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Oy vey! We need more films about the Mossad.

Hollywood ♥ Israel

I just read this article – Adolf Eichmann’s capture, as told by the Mossad, in Israel exhibition – and am reminded once again how fascinating and, eh, “cinematic” Israel’s intelligence service are.

I then stumbled across an article from As’ad AbuKhalil of the left-wing Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar which takes a look at how Hollywood, with its notorious reputation for being “run by jews”, has an unparalleled fascination with the Mossad.

Israel’s spy agency has a special place in US popular culture. It is rather bizarre, if you think about it. It is unimaginable that Turkish intelligence or Syrian intelligence would be heroically portrayed in American culture. But the centrality of Israel in the American imagination is unmatched.
The Mossad in Hollywood movies

It’s a one-sided piece full of criticism but then again, very few people in the world are indifferent about Israel and their role in the world.

We won’t get into any great political discourse on the Middle East as this really isn’t the place AND it’s a Sunday. All I know (and I dropped out of school at the age of 12), is that there is no branch of police that comes across better on screen than the Mossad. There’s something mysterious and dangerous about them that the CIA, MI5 or KGB have always lacked.

Doubtful of the awesomeness? Check out this speedy top 5 and maybe we’ll convince you otherwise.

The Debt

John Madden’s thriller about three Israeli agents who became heroes in the 1960s for capturing a Nazi. But all is not exactly as it seems with a cover-up over a botched job being revealed… Here’s what I had to say when I saw the film at TIFF 2010.

The movie has two timelines, the first deals with three agents going to East Berlin in 1965 to bring back a Nazi war criminal to Tel Aviv for trial. The job goes wrong but they agree to lie and return to Israel as heroes.

We then jump forward 30 years as the three agents have a debt (hence the title, clever stuff) to take care of in order to preserve their golden reputations.Sounds pretty exciting, right? Unfortunately the film plays out far too slowly and while everyone involved does an honourable enough job, things just unravel and climax in a dull and implausible final act. Also Sam Worthington doesn’t look anything like a 30year old Ciaran Hinds. Age fail.
TIFF thoughts & 123 movie reviews

You don’t mess with the Zohan

Any doubts over Adam Sandler’s credentials as a good Jewish boy were put to rest with this “action” “comedy” where he plays an Israeli Special Forces soldier who fakes his own death so he can show up in New York City as a hair stylist.

Like every Adam Sandler movie it exhibits a flawless blend of intelligent humour, social commentary and well-developed believable characters.

Despite this stellar work Sandler still has an entry on the “Jew or not Jew” site. He does have a respectable Jew score of 13 though. No shame in that Adam.

The Assignment

Slightly forgettable mid-90s action thriller about a U.S. navy man who is selected to eliminate his lookalike, a certain international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal.

I like imaging the Hollywood execs meeting though…

Ben Kingsley looks kind of middle-eastern. I know he played Gandhi and that’s kinda more Indian, but for this we’ll lose the glasses and maybe give him some mascara. Lovely.

Aidan Quinn. Hmm, he looks nothing at all like anyone’s idea of Carlos. Lets give him crazy 1990s hair and glasses so. Great stuff!


Olivier Assayas directs a thrilling and uncompromising look at the life and times of the 20th century’s most famous international terrorist “Carlos the Jackal”. Its short theatrical version of 140minutes may have seemed like a labour for some, but even the original TV mini-series duration of 330minutes wasn’t long enough for me.

Édgar Ramírez’s portrayal of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (aka Carlos) is staggering, slowly revealing countless new dimensions to his character over the course of 25 years as he rises to the top of the terrorist under-world and then slowly blows it all as his ego and enemies combine to take him down.

The Mossad do not play a central role in the film, but are an ongoing thorn in his side. Early on, Carlos aligns himself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and comes up against Israel’s military and police. He was involved in the Black September conflict in 1970 which saw thousands of Palestinians killed at the hand of the king of Jordan. As the decade progressed he continued to stay involved with anti-Israeli attacks and was responsible for a number of assassinations on Israeli businessmen.

He travels the world making friends with East German, Syrian, Lebanese, Libyan and Sudanese terrorist groups and governments but is eventually arrested in 1994 in a combined effort by the French and U.S. government. He currently resides in France’s Clairvaux prison on a life sentence.


Stephen Spielberg’s look at a revenge mission led by Mossad agents in retribution for the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich. The murders were committed by the Palestinian terror cell known as the Black September Group, who were formed in response to the aforementioned Black September Jordanian atrocities.

Two wrongs don’t really make a right chaps. Despite this the Israeli government devised an “eye for an eye” revenge mission where Avner (Eric Bana) leads a team of assassins to track down each of the men responsible for the murders and kill them. The historical accuracy is questionable as all of this was done off-the-record with all the men forced to resign from the Mossad before forming the team. As they tick names off the list their numbers begin to dwindle and they start to feel the pressure.

Seeing Munich as an impressionable 21-year-old left an indelible impression on me. Like everyone I’d admired Spielberg’s work for years but to see him put together this really touching, but also pretty damn bad-ass pro-Israel piece working as a strange companion piece to Schindler’s List was a real joy.

Stunning supporting work from Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush and a never-been-bettered lead performance from Bana combined with a script and direction free of sentiment makes for Spielberg’s finest work of the last 15 years.

If only we could convince him to stop making films about horses, adventurers and aliens more often…

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Nigel loves stupid films almost as much as he likes clever films. He'll watch anything but is usually drawn to documentaries, North American independent films, Irish cinema and gung-ho, balls-to-the-walls Hollywood blockbusters. Here's what he's been watching.