forces.
When I first heard of “Operation Finale” and its cast, my expectations rose very, very high. Ben Kingsley, whom I remember especially playing Mahatma Gandhi in Richard Attenborough’s film. Melanie Laurent who gracefully played Shosanna in “Inglorious Basterds” of Quentin Tarantino. Lior Raz who played magnetic Doron Kabilio in “Fauda”. And Oscar Isaac whom I remembered from “Ex Machina” and Drive”. It just had to blow my mind, right? Well, it didn’t… My expectations, my high hopes were not met 😦 the story of how Mossad chased and transferred Adolf Eichmann from Argentina to Israel is a perfect script for an Oscar movie and a blockbuster. I’m afraid that the authors of the script and the producers didn’t do their homework. The action is not very dynamic, there are so many cliches in the movie that you may just want to roll your eyes… You can literally see how badly the creators wanted it to be epic but unfortunately everything is so typical and … mediocre in the movie. I truly hoped that it would make the use of what’s best in leading actors, of their potential and of the really intriguing special forces mission. It didn’t. I’m afraid it’s just one of those movies that shool pupils will see because they should – and that they will forget it sooner than later.
But still, if you want to have your own opinion, watch it. Here’s the official trailer of “Operation Finale”:
Fortunately, there has just been another Netflix premiere devoted to Israeli special forces: “The Angel” is different from “Operation Finale”. It tells the true story of Ashraf Marwan, the son-in-law of the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser who becomes the special adviser to the next president, Anwar Sadat and… engages into cooperation with Israel’s intelligence and plays a huge role in the time of the Yom Kippur war. The story of Ashraf Marwan is broadly known but I will save you further spoilers. IMHO, “The Angel” is a very intruiging espionage story that will keep you in suspense, hands down. BTW, Marwan Kenzari who plays the leading role is one of my biggest acting discoveries of recent years. BTW2, Tzahi Halevy who you might recall from “Fauda” plays Muammar Gaddafi.
Here’s the official trailer of “The Angel”:
And here’s the last production with an Israeli thread I have watched on Netflix up to date: “Beirut” (or “The Negotiator”) with fantastic actors in leading parts: John Hamm and Rosamund Pike. Another Netlix production and an espionage thriller movie. Unfortunately, despite great acting, it – IMHO – failed a little bit because of script that simply won’t surprise you at any single moment. Like, from the first scene you can guess how the action will develop, who’s going to be good, who’s going to be bad. The story is just flat… It is a fiction set for the most part in 1982 in the times of the Lebanese Civil War. John Hamm plays a diplomat who left Beirut a decade earlier when his wife was assassinated by an armed group. Now he comes back to save a colleague (a spy) who got kidnapped by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Rosamund Pike plays a member of the US diplomatic staff and Hamm’s partner in crime. Now, what role does Israel play here? Just join the dots.
Here’s the official trailer of “Beirut”:
BTW, “Beirut” is a fiction but if you want to see the one and only Rosamund Pike in a movie based on a true story that has a lot to do with Israel and its special forces – watch “7 days in Entebbe”. I haven’t seen it yet (regretably it’s not available in Netflix streaming – yet?) but the trailer is very, very promising. Check it out here:
Well’ there are certainly many countries bigger than Israel that aren’t covered so broadly on Netflix 🙂 Mossad and other Israeli or Jewish elements seem to be very inspirational, to say the least. If this trend continues, one day Mossad-centred movies will overtake James Bond productions. Pass me some popcorn, please 🙂
No sponsored content – only private opinions.
Searching for more movie recommendations? Have a look at this posts:
Oscar movies diplomats should watch – Part 1
Oscar movies diplomats should watch – Part 2