Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan


(Israel/France, 2009)

There is a very small sub-genre of what I think of as claustrophobic movies. The granddaddy of them all was Rear Window, which took place entirely in a small apartment. Another stellar entry was Das Boot, which happened mostly aboard a German submarine. I haven’t seen it yet, but 127 Hours sounds like one, in that it looks like it happens mostly in a narrow crevice in the rock. So far the all-time champeen seems to be Buried, which unfolds entirely in a coffin buried somewhere in the Middle East. One can hardly imagine filming in a tinier space, unless someone wants to make a film set entirely in Sarah Palin’s brain. These films are tours de force, showing off the skill of the technical crews and the director and writer. The built-in suspense from the claustrophobia is offset by the difficulty of having things happen. What can happen in a coffin, for instance? How do you make events unfold? The answer is, with a lot of ingenuity.

This film is a worthy addition to the genre. It takes place entirely inside a 4-man Israeli tank during the war in Lebanon in 1982. We see outside only through the gunsight and looking up through the open hatch. It is intense and filthy and frightening, as they seldom have a good idea of what’s happening out there. It was also controversial, as it shows Israeli soldiers violating international law. But the director, Samuel Maoz, was there, in a tank like this one, and I assume he knows what he’s talking about.