Rent it now: the hell of war from inside a tank

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Whoever gets the rights to make the movie of the 2010 Chilean mining disaster and eventual rescue might want to talk with Israeli director Samuel Maoz.

The work Maoz does in the confined space of a tank in “Lebanon” — available on DVD from Sony Pictures Classics — is quite stunning.

More than one reviewer has compared the 2009 release to “Das Boot,” the 1981 German classic set almost entirely within a submarine during World War II. It’s also fair to cite Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” for the creation of a terribly confined setting that nevertheless bristles with drama and suspense due to carefully chosen glimpses of what is going on outside (via the various scopes that the tank men use to move the vehicle and to fire weapons).

The film takes place in 1982 during the first Lebanon War, but it feels universal (just as “Das Boot” did).

The politics of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon become virtually irrelevant as we come to identify with the dirty, scared group of Israeli soldiers who are trying to get through and out of an urban area that has been bombed by their Air Force comrades.

These young men could be from any place in any war — their anxiety, their anger and their bravery don’t really belong to one country or one time.

Maoz paces the story perfectly, so that the intensely suspenseful moments are broken up with the involving personal drama of the men inside the tank — we come to feel that we know each of them well, so that when things go terribly wrong, we have a personal stake in the outcome.

Unlike the similar “Black Hawk Down” which was sometimes difficult to follow because all of the young soldiers started to look the same, Maoz keeps “Lebanon” lucid through his very careful casting of the leading roles and superb editing which only leaves us feeling disoriented when the soldiers are in that same state of mind.

It’s a superb piece of filmmaking that should go to the top of your video rental list.

Joe Meyers

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