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Movie Review: Valley of the Wolves: Palestine (Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin)

January 18, 2011

“What did you think? It looks just like a Hollywood movie, right?”

This was the recurring theme  whenever I talked to somebody involved in the movie. A lot more money was being plugged into the film; some US$10 million. A small Turkish town in the southeast was turned into the West Bank. Alemdar and crew were taking on an international issue, not their standard enemies that would be recognizable only to a Turkish audience. The producers were taking this one seriously, knowing that it would get  international play once it came out to theatres on 28 January.

I was asked to help with the film so I came here to do a review. Let me start it by saying, yes, it’s just like Hollywood. People can holler politics all they want (which is why you even care…it’s not like I reviewed Eyvah Eyvah) but it’s a well shot action movie. I mean, some of the actors are wooden and plot holes are covered with band-aids. But shit gets blown up. It’s an action movie. If I was 10 years younger, it would quite possibly be something special. It is, actually, Boondock Saints with tan people.

The man literally does not blink

The plot is, well, something. Moshe ben Eliezer is some sort of nefarious force within the Israeli military apparatus who is responsible for the Mavi Marmara incident. So Polat and his compatriots, Memati and Abdulhey, come to Israel (or rather, Palestine, as Polat says early on) to kill him. They meet up with Abdullah (you know he’s Palestinian because he wears a scarf!) and the killing begins. Meanwhile, they sorta/kinda come up with a reason why all of what they want is conveniently in Palestine and they rescue/change the mind of this American Jewish tour guide and she ends up wearing a headscarf of sorts and gets lectured about how “real women don’t take pills.”

And the dastardly plot doesn’t make the most sense. The Israeli logic follows:

  1. There are too many Arabs in Israel, a Jewish Nation
  2. So A Greater Israel from “The Euphrates to the Nile” must exist
  3. So magic bullets must be sold in Africa
  4. And given to West Bank settlers, too

But hey, we’re not selling jeans and we’re not making a psychological thriller.  People die, mostly by bullets.  Polat does get a tank at one point, and an RPG at another. He also is a magnet for little children, which is kind of odd considering how he’s always in the middle of a fight and doesn’t have much in the way of emotion. He’s also getting a bit old and you can see some grey hairs.

The point is, this is an action movie. Abdulhey and Memati try and crack jokes, but they mostly just humorlessly kill bad guys. This is standard for Valley of the Wolves, which has also gone against the Turkish Deep State and Americans in Iraq. Basically, they fight and kill the Enemy of the Turkish People du jour. Which is now “rogue elements in the Israeli Military establishment” and, as the movie takes pains to note, not Jews.

There’s also a random Sufi interlude and the Sufis – or maybe Qizilbas – may or may not be double agents or something like that. But any teeth gnashing at Valley of the Wolves: Palestine misses the point. It’s an action movie. And it will be a fantastically successful one, too. Because if there’s one thing that’s resonant with a young, male, population, its stone-faced men shooting the crap out of some abstract Other.

It’s difficult to get upset about an action film. There are bad guys. Some days, they’ll resemble you, and some days, they won’t. Tacking the success of a movie to a sort of national hatred is most likely mistaking correlation for causation. Action movies are made to make money, not to make a point. “Turkey is surrounded by enemies” is one of the most common themes in Turkish pedagogy. Selling that myth isn’t exactly refrigerators for Eskimos.

There’s only one thing I truly took issue to. And it involves a minor spoiler.

Smaller than this one, for sure

The main baddie gets shot in the eye. This is bad for him, but he shakes it off with nothing but a menacing neck crack. But for the rest of the movie, he has an eye patch. Which is too bad, because then he starts to infringe on the coolest brand manager Jews have to offer.

Besides looking not a little like my Grandpa in a pirate costume, Moshe Dayan was one of those maverick Kibbutznik Israelis that never really fit into any comfortable stereotype. I always loved the line about him that he woke up with 100 ideas every morning. 95 were dangerous, 3 were bad, and 2 were brilliant. He had complex political beliefs, went through women like undershirts, was an amateur archaeologist, and had a gully eyepatch that he wore. And even before that eyepatch, he rocked a Ataturk-esque Kalpak.

Any connection between him and some random arms dealer with a ponytail is, I hope, purely coincidential.

So I’m sorry if it’s not a bombastic enough review. The fact is, its a Turkish Rambo. There is nothing wrong with that. There are some genuinely quality production values thrown into this movie. It’s a great movie for a teenage boy, as I mentioned. But as far as anti-Semetic propaganda? Come on. The producer of the movie is half-Jewish. The rumors of the demise of Turkey into Nazi Germany are greatly exaggerated.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anders Johansen permalink
    February 20, 2013 9:35 pm

    There’s a joke: Begin can’t remember who he is going to meet. B’s wife is fead up with all those political meeting with the result that she is beeing neglected sexually. She decides to seduce Begin but nothing succeeds Then she decides to play it rough: with one of her sexiest out-fits she goes for it. There’s no reaction from Begin until she pulls down her black bra so to expose her one breast. “Ah, Moshe Dayan” Begin cries out 😀

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