For their second Chai Tea Event, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival presents the Canadian premiere of Nadav Lapid‘s film, Policeman . Divided into two sections, Policeman begins with a focus on Yaron (Yiftach Klein) and the other members of an Israeli anti-terrorist unit. His wife is about to give birth, and his group is faced with a legal battle over a mission which resulted in civilian death. Halfway through, the film begins to follow Shira (Yaara Pelzig), a young woman who has become part of a revolutionary group led by Natanel (Michael Aloni). Upset by the class divide in their country, the small group decides to take action and kidnap two billionaires from a wedding. This leads to a bloody finale as Yaron and his men are dispatched to take care of the terrorists.

Although not the original purpose, Policeman was released at almost the exact same time as protests began in Israel over the class divide. The only problem there is that the film treats the revolutionary group as violent, unsure, and undeserving. They are not the poor rising up to try and change their lives. The characters are first shown in a luxurious apartment belonging to Shira’s parents. She curses them for being a part of the problem, but doesn’t see anything wrong with staying there. All the members of the group are rather well off, and it completely undermines their reasoning, making them seem spoiled and foolish.

Yaron and his men are on the complete opposite side. There is a question as to their methods since they’re involved in a legal dispute over the death of innocent people during one of their missions. Viewers are never shown what has happened though, so there’s no way to decide if Yaron is out of control. While the men are certainly full of chest thumping manliness, they’re also concerned about their friend, who is suffering from a brain tumor. Yaron also has a pregnant wife is about to give birth any day. The group is far from the monsters that people may assume they would be.

There shouldn’t be any villain in the film. Yaron is just doing his job while Shira is upset by the gap between rich and poor. Watching the revolutionaries conduct their business out of a fancy apartment makes it very hard to feel anything for them though. We may pity them for their misguided attempt at doing something right, but they’re not likeable for it. The film misses the mark for that reason. Two groups of people doing what is right, and being forced into a confrontation, would be more powerful than one group doing their job against a group that is totally misguided.

Is Policeman Essential Viewing?

With only one chance to see this film right now, it would be a shame to miss out.  The film features incredible acting from all involved, but the way the revolutionaries are portrayed takes away from the message.  That causes it to fall short of being truly powerful, but it’s still an exceptional film.

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