Film Review: ‘The Gatekeepers’ takes a complex look at fighting terrorism

The six former heads of Israel's Shin Bet as seen in "The Gatekeepers" Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
The six former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet as seen in “The Gatekeepers”
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Documentarian Dror Moreh was inspired by “The Fog of War,” Errol Morris’ famed interrogation of Robert McNamara, when it came to making “The Gatekeepers,” which sits down with six former heads of Israel’s feared and secretive security service Shin Bet. McNamara was cagey and defensive, whereas the sextet here are more forthright, if not remorseful. “When you retire, you become a bit of a leftie,” says Yaakov Peri, who fronted the organization from 1988 to 1994.

To paint these interviews as confessional about-faces, though, would be simplistic. “Forget about morality,” one of them charges when grilled about one particularly messy item on their CV. “In terrorism there is no morality.” The stories paint these six men as hard-asses who instilled fear, and sometimes respect, among Prime Ministers, the press, foes and other colleagues. But seen and heard today, they’re living testaments to man’s inherent complexity, not to mention approachable and lovable grandfather-types.

Avraham Shalom is painted as the agency’s most intimidating leader, under whose watch came the notorious “Bus 30″ incident, in which two bus hijackers were executed after being apprehended, leading to uproar and the resignation of Attorney-General Yitzhak Zamir. In the film, however, he’s a cuddly octogenarian, decked in plaid and suspenders. He’s still lucid, and his parting words impart pessimism for the future he helped shape.

Moreh’s style is Errol Morris-lite: There’s no “Interrotron,” the camera device Morris uses in which subjects comfortably stare into the lens. The film’s music is a low, steady throb, lending an air of menace and unease to a film that proves hard to pin down.
Despite being a film that’s critical of the war on terrorism — and, inevitably, Israel — “The Gatekeepers” is not so easily reduced to simple talking points. For every fit of self-criticism there’s a defense — not a kneejerk reaction, but one borne out of deep intellectual wrestling. None of the subjects are gung-ho-types, despite how they might have acted when younger, and they even call out the director for his occasional black-and-white moralizing. Anguishing over having killed civilians is one thing, but they even confess to staying up at night worrying about having killed terrorists. (3 out of 5 Globes)


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

News

Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

NHL

Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.