After decades of brutal and bloody conflict in Israel and Palestine, a solution has been made. There will be a soccer match between teams from both sides, and the winner will lay claim to the entire country. Unsurprisingly, this provocative decision does not sit well with many in the region. The chairman of Israel’s soccer federation (Moshe Ivgy), as well as his Palestinian counterpart (Norman Issa), face enormous pressure. From arguments over picking referees to the legitimacy of an Arab Israeli on the Palestinian team, the lead-up to the match is full of tension. That’s what happens when the future of the Middle East is at stake.
The 90 Minute War boasts an intriguing idea that is too implausible to work as sharp satire. Eyal Halfon’s film, shot like a mockumentary, gives room for the actors to finesse some deadpan comedy. (Ivgy and Issa downplay the craziness, which actually makes certain scenes funnier.) But despite a solid opening third, the story cannot sustain enough comic momentum. When the pacing lags, one is left to mull the validity of the situation onscreen. Ultimately, one cannot suspend disbelief in the premise for too long.
Meanwhile, the film is careful not to offend anyone – and as a result, both Israelis and Palestinians get off too easily. The barbs directed at both parties are weak. This lack of nerve among the screenwriters (adapting a book by Itay Meirson) leads to a disappointing, abrupt ending. Filmmakers from Israel, such as Eran Riklis, have used sports as a tool to explore the humanism and common interests of both peoples in the region. But, The 90 Minute War isn’t clever enough to look at this theme in an illuminating way.