Movie Information

A compelling if somewhat flawed telling of the leadup to the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Genre: Thriller
Director: Yaron Zilberman
Starring: Yehuda Nahari Halevi, Amitay Yaish Ben Ousilio, Anat Ravnitzki
Rated: NR

For those unfamiliar with the complicated nuances of Israeli-Palestinian relations or the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Yaron Zilberman’s Incitement may best be viewed with a Wikipedia page or two open for reference. That’s not to say that a film such as this — one with an intricate historical backstory — can’t stand on its own without prior knowledge of the incidents and individuals involved, but that these facts are compelling to the point that one can’t help but want to know more while watching a truncated version play out on screen.

Incitement might not nail its delivery, but it works more than it doesn’t — and, if nothing else, offers a glimpse into the series of leaps in logic that one driven to zealotry must overcome before inflicting such an act of extreme violence. The radicalization of Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), Rabin’s eventual assassin, doesn’t come as a response to a specific event as it does in most films that tread similar ground, but from what appears to be a lifelong and family-fed low-key hostility for various Jewish sects, classes and countries of origin. This hostility manifests in Amir as hatred for both the Palestinian settlements that dot the countrysides of Israel and Prime Minister Rabin, the man trying to end the nation’s decadeslong conflict with Palestine at the now famous Oslo Accords.

In contrast to many American films about fanaticism, Incitement doesn’t paint Amir as evil, brainwashed, coerced or predatory. Quite the opposite, in fact: He’s an intelligent, well-liked, normal law student whose political activism doesn’t even seem to be considered all that radical by the rest of his community. With just a small amount of logical maneuvering, his views are shared by many and even backed up by Jewish scripture.

But besides some repetitive family strife and an inauthentic love subplot that barely goes anywhere, Zilberman fails to convince viewers that Amir is as dedicated to his beliefs as history proved he was. We know how the story ends, but the fanaticism that leads to it isn’t fully formed, and with Incitement clocking in at over two hours, it should be. The story is good no matter how you slice it, but there’s room for some fat to be trimmed, with exposition and development of motivation taking its place.

When it works, however, Incitement is a fine piece of historical storytelling. Using a technique that could have easily backfired if mishandled, Zilberman weaves extremely dramatic archival news footage into the film, culminating in security camera footage of the actual assassination. These shots become a haunting bit of cinematic artistry that add layers of depth and, oddly enough, humanity to a film already steeped in cultural and historical importance. I can’t say whether Incitement is an accurate or fair telling of the events leading up to Rabin’s death, but I can say that because of this film, I now want to find out for myself.

Starts Feb. 28 at Grail Moviehouse

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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