"Zaytoun": At Last, An Israeli/Palestinian Buddy Movie

Eran Riklis's Zaytoun is probably the fluffiest movie about the Lebanese Civil War ever made. Set in 1982, 10-year-old Palestinian boy Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) is among the denizens of a Palestinian refugee camp who capture a downed Israeli pilot named Yoni (Stephen Dorff) (yes, really). For assorted reasons, the Israeli-hatin' Fahed helps Yoni to escape, and they go on the run together — and because it's a buddy movie, they gradually learn to respect and maybe even like each other. The tonal shifts between life during wartime (people close to Fahed have an unfortunate tendency to get killed) and the lightweight buddy comedy aren't as jarring as might be expected, and Zaytoun isn't trying to be a tract about the horrors of war or ethnic tensions or anything too downbeat. That's all been done by other, darker movies, and even the tension of Zaytoun's on-the-run story is largely evaporated by the time they're poking around an abandoned amusement park. (In addition to the occasional minefield, it turns out that Lebanon also has some excellent waterslides.) But that's okay, because El Akal and Dorff have a surprisingly strong chemistry, and it's pleasant to spend time with these characters, even if Yoni's preppie wardrobe in the third act is kind of distracting. Oh, 1982.

 
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