by Hope Madden
The Agranat Commission, a 1974 panel investigating the intelligence mishap that left Israel unprepared for the 1973 Yom Kippur War, creates the framing device for Guy Nattiv’s latest, Golda.
The venerable Helen Mirren dons sensible shoes, knits heavy brows and chain smokes her way through a terrific performance inside a superficial, if perfectly time stamped, historical drama. As Prime Minister Golda Meir, Mirren stands out, not only because the film delivers constant opportunities for the Oscar winner to showcase her skills. Mirren is a movie star and Nattiv films her as one – lengthy close ups, moments of vulnerability, moments of breathtaking savvy, crushing failure and overwhelming grief.
Her performance is never showy. But the direction is.
Much has been made of the fact that the English actor was perhaps an inappropriate choice to play Israel’s first woman Prime Minister. Mirren is capable, of course – she is an amazing talent. But she is hard to miss as Helen Mirren in the war room surrounded by Israeli actors including Lior Ashkenazi (as Chief of Staff David Elazar), Rami Heuberger (as Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan) and Dvir Benedek (as disgraced General Eli Zeira).
But Mirren’s appropriateness is not the problem with this film. Her performance certainly isn’t. The problem with Golda is how inexplicably bland it is. Writer Nicholas Martin penned the delightful Florence Foster Jenkins after a career in TV, but neither suggest a knack for nail-biting suspense, which is what this film both required and deserved.
Golda is no biopic. Indeed, the decision to include archival news footage of Meir only demonstrates how poorly this film captured the spirit of the Prime Minister.
It’s not a war movie by any stretch – there’s no action to speak of – and as a political thriller, it’s a bit too plodding to keep your attention. Frustrating is what it is.