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Wick's Review

Created Jan 25, 2009 09:39PM PST • Edited Apr 14, 2019 09:14PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    The hell of war gets chronicled as never before in this stylistic and thematic breakthrough of a movie. Animated though vividly realistic, this grunt’s-eye view of war and its post-traumatic aftermath stands as a postmodern masterpiece, taking its place alongside fictional accounts like Apocalypse Now and Platoon.

    Well deserving of its Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film and a worthy nominee for this year’s Oscar in the same category, Waltz with Bashir – coming on the heals of The Band’s Visit just a few months ago – cements the Israeli film industry as among the world’s best.

    One quibble with the movie is its obscure and awkward title, which does it no favors commercially.

  3. Very Good 3.5

    Hebrew voicing of animated characters makes the acting quality tough to judge, though in general it was rather flat, making it occasionally difficult to follow the sub-titles.

  4. Male Stars Very Good 3.5
  5. Female Stars Very Good 3.5
  6. Female Costars Very Good 3.5
  7. Male Costars Very Good 3.5
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Ari Folman’s film breaks new ground in two realms. Stylistically, it lurches animation ahead as a medium for serious movies. It’s been said that its production process is similar to Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, though that movie placed an animated veneer over live action photography, where Waltz with Bashir seems to be 100% animation, excluding the occasional inclusion of photos and the news video at the end. While still realistic looking, this pure animation allows the movie to seamlessly traverse conscious and subconscious events.

    Thematically, it places us in the disorienting miasma of war with the vividness of a dream, doing so from the distinct perspective of Western humanism. That this originated from Israel makes perfect sense: the Jewish State has seen more than its share of wars, including the strategically misconceived one depicted in the movie, and Jews have been central authors and practitioners of humanism.

    The two breakthroughs are apparent in the movie’s opening scene when a pack of wild eyed dogs races through an urban landscape in what turns out to be the haunting dream of an Army veteran. Bravura cinema, this.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0

    Ari Folman set out to make a documentary and ended up with a movie that transcends that narrow conception and several others as well. Bravo.

  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    As a Middle Eastern outpost of Western values, Israel shares many cultural traits with the rest of the first world: individualism, self-actualization, rock music, and a taste for intoxicants to name a few. When normal guys from this environment are thrust into the hell of war – especially a badly led war – their reflections are bound to be ironic and at least somewhat detached, because there is often no way to make sense of the experience in modern rational terms. This much we’ve long known.

    What makes Waltz with Bashir so fascinating is how it penetrates this fog of memory and psychological protection. The veterans it profiles come across as normal guys – recognizable in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam no less than in Tel Aviv – who have suppressed their common trauma so they could move on with their lives. When people wonder why veterans of any war aren’t more forthcoming about sharing their experiences, this movie provides the answer.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Pulsing original music by Max Richter and several perfectly chosen songs (Beirut based on the Cake song I Bombed Korea and PIL’s This is Not a Love Song amongst them) add tension and humor in equal measures.

  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    David Polonsky’s distinctive animation uses clean lines and bold contrasts, creating vivid renderings that seem somewhat surreal. Fans of Jonny Quest will note a marked resemblance in how the people are drawn.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.5

    The violence and savagery of war make this a very edgy movie indeed.

  15. Sex Innocent 1.3
  16. Violence Brutal 3.5
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.8
  18. Glib 1.1

    Newsprint by the mile and storage by the terabyte have been filled with facts, thoughts and opinions about the Lebanese Civil War, Israel’s role in it, and the massacre committed by Israel’s Christian allies at a Palestinian refugee camp outside Beirut. No need to add to that pile here, other than to observe that Folman and his Army mates seem to deliver their side of the story with remarkable candor and lack of ulterior motive.

    How this will be perceived by others in Israel, the West, and especially in the implacably unreasonable Arab world remains to be seen. Will Israel get credit for owning up to mistakes in the conduct of its wars? Given its traditional role as whipping boy for Western guilt, Arab totalitarianism and Islamist fantasies, the odds aren’t good.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 1.3

    Documentary, yes. But too much creativity went into this movie to assume it to be 100% circumstantially correct. So for safety’s sake I’m judging it to be 30% glib.

  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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