Review: ‘Golda’

Hellen Mirren Shines As Israel’s Prime Minister During The Yom Kippur War

Because our school’s social studies programs barely teach history anymore, some may not even know about the founding of the nation of Israel, the many troubles and wars they had to endure as a brand new nation, and how they are now a centerpiece for geopolitics in the Middle East in the present day, for good or for bad. While the State of Israel is almost always in a constant state of war readiness, in their infancy they had to deal with numerous wars with their Arab neighbors including the Arab-Israeli War, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the subject of director Guy Nattiv’s latest film Golda, the Yom Kippur War as Golda focuses on Israel’s first (and only) female Prime Minister Golda Meir as she navigates a war on all sides from Egypt and Syria.

Golda starts off with Golda Meir (Helen Mirren) facing an inquiry about possible failures of her leadership during the war, and then the audience is brought on a journey through the war from the politician while she is trying to lead her country out of a crisis. She smokes up to 70 cigarettes a day, so it’s no secret that she’s battling cancer in secret, and low and behold, a war on her country’s borders isn’t gonna help her in any way. After receiving an intelligence briefing that Syria and Egypt have amassed at their borders over a territorial dispute from the Six-Day War, she’s flung into action and must stand strong with her leadership to ensure her country’s survival.

Of course, she makes tactical mistakes at the beginning of the war, which ends up costing young soldiers their lives (hence the inquiry), and has to rely on her friendship with Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber) over here in the States for support, weapons, and intelligence assistance. But of course, America has its own interests (the need for oil and avoiding nuclear war with Russia if the war spreads), which creates a complicated relationship between the United States and Israel. Kinninger even says he’s a US diplomat first, then a US citizen, then a Jew when talking with Golda Meir. Ultimately as we all know, a cease-fire and peace accord was struck, which allowed Israel to be recognized as a nation-state and have relationships with Egypt and Syria, which remain to this day. We’re still working on complete Middle East Peace, but this war was a starting block.

Throughout the course of Golda, we are treated to the ins and outs of military strategy meeting with Meir and her security council as they try and launch counter-offensives, rescue fallen soldiers, and try to find a way to negotiate a peace treaty with Egypt and Syria. This makes Golda a smaller movie as we almost barely see any military action in the film. It’s very reminiscent of Thirteen Days, which focused on the strategy and politics of war instead of showing the war itself.

Golda also shows archival footage that slices the real-life participants in the conflict, but other times shows the actors in obviously false archival footage. Director Guy Nattiv should have probably stuck with either showing the “real” historical archival footage or recreated archival footage, but doing both was a mistake as it could possibly confuse the audience. While the actors all do a fine job (especially Helen Mirren who is great in everything she does), a dramatized film about these events might not have been the best choice. Either a dramatic limited series (to truly flesh out the timeline of the war and not limit it to a 100-minute film) or a good old-fashioned documentary about the events would probably work better at telling the entire story of the Yom-Kippur War.

Golda works as it helps inform the viewer about a little bit of global history, but it doesn’t hit the nail on the head in regard to being a biopic about a fascinating historical figure. Because the film is about the war and not necessarily about Meir, it doesn’t succeed at exploring either in depth. However, Helen Mirren always understands the assignment and doesn’t know how to phone it in ever. She’s captivating as Meir and elevates Golda through her performance. She allowed to bring some gravitas to a leader during wartime, faced with impossible decisions, and ultimately made the world a better place for it.

Golda is currently available in select theaters.