Based on the bestselling novel by Ron Lesham and adapted for the screen by the writer along with the director, Joseph Cedar’s Oscar-nominated Beaufort gives the viewer a deeply immersive and troubling experience of being among the last Israeli soldiers in the Lebanon just before their withdrawal in May 2000, the soldiers holed up in a godforsaken outpost on a mountain top, Beaufort Castle, an ancient twelfth-century Crusader fortress of more symbolic than strategic value. The occupation of the Lebanon is all but over, the IDF in retreat, but while the politicians work out the details, the soldiers sit in isolation, feeling like cannon-fodder for the Hezbollah bombardments.
The film brilliantly and realistically captures the sense of futility of war, Beaufort showing an almost Samuel Beckett-like precision for the absurdity of the situation, the vulnerability of the soldiers in a precarious and almost hopeless position. Constantly under bombardment from a faceless enemy, the constant mantra of “incoming, incoming” presaging further horrors, Beaufort takes on the surreal aspect of a science-fiction movie, the dimly-lit monochrome tunnels of the outpost looking like something out of Solaris or 2001: A Space Odyssey, a sensation emphasised by wonderful airy, eerie score by Ishar Adar.
Apart from one or two lazy war-movie conventions, the script striving for poignancy by allowing you get to know a character just before he takes a bullet or mortar strike, the film nonetheless effectively maintains an incredible level of tension creating a sense of deep unease throughout. Death can come to anyone at anytime while the soldiers wait it out, ignorant of the decisions being made by the Israeli command, unaware of the next move from the Hezbollah, a sensation that functions not only a generalised humanitarian commentary on the futility of war, but on the very specific political situation in the Middle-East.
The Disc: The film is given an outstanding transfer on the region-free DVD from Trinity. It’s a very dark film, the contrasts emphasised further by the desaturated colour timing, yet the blacks are rich and deep, the image showing remarkable clarity and definition, with only the hint of some flicker in backgrounds. The transfer however is presented at 1.85:1 rather than the theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio that can be seen in the Making of and Deleted Scenes included in the extra features. The framing is not compromised however by a pan-and-scan, but rather opened up to allow additional headroom. The audio is presented in a clear Dolby Digital 2.0 mix with a good dynamic range, although a surround mix would undoubtedly have been much more effective. Subtitles are fixed but clearly readable. In addition to the aforementioned Making of (22:43) and nine Deleted Scenes (15:59) – both of which are worthwhile inclusions – the Extra Features also include a Short Trailer (1:11) and Long Trailer (1:55), both curiously at a ratio of 1.85:1, suggesting possibly that both ratios are acceptable.