The beginning of “Foxtrot,” a film from Israel written and directed by Samuel Maoz, is shattering. Parents Michael and Dafna (Lior Ashkenazi and SarahAdler) get the dreaded visit of soldiers who come with tragic news. Their son Jonathan has been killed while on duty. Where can the film go from there?
We see a stage of grief, the father withdrawing and not wanting visitors, the demand that he be allowed to see the body of his son, the military’s efforts to console but not accede to Michael’s insistence.
But then a “miracle” happens. A mistake has been made. Another soldier with the same name was the victim. The film could have gone in the direction of Michael and Dafna wanting to meet the unfortunate parents of the dead solider and try to express their sympathy. But the film moves in a different direction.
We are taken to the lonely post where Jonathan, played by Yonatan Shiray, is on duty with fellow soldiers with the task of checking on vehicles driven by those who want to pass. Living conditions are tough, with the men confined to a tube-like barrack that is slowly sinking into the muddy earth. But they make the best of it. (Meanwhile, Jonathan’s father is urging a friend with influence to have Jonathan immediately sent home in view of what happened.)
Eventually the film shifts into another dimension. An event involving Jonathan occurs at the checkpoint and superiors want to cover it up. The chilling episode is a slap at the Israeli military. There is yet another twist, an ironic turn that in effect takes the film back to its beginning.
I don’t much care for the way in which the film finally works out, but that caveat aside, “Foxtrot” is steadily involving and shows a perilous side of life confronting families of those serving in the army. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Reviewed December 8, 2017.