‘Golda’ film review: Even Helen Mirren can’t save this middling historical drama

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Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a scene from ‘Golda’

Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in a scene from ‘Golda’
| Photo Credit: Sean Gleason

This was a movie that could have been gripping and thrilling in equal measure but unfortunately is not. Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel, was lionised and reviled. She was appreciated and acclaimed for her vision for the statehood of Israel and called the Iron Lady. The brickbats came for being caught unawares during the Yom Kippur War that took place from October 6 to 25, 1973, when Arab countries led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in a war that drew in the nuclear superpowers of the United States and USSR.

Golda (English)

Director: Guy Nattiv

Starring: Helen Mirren, Camille Cottin, Liev Schreiber, Lior Ashkenazi, Dvir Benedek

Running time: 101 minutes

Storyline: Framed by the Agranat Commission, a look at the lead up to and repurcussions of the Yom Kippur War

Though the war ended with a military victory for Israel, the Camp David Accords and an Egypt-Israel peace treaty, a failure of intelligence meant the Israelis were caught unawares leading to an enormous loss of life during the conflict.

The movie opens with Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), answering the questions of the Agranat Commission, an inquiry set up to go into the intelligence failure in the Yom Kippur War. We go back to days before Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and, a message which bounces about the world with a secret message hidden in the names of chemicals about an imminent attack.

Cancelling leave for mobilisation before Yom Kippur would be political suicide, but Golda knows in her gut that the attack would come on that day. She orders the mobilisation of 120,000 troops. The attack takes place and even though Cairo is not defended, Israel does not attack, because of a promise made to America, who do not want to anger the Arabs by helping Israel thanks to the oil crisis. As Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber) tells Golda, the American public will have to pay heavily for Israel’s aggression.

We follow the war from the situation room and while the panicked shouts and pleas of the soldiers as well as the unrelenting orders to stand firm on the radio convey a degree of the blood and chaos of the battlefront, the war does not draw you in — one remains an observer many degrees removed from the booming guns and tears.

Golda keeping an account of all the deaths in a little black book to read out during the enquiry again does not convey the horror and loss. As a movie, Golda is not that engaging, and if you were to take Helen Mirren out of the equation, it would be significantly poorer. With her prosthetics and chain smoking — even during radiation therapy(!), Mirren tries to give us a sense of the woman but it is just not enough to plunge one into the decisions and responsibilities of those fraught 19 days in a war with far-reaching consequences.

Golda is currently running in theatres

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