Right off the bat, the easiest way to describe ‘Eagles’ is as an Israeli ‘Red’ that’s a lot less colorful, a lot more bleak, but about on the same level of humor (whether it be intentional or not). And believe it or not, the two main characters, Efraim (Yossi Polak) and Moshka (Yehoram Gaon) make the aforementioned comic book film’s cast look like spring chickens — so, young. Perhaps if I had had time to read a synopsis of the film before going in, I wouldn’t have been as thrown off by the directional shift that the film experiences as it progresses, but in my ignorance, surprise came.
Efraim and his old buddy, Moshka are a couple of retired military men… super retired. No one has ever been this retired. They are in such a retired state that they are nearing rebirth. These guys are late-70s if they’re a day old. Of the two, Efraim is the more cynical. He hates the idea of being kept alive by medications, he hates the smooth talkers who sell his wife facial creams for her wrinkles, and oh goodness, he hates young people — the look on their faces, their loud parties, etc. Simply put, he’s a “stay off my lawn” type of old man. It takes some prodding from Efraim for Moshka to quite get on board with this point of view. But once he does, things get wild.
The onset of the film has the old man duo hanging out at their favorite cafe when they hear a commotion outside. Someone has been struck by a vehicle and killed. That someone happens to be a romantic interest the two men shared as young comrades, a woman named Tamara. Efraim takes notice of who she is immediately, and diverts Moshka’s attention from taking notice himself. Tamara’s violent end has her seemingly estranged daughter, Dina (Noa Barkai) returning to the city and beginning to dig up her mother’s past that directly relates to her.
So, really, the film has two simultaneous storylines going at once: Efraim and Moshka’s (more so Efraim’s) descent into a sort of machismo madness that sees young people on the other end of the cane; and the drama surrounding Tamara, the relationship she had with the two men in their youth, and how Dina ties into all of this. The two storylines definitely do tie into each other; however, the first greatly overshadows the second, and the whole “dramatic” tie-in of the two just lacks any emotional punch because of the second being underdeveloped. What this movie stands out as is a relatively tame story of misguided vigilantism brought to the surface by emotional scars and insecurities. When watching a film with subtitles, it is more difficult to fully grasp the context, but it is safe to say that some of the humor comes off as fully intentional, whereas other times it comes off as unintentional, only becoming funny because of the level of absurdity of the situation.
What ‘Eagles’ does well is convey the theme of elderly people being completely ignored in society. When not in the presence of someone else who is in their age bracket, Efraim and Moshka are treated like a couple of unseen ghosts. This point is really hammered home late in the film when the two men are, in their minds, on the run from the police after having committed some violent crimes, only to be completely overlooked. Moshka says something to the effect of, “We could be caught with a bastard’s (their term for young, rude people) throat in our hands, and we still wouldn’t be caught, because no one would believe it.”
Along with the constant close-ups of Efraim’s thinking face, which is fantastic, there are a lot of good elements, a lot of potential in director Dror Sabo’s ‘Eagles.’ Unfortunately, what could have been doesn’t make for an entirely satisfying film experience.