In review: Waltz with Bashir

At the end of the year, when movie critics start to make their “top 10” lists, you can almost always count on a Disney/Pixar movie to make the cut. Generally speaking, that meets the quota of animated movies to be in the top 10, but last year was a different story. In addition to “Wall-E,” the animated movie “Waltz with Bashir” seemed to make the cut on every list released last year.

The film is well deserving, as it is slightly more poignant than “Wall-E.” Although “Wall-E” may be the better movie overall, “Waltz with Bashir” deals with more adult-oriented issues and really intends to deliver a blow to the viewer. It was nominated for an Oscar last year in the foreign language category and competed for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The film is set up as a documentary-style film, despite being animated. It begins in 2006, when the main character, Ari Folman, meets up with a friend from his army service period. The friend tells him of the nightmares he regularly experiences as a result of being in the Lebanon War. This gets Folman thinking about his experience as a member of the Israeli Defense Forces in 1982 as a 19 year old, and he is surprised to find that he does not remember a thing from that period.

As he sleeps that night, he has a dream of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which he doesn’t understand. He and his soldier friends are bathing at night by the seaside in Beirut under the light of flares descending over the city. Folman consults various friends about the dream, who all suggest he discuss it with other people who were in Beirut at the same time in order to revive his own memories and possibly explain the dream.

The movie is devoted to the journey, and little by little the viewer is given more information and is able to piece it together. It sets up an interesting viewer-character relationship in which we almost know and realize more than the main character. It allows the viewer to bask in the film’s emotions while at the same time feeling for the character. And rarely does it even seem as though the film is a cartoon. Most of the characters resemble famous people, such as Edward Norton, David Carradine and Paul Giamatti, to name a few.

If the film has any flaw, it is that it takes too long to get the viewer invested in the actual investigation. The actual dream that Folman has doesn’t occur for quite some time, making the film’s beginning feel dull and without purpose. Additionally, it reverts back too much to imagery seen in other war movies. Soldiers riding in helicopters over a beach and then surfing the waves afterwards isn’t something that is unique to this character’s situation, and it isn’t unique for the viewer either.

The film is based on the true story of Folman, who produced, directed, wrote and voiced himself in the film. With the knowledge that the movie is coming from the source and is so realistic, it becomes that much more powerful and makes an incredible impression on the viewer. When Folman finds the answers, the viewer is still left with little resolution, reminiscent of what the main character is still going through today. It is essentially something animated movies find hard to accomplish, but “Waltz with Bashir” does it with ease.