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.