Monday, 9 September 2013

Kippur - a brief review

Kippur is an Israeli movie set during the Yom Kippur War of 1973. I saw it on the shelf for $8 having never heard of it before, so figured I'd give it a go.
The DVD cover
The basic plot is about two Israeli soldiers who can't find their unit during mobilisation, run into an air force doctor and after giving him a lift to his base join his helicopter rescue party. It is an autobiographical work by the director Amos Gitai.
So what is it like? Well, it is all in Hebrew, so if you don't speak the language, be prepared to read subtitles. Having said that, there is very little in the way of dialogue anyway.
The film does a good job in portraying the chaos of the first days of the war - traffic jams and lost people. The main characters also very casually drive between units, and no-one seems to suspect them of being deserters. And this is a really interesting point. At no stage does anyone shout 'we're doing this for Israel' or 'your country needs you'. No motivational speeches or melodramatic calls to patriotic duty. Everyone just does their job - if not the one they expected to do, then they do a different job. It is all very matter of fact.

The soundtrack is pretty spartan - the abiding sound is that of helicopter rotors or tanks moving about. The actions of the characters speak for themselves.
A still from the movie. Note Shot Kal in the background.
The IDF helped out with equipment, and the fantastic thing about the movie for people like me (and the majority of people who would read this blog) is the number of Centurions and M3 halftracks driving back and forth. And I'm not kidding there. In the background as the casualties are recovered the Centurions literally drive forward, wait 20 seconds and then reverse while another moves up in its place. Only once do you see one fire. I'm wondering if this is actual tactics (don't stay in one place for too long), or an effect the director was looking for to indicate chaos and constant movement? I've a sneaking suspicion it is the latter - after all, we are meant to be focused on the main characters. And this leads to another problem. The tanks seem to drive around in circles, and the helicopter definitely flies in circles. It is classic 'we are making a movie in a limited area so fly around in a circle and try and make it look like there is more than there actually is.'

Depressingly, after all of the correct kit for 1973 for most of the movie, there are a couple of Merkavas and M60s on the Golan in one flyover scene towards the end. You also never see the Syrians, although that is hardly the point of the movie.

As a film, it isn't too bad. There is limited character development, the emphasis being on highlighting the chaos and confusion, the exhaustion of the troops and the horror of the high casualty toll. Some scenes are too long, and some are just pointless - who throws paint on their bed and then rolls around having sex in it... in a war movie?

Would I recommend it? Yeah, it is worth a watch, even if just for the sheer novelty of viewing a film about the Yom Kippur War. Are there holes in it? Hell, yeah. But are there cool tanks in it? Yes there are... many, many tanks.

Incidentally, the tanks are all in the greener later Sinai Grey, as opposed the sandier colour that they would have had in 1973 (or so my reading suggests - I'm open to being wrong about that).



  1. I'd have given it a bash too for $8 :)

  2. I watched this many years ago, when it was first released. Never made a lasting impression, though the same scene of Merkavas moving forward and back stuck. That and the chopper rescue at the end.

  3. Right I'm grabbing this one from Amazon. As an aside, I'm in the middle of reading "Heights of Courage" an account of the 77 Battalion up on the Golan in Yom Kippur, as recommended by someone on TMP, it's pretty good.