Imagine a male Lifetime movie fueled by Middle Eastern tensions, and you’d have Ziad Doueiri’s torn-from-Tel-Aviv’s-headlines melodrama, one which drops its handsome husband of a hero into a domestic nightmare. A celebrated Palestinian surgeon working in the Israeli metropolis, Dr. Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman) is about to receive a major industry award—“Your medical Oscar!” one character calls it—when his phone rings. His wife, Siham (Reymond Amsalem), desperately needs to talk; the good doctor promises he’ll call later. Hours pass, and an explosion rocks the city. The authorities determine that a female suicide bomber was responsible, at which point Jaafari is called in to identify the perpetrator’s body. Guess who it is?
Best known (ironically?) for playing a potential martyr in Paradise Now (2005), Suliman is an Arabic actor brimming with charisma and chops; forced to do the bulk of the film’s dramatic heavy lifting via angry victimization and grief-stricken confusion, the performer’s screen presence makes up for much of the first half’s faults. (As does Doueiri’s use of silence in key moments, notably when the protagonist finds a telltale letter.) Then Jaafari heads to Nablus to shake down clerics for answers, and The Attack turns into a listless verbal assault, batting easy back-and-forth arguments on fundamentalist dogma, bomber hero worship, the Occupation blues, etc., that simply rehash the usual talking points. That’s when this stops being topical tragedy and starts becoming a debate-club-lite session.
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