AJFF What to Watch: Films About Revenge

08/11/2020

Served hot or cold, the world of seeking revenge and the subsequent consequences that come from it are explored in these narrative films. Film titles are linked with information on where to watch.

Ajami
A gritty, urban crime drama brimming with raw energy and razor-sharp insights, this drama tells the interwoven stories of Jewish, Muslim and Christian neighbors living in bloody disharmony in an impoverished Jaffa neighborhood. The sweeping cast of characters—illegal workers, gangs, drug dealers, revenge squads, corrupt police, clandestine lovers—are all vividly portrayed by non-professional actors who are actual residents. Their disparate stories are tied together by a revenge killing and drug deal gone bad. Shuttling back and forth through time, interlocking events are witnessed through the eyes of different characters, thus changing audience perceptions and responses. The film is co-directed by Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers, Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti, a statement in itself. Featured at the 2010 AJFF.

The Debt
This 2010 film is a remake of a 2007 alternate history, thriller film Ha-Hov. The story centers around former Mossad agents who must re-visit a former mission, involving the capture of a Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau. Part of the film's suspense lives in the story's parallel track, unfolding both in the past and present. The remake stars powerhouse female leads Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren.

Inglourious Basterds 
With this "what might have been" fictional narrative, writer and director Quentin Tarantino snagged his highest-grossing film at that point in his career (It would later be surpassed by Django Unchained). The film follows two plotlines in Nazi-occupied France during World War II where a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner's vengeful plans for the same.

Munich
Produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, this historical action thriller is based on the true story of the Black September aftermath and co-written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth. Based on the 1984 book Vengeance by George Jonas, an account of Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. The film features an all-star cast and received five Oscar nominations.

Operation Finale
Based on a true story, the film, with a cast starring Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley, takes place in 1960 as Mossad agent Peter Malkin embarks on a covert mission to track down Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi mastermind behind the transportation logistics that brought millions of Jews to their deaths during the Holocaust.

Remember
Academy Award-winner Christopher Plummer is a dementia-stricken Holocaust survivor out for revenge in master director Atom Egoyan's supremely suspenseful thriller featured as Opening Night of the 2016 AJFF. Burdened with memory loss and his beloved wife's recent passing, 90-year-old Zev Guttman (Plummer) is in a race against time to find personal catharsis and overdue justice. Having seemingly suppressed the wartime horrors of decades earlier, he is prompted to track down his fugitive Nazi tormentor by fellow Auschwitz survivor Max (Martin Landau), a wheelchair-bound resident of their New York City nursing home. Seizing on an elaborate mission of vengeance, Zev embarks on a cross-country odyssey to find the former commander responsible for murdering their families, who they now believe to be living somewhere in the country under an assumed identity. As Zev closes in on his target, his manhunt is complicated by his own constantly crumbling sense of self, leading inexorably to a shocking climax.

Winter Hunt
On a mission of vigilante justice, a young woman goes to extremes to seek reprisal against a suspected ex-Nazi, in this psychological thriller featured at the 2018 AJFF. Driving on a deserted highway through the German countryside, Lena (Carolyn Genzkow) arrives
at the Rossberg’s remote estate, as nightfall descends. Feigning a car accident, she begs for help from the deeply apprehensive Maria (Elisabeth Degen), who reluctantly agrees to invite her in. But Lena’s plea is a ruse to confront the aged patriarch Anselm Rossberg (Michael Degen), a former Auschwitz guard accused of war crimes. Lena’s efforts to extract a confession at gunpoint result in a twisted cat-and-mouse game, as the three characters enter a standoff fraught with moral complexities and shocking rev- elations. Powerhouse performances and a taut script fuel this edge-of-the-seat chamber drama about wartime guilt and culpability across generations.