Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
February 21, 2013
**1/2 (out of four)
Before the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers,” members of Israel’s secret service known as the Shin Bet had never given interviews. So why were they willing to participate in this film? Why is it now OK to give an inside look into former missions and the feelings of the former heads of the operation?
Director Dror Moreh’s film does not answer these questions, nor does it do a particularly good job of providing context for the never-ending conflict between Israel and Palestine. Moreh relies primarily on the stories of, and his own interviews with, six former heads of the Shin Bet. This alternately provides fascinating accounts of ethical complexity, such as a case in which a rare attempt to consider collateral damage resulted in nearly all the targets surviving, and thinly sketched observations that require a lot more information about who these guys are, how they were chosen and what it was like to be in the organization.
“The Gatekeepers” poses difficult questions about the luxury of a moral high ground against an enemy that delights in the creation of suffering, but it does not feel nearly as nuanced or well-researched as “Zero Dark Thirty.” It’s impossible not to respond to accounts of the Shin Bet trying to deter the orders of extremist rabbis or stories of inaccurate intelligence that leads to the deaths of innocents.
Yet the film is lacking enough in information that I couldn’t help but look at one elderly former head of the Shin Bet and think, “People may have been scared of you then, but the only frightening thing about you now is the hair leaping out of your nose.” It doesn't derail the movie or anything, but producers really should have demanded those weeds be cut before shooting.
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