Film Reviews
Photo:  Sean Gleason, Courtesy of Bleecker Street/ShivHans Pictures

By Diane Carson

In 2023, how can a 100-minute film portray the complicated, multidimensional 1973 Yom Kippur War? For Israeli director Guy Nattiv, the answer consists of several elements. First, anchor the history in Prime Minister Golda Meir’s exceptional ability to navigate Arab-Israeli politics, her cabinet’s multiple conflicts, and her friendly but fraught relationship with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Then incorporate news footage and maps of actual events as broadcast during those nineteen days of the War. Include Lou Kadar, Golda’s personal assistant and confidante during Golda’s concurrent cancer treatments. And, shuffling in and out of personal and committee meetings, factor in Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan; Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, General “Dado” Elazar; future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon; and more. In addition, recognize the nuclear risks as the US and Soviet Union’s tensions escalate. If this suggests an incredibly complex, immensely dangerous situation, that’s exactly what Golda Meir had to master after Egypt and Syria launched attacks on Israel’s holiest day, Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, her troops outnumbered seven to one.

Working from an idea from Meir’s grandson Gideon and after extensive research, director Nattiv and screenwriter Nicholas Martin masterfully lay out the many critical decisions Golda had to make as she balanced catastrophic loss of Israeli soldiers against the State of Israel’s very existence and possible peace.

The cast advances every delicate nuance, with Helen Mirren as Golda, the anchor of every scene. Mirren, who spent time in a kibbutz when twenty-one, had what Nattiv described as “a Jewish soul.” Having studied hours of footage, Mirren channels minute details of Golda’s mannerisms, her chain smoking, and her voice, resulting in an almost eerie fusion of the real and the fiction that extended to Golda’s wardrobe. To further reinforce the reality, Nattiv repeatedly told Mirren to slow down, since Golda never hurried.

Liev Schreiber embodies Henry Kissinger, whom he met before filming began. And every supporting actor is superb. Also contributing expertise, cinematographer Jasper Wolf employs low-key lighting to reinforce the somber mood, and he seamlessly inserted Mirren into archival footage. Not just history as a proxy war between America and the Soviets, the Yom Kippur War also advances comparisons between the Ukraine/Russian War today, connections Nattiv confirms. “Golda” is a significant film and history lesson. Check listings.

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