Though ostensibly in reference to the suicide bombing that claims the life of a prominent surgeon's wife, the title of The Attack ultimately references a much more devastating sort of personal detonation. That surgeon, Amin Jaafari, spends a long day in Tel Aviv attempting to save the lives of the blast's victims,including ones who don't want an arab operating on them, even if it's life or death. Then he comes home to an empty house, and then a late night phone call. He learns it was Siham, his wife, who was the bomber.
That scenario alone is fascinating—based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra—but writer-director Ziad Doueiri proves adept at shaping that premise into slow-burn low-violence thriller beyond its initial moments. The Attack explores the violent politics of the extreme fundamentalism through the lens of a stunned husband's heartbroken hunt for answers—less a whodunnit as a why did she?
As Amin digs, he leaves his adoptive home of Tel Aviv and returns to Palestine to try and trace her last few days of movement. Family and friends are sympathetic, but cold: some seem less than forthcoming. Chillingly, Amin finds posters of his now-martyred wife up all over town, being sold by street vendors. Here, she's a hero for actions he can barely fathom her ever having done at all.
Some answers come, but if The Attack succeeds in making its main character's emotional search for them compelling, it benefits from skillfully presenting a picture of modern middle eastern conflict that's as complicated in the human level as at the political one. Brutal acts of violence are committed and martyrs made or causes, so often without regard for the humanity of the actual persons involved. Not all who do so are blind zealots either; The Attack seeks to reminds us that the some who carry out such acts were human beings before they were headlines. V
Directed by Ziad Doueiri