An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film, The Insult establishes itself from the start as a work of high technical skill and intense personal drama.
Director/co-writer Ziad Doueiri’s attention-grabbing camerawork melds an energetic use of tracking shots as characters walk — often quickly, mirroring the story’s initial frantic nature — down streets and corridors, and when they stand still, he’s prone to zoom in on faces to accentuate the human factor of a story without a lot of players.
Set in politically tense modern-day Beirut, The Insult centers on auto mechanic Tony Hanna (Adel Karam), a member of the Lebanese Christian Party, and his seemingly simple spat with Palestinian construction foreman Yasser Salameh (Kamel El Basha) over a broken drain pipe.
With mostly promising echoes of Asghar Farhadi, the small dispute snowballs to the courtroom, pulling in complications with Tony’s pregnant wife Shirine (Rita Hayek) and a connection between the lawyers for the prosecution (Camille Salameh) and the defense (Diamand Bou Abboud) that add additional layers of intrigue.
But as the lawsuit gains national attention, affecting each man’s life in unexpected ways, Doueiri is unable to fill the increased scope with sufficient creative content and The Insult turns sadly preachy.
The storytelling also grows tiresomely didactic with history lessons and newscasts serving as unimaginative message delivery devices. Worse still are the hoped-for moments of grace, which, instead of making good on the well-crafted seed of the men’s conflict, come off as cheesy, unearned and frankly unbelievable.
Grade: B-minus. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Cohen Media Group)