We’re all the same don’t you know? Jews, Arabs, Americans. All the same. All have compassion, all love their families, all fall in love. That is the heart-warming message of political, yes political, action thriller Fire Over Israel, also known as A House Divided and Language of the Enemy (what’s in a name? you might be inclined to ask…). A film that attempts to combine the combustible tension between Israel and Palestine with an insipid, saccharine romantic comedy, all in a story based on both actual events and Romeo and Juliet.
Romi (Eion Bailey) is an American-Jew, a bad Jew according to one sniffy airport security officer, who travels to Israel upon hearing of his father’s death. An Arabic-speaker, although it only really happens once to establish the fact, Romi is somehow recruited by Israeli special forces for an intelligence mission. The mission soon goes awry as love at first sight overpowers all. Romi now needs to escape the clutches of the Palestinian forces and find a way to overcome prejudice to be with Joleh (Linda Hardy). Fire Over Israel is based on actual events in the same way that the Titanic was a real boat that did actually sink.
Romi’s love for Joleh is instantaneous. After only 5 days and one kiss he has intentions to marry so fierce that nothing will stop his will. He’s a newly recruited Israeli intelligence officer and she’s the daughter of a high ranking Palestine official, but really, deep down, they are all just the same. The romantic parts are a little awkward but would be much more palatable if they weren’t sandwiched between scenes clearly meant to look like a realistic depiction of the troubles experienced in this region.
Yes, Romeo and Juliet is a story that needs the conflict of two sides to make sense, but Fire Over Israel doesn’t come with the required gravitas to get away with it. The film not only balks at *plot spoiler ahoy* the real tragedy in the denouement, Joleh doesn’t commit suicide when Romi dies *plot spoiler over*, it also doesn’t have anything real to say about the Israel-Palestine situation, which is the only way in which such a film could have been effectively handled. ‘We’re all the same really’ in no way does justice to the complex and deep-rooted problems it tries to cover.
In the wake of this it seems pointless to pick at the film for the small things it does wrong, in actual fact they tend to make it more enjoyable. The horridly cheesey, and sometimes creepy, lines, “Now if I die in my sleep, I’ll die with your breath inside me” or ridiculous plot points and action make up in some small part for the rest of the film. F. Murray Abraham puts in an admirable performance as Joleh’s blind grandfather, giving it full pelt despite the surrounding film; the rest of the cast do a passable job, it’s a solidly made film all told, just one that doesn’t quite work.
Solidly made, but Fire Over Israel struggles to demand you recommend or re-watch it. Despite having ambition to tackle weighty subject matter, it ends up serving you a fluffy, hollow tale, entertaining in parts, but ultimately a film that falls into mediocrity.
Director: Mitch Davis
Main Cast: Eion Bailey, Linda Hardy, F. Murray Abraham
Extras : Only the trailer.
Running Time: 105 minutes