Quiet, reflective, and somber, director Guy Nattiv’s Golda relates to us the unanticipated conflict that occurred during the years Golda Meir served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. An elderly woman at that juncture, Meir (Helen Mirren) intended solely to keep the Prime Minister’s seat warm for the next lion of labor; this would turn out to be Yitzchak Rabin. She was not expecting or hoping for a conflict with Israel’s two prime antagonists: Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Hafez Al-Assad of Syria. Both men had grievances.
In the six-day war, the northern battalions of Israel had confiscated the Golan Heights, the preferred Syrian high ground for shelling Israel with rocket fire. In that same conflict, the southern forces of Israel successfully annexed the Sinai Peninsula, taking it away from Egypt. Clearly, both countries harbored great animosity towards Israel. The confiscation of their respective attack zones against Israel? Unforgivable. Thus, they decided to sneak attack on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, October 5, 1973.
What I greatly enjoy about Golda is the framing device writer Nicholas Martin employs. The Ministry of Inquiry, Agranat, investigated Prime Minister Meir and her office following the events of the Yom Kippur War because more Israeli lives had been lost than in the 1948 war or the Six Day War. There was an expectation of malfeasance that the Prime Minister had acted rashly. As Meir calmly walks us and the inquiry board through the 25 days of the Yom Kippur War, it’s quite clear the only issue was choosing not to strike first so as not to provoke the United States to stop supporting Israel.
“…Meir calmly walks us and the inquiry board through the 25 days of the Yom Kippur War…”
Mirren embodies the central personality effortlessly. A few times, I was convinced she was the actual fourth prime minister of Israel on screen. The hallmarks of the historical Golda Meir are the chain-smoking, the overreliance on a hardworking aide, and the practical, no-nonsense quips. Lior Ashkenazi provides a wonderful performance as the main strategist for the Yom Kippur defense, David “Dado” Elazar. And I very much enjoyed Daniel Ben Zenou’s take on Avner Shalev and his wry observations of how military intelligence worked.
Nattiv directed a film that focuses not on the battlegrounds in the Sinai or Northern Israel but rather on the conflict unfolding in boardrooms across Tel Aviv. The various strategy and conflict management sessions are fascinating to behold. Here, we see how a small country with huge impediments to fighting a war placed upon it by its allies functions. This was an elucidating and revealing contemplation on how a caretaker prime minister operates when the very survival of her nation is on the line.
Golda should be considered a companion piece to Sadat. Here we have the Israeli member of the pair of world leaders who decided to stop fighting and start making peace on behalf of their grandchildren. I especially loved the small scene where we see Meir hand Sadat a gift for his newborn granddaughter. Ultimately, this drama is an essential piece of cinematic contemplation on the value of war. It’s worth your time to watch it either in the theater or eventually on streaming.
"…an essential piece of cinematic contemplation on the value of war."