Policeman Is a Slow-Burning Marvel


Arriving in theaters more than two years after being named the best undistributed film of 2011 by the Village Voice, Nadav Lapid’s Policeman deftly examines the physical and spiritual fallout of ideology turning into action.

Yaron (Yiftach Klein) is the leader of an elite counter-terrorist squad in Israel, as well as husband to a wife whose pregnancy he doesn’t want to jinx by discussing too openly; as they’re often wont to, these two aspects of his life prove impossible to compartmentalize.

To say that the ensuing drama moves at a snail’s pace runs the risk of offending any slugs who might be reading, but the incremental changes Yaron and his cohorts undergo are something of a slow-burning marvel to behold. Lapid is so unconcerned with crafting a conventional crime drama that merely titling his film Policeman reads as a minor subversion, a way of defining the narrative in relation to a genre it hardly fits into.

This distinct approach also makes the propulsive incidents, when they do arise, all the more gripping. Near the end, a mundane wedding photo shoot abruptly turns into a hostage situation; the scene feels dire as soon as it’s begun.

Lapid avoids bluster even here, framing the climactic raid as something more elegiac than triumphant — a no-other-choice response to be met with misty eyes rather than shouts of victory.