Directed by Guy Nattiv.
Starring Helen Mirren, Liev Schreiber, Camille Cottin, Lior Ashkenazi, Ellie Piercy, Ed Stoppard, Rotem Keinan, Dvir Benedek, Dominic Mafham, Kit Rakusen, Emma Davies, Mark Fleischmann, Daniel Ben Zenou, Muneesh Sharma, Sara Matin, Sam Shoubber, Zed Josef, Henry Goodman, Rami Heuberger, and Ben Caplan.
Focuses on the intensely dramatic and high-stakes responsibilities and decisions that Golda Meir, also known as the ‘Iron Lady of Israel’ faced during the Yom Kippur War.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, Golda wouldn’t exist.
Far be it for me to be the authority on whether or not director Guy Nattiv’s and screenwriter Nicholas Martin’s Golda is zionist propaganda or wholly accurate (I will leave those discussions to those well-versed in history and to those who have directly felt the impact and aftermath of the still ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which this film strangely seems to convey as resolved during its epilogue), but what is crystal clear is that the experience is much more effective when it focuses on the details of the battles that took place during the Yom Kippur War of the 1970s rather than overly sentimental, self-aggrandizing hagiography about the eponymous chainsmoking Israeli Prime Minister.
Played by long-standing veteran Helen Mirren, the film follows Golda Meir navigating the complicated and murky war room, immediate-consequence decisions that arise upon brushing off her gut and advice from an eye-patched military leader that Egyptian and Syrian forces will be combined with the aid of Russian assistance to press an attack with the hopes of leaving Israel vulnerable for a hostile takeover. As a result, roughly the first half of Golda (which encompasses all three weeks of this conflict) is fairly compelling, somewhat allowing itself to be critical of this leader and find faults within herself and the dysfunction within her staff shouting different orders in her direction.
Unfortunately, that also seems to be the extent the filmmakers are willing to go in searching for a balanced and measured examination of Golda Meir. The rest amounts to numerous overdramatic close-ups of the Iron Lady of Israel deep in thought, attempting to process the ongoing horrors (complete with frequent cutaways to battle footage meant to convey the visuals in her mind), sometimes getting as absurdly stylish as watching her cigarette smoke blow upward in slow motion for a prolonged effect intending to resemble the smoky aesthetics of a battlefield. None of this is intriguing, often taking away from the much more compelling sounds and reactions of a war room listening into their strategies playing out in real-time, sometimes to disaster and other times to winning effect.
To avoid confusion, Helen Mirren is also nowhere near terrible in this role; it’s just a misguided script that doesn’t seem too concerned with distinguishing Golda as a person. Her acting performance, especially when dealing with multiple strategies flying in her face at once, the pressures of not only being a woman in charge but also finding the conviction at any cost to persuade the rest of the world that she means deadly business as a leader when it comes to protecting her people, and weighing the moral consequences of her choices (while there are some successes, many people also die as a result of her orders, meaning that the film is also broken up with smaller sections of the Israeli prime minister on trial following the immediate aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.)
As a history lesson, Golda is riveting. As a study of Golda Meir, it’s an underdeveloped, melodramatic mess (there’s an entirely useless epilogue in a hospital room driving this point home). Whether it’s truth or in good faith is also up for debate, and there is no denying that the film makes one want to seek more knowledge on the subject of not just the Yom Kippur War, but more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, what is really disappointing is the conflicting tones and purposes within the film itself.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com