O Jerusalem knows that the cycles of violence that have absorbed the Middle East since the establishment of Israel are a very serious and tragic thing. Problem is, that’s about all it knows, a fact made clear in the early pre-war scenes depicting the Jewish Bobby (JJ Fields) and his Arab friend Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui), whose emotional bonds will be put under considerable duress when they’re later expected to kill one another by their respective tribes. The remaining 90 minutes of wartime drama, then, only serve to continue this one-note evocation of man’s inhumanity to man, gutting any larger sense of political context in what amounts to little more than a far less insightful version of The Fox and the Hound. The film’s humanity is totally sincere but its historical reduction does a major disservice to the material; like the similarly simple-minded Hotel Rwanda, O Jerusalem is too namby-pamby to get its hands dirty in the real mess of this conflict, save for the occasional sacrifice of a few aggravatingly undeveloped supporting characters. Bobby and Saïd are meant to stand in for the true, peaceful spirit of these two religious cultures but their total lack of personal distinction renders them mere narrative siphons for the film’s “We Are the World” sermonizing; when Saïd ultimately gives in to hatred of the Jews after the death of a loved one in battle, his sudden revelation is liable to give viewers blunt head trauma. Hammering away at its Arab/Jewish variation on the chicken-or-the-egg debate ad nauseam, the film is sure to appeal to Oscar lovers that fancy themselves political activists. O Jerusalem‘s purported seriousness might label it as an adult’s film but its reliance on Cliffs Notes history is the stuff of playtime.
- Samuel Goldwyn Films
- 103 min
- Elie Chouraqui
- Elie Chouraqui, Didier Le Pêcheur
- JJ Field, Saïd Taghmaoui, Maria Papas, Patrick Bruel, Ian Holm, Tovah Feldshuh, Raido, Cécile Cassel, Mhairi Steenbock, Tom Conti, Shirel
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