Saturday, 19 February 2011



This is a very difficult film to discuss without making it sound like you either support or reject its political stance, which is so virulently anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian that it actually becomes funny and then very quickly stops being funny. Such is the bias - the film's Palestinians are all dignified, courageous, honourable and fearless in the face of callous oppression and subjugation, while the Israelis are depicted as murderous, heartless, bloodthirsty bastards who shoot grannies in the back and leave crippled children to die in their demolished houses - that it's almost cartoonish. Not only are the scenes of Israeli brutality viciously sadistic, but there's a lot of rhetoric to go with them.

The starting-point for the Turkish film Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin (Valley Of The Wolves: Palestine) is the Israeli raid on ships with humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip in May 2010 - a raid in which Turkish activists were killed. A Turkish hit-squad goes into Israel to assassinate the top man in charge of the raid; inevitably things go wrong, people are killed and the violence in the film steadily escalates until what was supposed to be a simple assassination job ends up with tanks, helicopters, machine guns, grenades, children gunned down and general mass slaughter and destruction - houses demolished, whole families murdered in the streets. Inadvertently dragged along with the hit-squad is an innocent Jewish-American tour guide who knows nothing of the suffering - her personal misery is based solely on the fact that her boyfriend left her - and I suppose is standing in for the audience being awakened to What It's Really Like There.

I really do want to avoid the politics of the reality - whoever's right, whoever's wrong - because I'll admit it: I don't know. Bigger, better minds than mine haven't figured it out after decades; I just see the news and how far can you really trust that? Instead I'm sticking firmly to the film, which is so hopelessly one-sided in its political stance that you almost want to side against it out of sheer perversity. For all its supposed relation to the Real World it feels not just unreal but completely unbelievable; it could have been set on the planet Zog and been about the war between the brave and noble Zargons and the boo-hiss baby-eating Metaklasmians and you'd hardly have to change a word.

However, as entertainment, as a straight popcorn action movie, it's much more successful, although even there the heroes are all crack shots who can hit a moving target with one bullet while the villians are all armed with machine guns and couldn't hit the side of a barn from the inside of the barn (unless they're shooting at civilians). The big setpiece action sequences are well choreographed, bloody, with real stunts rather than huge amounts of CGI, and not so micro-edited in the modern style that you lose track of who's where and who's shooting who. (I had to take three runs at the opening car chase in Quantum Of Solace before I figured who was chasing who and which car James Bond was actually in.) If, and only if, you can ignore or tune out from the politics then it's actually rather good fun but if you take it seriously it's frankly uncomfortable viewing. The film's entry on the IMDb suggests that Valley Of The Wolves is a long-running TV series and there's at least one other film as well (made in 2006 and set in Iraq).


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