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HELEN MIRREN DISAPPEARS IN ‘GOLDA’

There is no trace of Helen Mirren in Golda, and that’s the way it ought to be. To say that she becomes the fabled Israeli Prime Minister is a mild understatement, but this is no mere stunt of makeup, hairstyling and costuming. Those components enable Mirren to focus completely on the character she is portraying. It should come as no surprise that she delivers a great performance.

Golda is not a biopic, but rather a portrait of a world leader during one fateful chapter in her life: the Yom Kippur war of 1973, which forced her to make difficult, life-and-death decisions and answer for them later on.

I remember the feeling of shock and outrage that swept through the American Jewish community when Egypt launched its attack on the holiest day of the year, when no business is conducted. But I never knew of the conflicts behind the scenes in the Israeli government as Moshe Dayan and other leaders worked alongside Meir to deal with the sudden and unexpected outbreak of war.

Liev Schreiber is well cast as Henry Kissinger, who has a warm personal relationship with Meir but reminds her that while he is Jewish, he is an official of the U.S. government first and foremost.

Director Guy Nattiv maintains tension throughout the 19-day struggle and Nicholas Martin’s screenplay emphasizes Meir’s compassion, which threatens to subvert some of the difficult choices she is forced to make in the heat of battle. We learn little about the grandmother at the center of the narrative; there are no flashbacks or expository scenes to show us how she came to power or what her early life was like. We only see her incredible resolve and humanity in the face of war. And for the purposes of this film, that’s enough.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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