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An Israeli soldier is taken hostage by a small PLO squad in lebanon. The soldier planned to go on vacation and to fly to the world final soccer cup (mondial), he and his capturers share the love to soccer and toward the (not so happy) end a relationship is made. Written by
This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
This 1991 Israeli offering is remarkable for the nuanced portrayal of a group of Palestinian fighters who take an Israeli soldier hostage during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. One of the drawbacks for a non-Israeli audience is a lack of familiarity with the political events that form the backdrop for the film.
Lebanese society degenerated into a civil war in 1975, when the sizable Muslim minority began to receive outside support against the Christian majority. Israel sided with the Christian status-quo. In June 1982, in retaliation for attacks staged out of Lebanon by PLO forces, Israel invaded. The civil war lasted through 1990.
The nature of the Israeli army makes someone like Cup Final's protagonist, Cohen (played by Moshe Ivgi), a reality. Virtually all Israeli men serve in the "regular" army for three years, whereupon they either enter the "professional" army (by reenlisting for a longer term of service) or the reserve forces. The reserve force is massive, with Israeli men serving one month a year through their mid 40s or early 50s - sometimes even on the front lines, as is the case for Cohen in June 1982. About half of all women serve 20 month enlistments, though I am unsure whether they also enter the reserves at the end of their regular service.
Cohen is shirt maker and a soccer fan, with tickets to the World Cup being played in Spain. His character therefore is not a contrived soldier/soccer fan, but an every day guy who was called up as a reservist to fight for a month, who must miss the tournament. That he is captured by a PLO band led by Ziad (played magnificently by Mohammed Bakri) makes the situation worse.
Soccer serves as an early bridge between the two men, but it is never overt or presented in a corny fashion. It is natural, and leads to the discovery of other commonalities between Cohen on the one hand, and Ziad and his band on the other. Their appreciation of one another and mutual love for the Italian national soccer team is juxtaposed against episodes of sudden violence that shock and sadden the viewer.
As the film builds to its climax, the viewer is left wondering how everything will turn out - certainly tragedy will strike Ziad or Cohen, if not both. The final scene takes place as the World Cup final, featuring Italy, blares from a radio.
Ultimately, Cup Final is not a sports film in general or a soccer movie in particular. It is rather a character study, and even a subtle anti-war film. I do not know enough about Israeli cinema to state for certain whether the human portrait of the Arabs in Cup Final is unique among Israeli films, but it seems unlikely that many other films go as far as Cup Final. Highly recommended.
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