by / May 3rd, 2013 /

The Gatekeepers

Review by on May 3rd, 2013

 1/5 Rating

Director: Dror Moreh
Cast: Ami Ayalon, Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin
Certificate: TBC
Running Time: 101 minutes
Release Date: May 3rd

If you didn’t know already, war is a pretty dirty game. Collateral damage, justifiable cause and and other such terms routinely roll off the tongues of those in power in thirty second sound-bytes to explain the uglier sides of brutish foreign policy. Rare is it then for those making the calls, the men behind the curtain, to explain their actions. With The Gatekeepers, that’s exactly what documentarian Dror Moreh has set out to capture.

Framing itself around six interviews with the six living former heads of Shin Bet—the equivalent of an Israeli MI5—The Gatekeepers covers everything from the Six-Day War of 1967 to the Oslo Accords, the Second Intifada and many assassinations up to the present day. What Moreh has done is not only provide an astonishing and candid representation of Israeli homeland security and foreign policy, but of greater global conflicts themselves. 

Moreh claimed that Errol Morris’ The Fog of War—a movie constructed around a long interview with former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara—played a huge part in his decision to make a movie about the heads of Shin Bet. Ironically, it is another Morris film, The Thin Blue Line, that The Gatekeepers’ slow, steady and almost soporific style lends itself to.

Moreh adds to his six primary interviews with well selected archive footage and stunning digital recreations—highlighted amazingly in its depiction of the Bus 300 Affair as photos taken from the scene are seamlessly augmented with hyper-realistic computer graphics. A later recreation shot from the perspective of a soldier’s helmet-cam is eerily reminiscent of the thrilling climax of Zero Dark Thirty; haunting satellite imagery gives a constant sense of dread and imminent destruction.

What is possibly most surprising about Moreh’s interviews, aside from how candid they are with information, is how much their jobs have taken from the interviewees. They all claim that people see war in black and white while it was their role to work within the greys. “There’s no morality in war”, claims Yaakov Peri, head of the Shin Bet from 1988-1985. Others claim to have had their political ideologies completely reversed once they were removed from the theatre of conflict; one notes how Israel’s occupation of Palestine is not unlike what the Nazis did in Holland and Belgium while Yaakov Peri mentions, “When you retire, you become a bit of a leftist.”

Its existence alone is no mean feat and despite its obvious political leanings, The Gatekeepers is an expertly crafted analysis of insidious warfare of the past, present and future.