Cup Final Review

Image for Cup Final

Every time British fans invade some hapless European city, we're reminded that international football is a thinly-veiled form of modern warfare, an analogy further explored in this gripping Israeli feature set in 1982 when the World Cup in Spain coincided with Israel's invasion of the Lebanon.

Prevented from going to watch the finals when he's called up, Israeli reservist Sergeant Cohen (Ivgi) has another stroke of bad luck when he's captured by a PLO unit. As they smuggle him cross-country to Beirut, where he'll be used as a hostage, however, their shared interest in the trials and tribulations of the Italian team forms a bond between prisoner and captors, whose common language, very conveniently for us, is English.

As the action counts down to the inevitable "final", the film follows through its sporting metaphor in a succession of wry situations: kicking a football through a minefield; a tense game of pool in a bombed-out amusement arcade where each ball potted stands for an Israeli town; and, most poignantly, poor Cohen having to use his precious big-match tickets as toilet paper.

At the centre of the movie, however, is the fragile friendship that develops between Cohen, engagingly played by the diminutive Ivgi, and Ziad, the steely-eyed leader of the Palestinians. With the action hurried along from one tight spot to the next by director Riklis (a graduate of Blighty's very own National Film School), this manages to be exciting, touching and politically even-handed.