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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Three Israeli IDF reservists are captured and held behind enemy lines
in Lebanon. Back home, as time passes, they become increasingly
powerful symbols of hope. 17 years later, two come back alive, one in a
This drama follows the lives of the the prisoners and their families after their release, veering from vast political themes to poignant domestic ones. The family and friends' relationships and responses feel as real as the torture scenes.
I found this series to be a gripping, moving character based drama, examining a situation that most of us can't begin to imagine the reality of, yet it somehow manages to be relatable. "Homeland" was slick and powerful, but for me, it just didn't have the heart that this original had.
While 'Hatufim' is definitely worth being judged on its own merits, it
probably will, for some time, always be compared to the US series that
was based on this Israeli original... and after having viewed both
series I'm confident in saying that 'Hatufim' doesn't have to shy away
from the comparison. In fact, I think it is the superior show of the
Whereas 'Homeland' is clearly in the same vein as other US shows and boosts a fast pace, twists and turns and lots of action, 'Hatufim' is much more of a psychological thriller. On the surface much less happens than does in 'Homeland', but 'Hatufim' involves a lot more subtleties as well as realism and character study, especially in its 1st season.
The budget is only a portion of the US remake, but it seldomly shows. Great actors accompany an even better script that left me feeling a lot more involved than the fast pace and action of 'Homeland' did. In fact, Hatufim's 2nd season picks up in pace and action, but still keeps that intimate feeling and heart that 'Homeland' sometimes lacked.
'Homeland' is a very good series, but 'Hatufim' is, in my opinion, a great one.
My review is based on two seasons, which is all that has been produced
at the time of writing. I have not seen Homeland.
Two Israeli soldiers and a body are returned home after 17 years of captivity by a terrorist group in Syria. The details of the capture, imprisonment, and reactions in Israel draw on actual abductions, for example, Ron Arad, Gilad Shalit, Guy Hever (arguably), and others. The closest real-life Israeli parallel I can think of is the (mildly obscure) case of Massad Abu Toameh, who was kidnapped in Greece and secretly held in Syria for 14 years. There have been somewhat similar cases in the Arab world (not involving Israel) such as in Morocco, Syria, and Iraq. I wish I knew more about those, so I could better compare fiction to reality.
Season 1 follows the returnees and their families as they try to re- adapt to ordinary life, while gradually filling us in on what happened in captivity, some of which involved moral compromises and does not come into the light easily. It's gripping, and, as far as I can tell, fully plausible. Season 2 is more of a thriller, which I won't reveal the reason for. The second season contains significant implausibilities. Drew me in anyway.
The Israel series, Hatufim (Prisoners of War), which is all in Hebrew, is on DVD with English subtitles. It is one of the best TV dramas I have ever seen: tense, suspenseful, emotional, with superb acting and directing. Gritty and violent at times, wonderfully slow other times, and always dramatic; we usually wind up watching two episodes in a row. There are characters you like, others you don't, but you care about or are interested in all of them. The US version, Homeland, was taken from this Israeli original and is also excellently well done, but Hatufim is a lot different and stands entirely on its own; I think it's the better of the two. This powerful drama should be on everybody's watch list. A comment about the English subtitles: we found the same thing a reviewer on Amazon did -- the subtitles marked as English on the disc of season 2 (2012) for episodes 9-12 were only in Hebrew. On the advice of the seller, we tried the disc on our computer and (for reasons I cannot understand) the disc played with the English subtitles! The final episodes (13-14), like all the others except for that one disc, play fine on the DVD player.
3 Israeli soldiers are captured by a Syrian group of terrorists called
Children of Jihad, when a mission goes wrong and turns out to be a
trap.... They spend 17 years in captivity where they are both
physically and psychologically abused and tortured . They are released
after a deal involving transfer of POWs is agreed but only two of them
make it home.
They are accompanied by a coffin which contains the
barely recognisable remains of the third. Initially they are housed in
an IDF facility where they are debriefed by a military psychologist
whose job it is to interview all returning POWs. Some discrepancies in
their respective stories leads the doctor to believe that they are
holding something back and he encourages his beautiful assistant to
befriend one of the guys and find out what she can. What subsequently
develops is a painstakingly intense study of the difficulties and
traumas that POWs and their families experience as they try to come to
terms with the lost years and the changes that time has had on all of
them, This takes up most of season 1 and requires a great deal of
patience on the part of the viewer who may have been expecting
something other than a "soap" . But it is well worth the effort and
asks searching questions about the nature and wisdom of faithfulness
and personal loyalty in the most extreme circumstances.
In season 2, the pace is upped as it is revealed that there might be other forces in play and that there may have been some kind of covert mission involved all along, as too many coincidences happen too often. The story switches between Damascus and Jerusalem as events in both the past and the present reveal that there is more than just the lives of these unfortunate soldiers, at stake and the question of national security is weighed against the personal well-being of a country's people. Who decides the identity of those who "Need to know"?. Is traumatic personal anguish justified in the need for secrecy ? Isn't the withholding of information about loved ones, itself a form of betrayal ?
The show expertly moves between the continuing personal stories of the individuals who are living out their own dramas and IDF attempts to unearth the facts about the possible manipulation of events and causes a clash between the Israeli military and Mossaad, as the conflict between these bitter neighbouring countries continues .
A third season is in the process of being written.
This show is sublime. It isn't even worth comparing it to Homeland
because there is no comparison. Aside from the fact that PoW was the
original of the two, it doesn't focus on the agents, or the families,
but instead points the spotlight at the captives and the way they deal
with their release, and the subsequent emotional turmoil they have to
go through whilst trying to integrate back into Israeli life.
In Homeland it was all about Carrie (the FBI agent) which meant Brody was totally forgotten about.
The English subtitles don't bother me at all, as I truly get lost in the emotion and drama of what is really going on. I'm not going to give anything away. Just watch it. If anything it's incredibly current due to the state of affairs in Gaza at the moment and will take you on a ride you won't forget.
Really, I'd give Season 1 a "9" and Season 2 an "8" until the last two
episodes when its just awful. They are so bad, it destroyed all
The version I watched was with sub-titles (my wife could understand the Hebrew and said the translation was lacking in many places). The acting throughout is excellent and here is where it differs from Homeland - we get to understand the characters much more and see more of their emotional lives.
Season 1 is excellent and the cliff hanger at the end is powerful. Season 2 leads you on the promise to explanation, but never delivers. It seems as if the script writers really lost their way - pity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In response to Avi Gellman's "Homeland" was slick and powerful, but for
me, it just didn't have the heart that this original had.
If by heart you mean more suffering then OK.
Finally got to see this with English subtitles, I do not speak Hebrew. All of the actors are terrific. Especially Yael Eitan who plays Dana Klien. She is on facebook and answered my message to her telling her how terrific she was and to get to Hollywood now. An amazing performance. Lots of interesting character development but not much of an ending. Supposed to be a season two, hopefully things will pick up action wise. And I don't mean everyone shooting everyone else. Basically nothing happens.
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