The story is basically about a Palestinian doctor, living in Israel and is connection to a terrorist attack. The doctor is played by Ali Suliman who brings a quiet intensity to the character. He chews no scenery and seems so real in the role you forget you are watching an actor. The film revolves around him but the supporting cast is also stellar and gives the same sort of truly human portrayals. Reymond Amsalem is also excellent in limited screen time. Dvir Benedek, with even less time, creates a human face for the Israeli security forces. He conveys humanity in a role that might have been unnoticed.
The film works so well because it is not focused on the details of politics or the grand scheme of things. It is the story of this one man and his journey to find the truth. It is about him, one human, interacting with others, all of whom seem perplexed by some part of his motivation. The great tragedy is reduced to one of its helpless parts.
The Attack has something American filmmakers could learn from--even in silly action movies. Cartoon-like terrorist villains are not scary. Actual humans, who seem normal and even decent but who become terrorists are. The last time an American movie even tried to do this was Traitor with Don Cheedle.
Yet there are no villains in this film. Some will be shocked by this notion after you see the film yet it is true. It is a movie full of victims. Even someone who kills almost a dozen children in a restaurant is a victim. This isn't put across in some obvious way. You are not beaten over the head with the woes of the Palestinians. In fact, an Israeli security officer is the one who makes the statement that resonates throughout the movie as to why such attacks happen.
The film does not take a "side" but gives viewers a feeling that the whole notion of “sides” is irrelevant now. Everyone is playing some predestined role in a great tragedy. Decent, good people look at other decent good people and see an enemy--or a potential enemy. It is not a film that fills you with hope about prospects for peace but it does leave you with some positive feelings about human beings as individuals.
Director Ziad Doueiri hits all the notes perfectly here both visually and in the writing. There isn't a discernible flaw here. Doueiri uses visuals to be sure you never lose sight of the fact that this is about people--not ideology. At the same time the film never feels the need to preach. It is startling, sad and keeps you engaged from beginning to end.
The film was released in 2012 but is in USA theaters now.