Whilst it may not have picked up the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy-Awards last night, it’s safe to say that you won’t see any film this year quite like Samuel Maoz’s Israeli drama Foxtrot.


When Daphna (Sarah Adler) and Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) find out the tragic news that their son, Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray), was killed in the line of duty, the pair have to grieve and come to terms with this. In essence, that is Foxtrot in a nutshell - to reveal any more would be a disservice to the film. Because Foxtrot is best left in the dark; it's one of the most surprising films of the year. This is a story that subverts all expectations and traditions of cinema and puts a wildly unconventional spin on the three-act structure - keeping its cards close to its chest until the very end. It’s a film that leaves a subtle trail of breadcrumbs for the sharp viewers, those that may start putting the pieces together before the film's revelations are made – but, even they will be taken aback by the time the credits have rolled.

The film is thick with an air of ambiguity, grief, and humour; Maoz is excellent in establishing the tone and building a wholly immersive atmosphere. He holds us in scenes; he lets the camera and dialogue linger to subliminal effect. But the world and the characters are so superbly crafted here; the screenplay is rife with nuance in its realisation and we are immersed in the world that Maoz has built here. It’s a film that deals with the ideas of grief and warfare superbly; again, juggling with these themes in unconventional ways. The performances are superb too; Ashkenazi, especially, gives such emotionally charged – yet provocatively subdued – work here. It’s very expressive work, conveying a lot through few words. He’s matched by Adler who is the opposite; she’s explosive and emotionally volatile and conveys her emotion through her dialogue and her furious back-and-forth with Ashkenazi. The clashing makes them a perfect pair, a tour de force duo, and they’re riveting to watch.

It’s hard to really talk too much about Foxtrot without giving much away; this is just the kind of film you must see to believe. It’s surreal; the rare character piece in which every character is sympathetically misguided. It’s a slow-paced film, yes; it takes its time to establish its story but it’s executed so sharply and so subliminally that the film remains wholly captivating to watch throughout. The finesse in Maoz’s craft is masterful; he has crafted a film that is so provocative and powerful yet one that is so original, unconventional and unpredictable. It’s a universal story about grief and family and done superbly. The orchestration of tone and tension is impeccable, blending some hilarious moments of comedy to provide respite from the dark material Maoz throws at us. It looks visually arresting too – with such careful and beautiful cinematography. The technicality on display is that to be hailed and praised for years – the kind of detailed work that deserves analysis and years of unpacking. What starts as a seemingly simple story about family becomes something so unexpected, idiosyncratic and flat-out astonishing beyond belief. And, believe the hype about the dance scene because it is something else! The phrase "unlike anything you've ever seen" is one often tossed around fairly loosely when discussing great films but, honestly, Foxtrot really is quite unlike anything you have ever seen.

Foxtrot subverts all cinematic conventions and expectations to make for one of the year's most surprising, most provocative and flat-out astonishing releases. Samuel Maoz, hats off to you.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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