GOLDA is a historical drama. Helen Mirren plays Israel’s female Prime Minister Golda Meier as she deals with the crisis of Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Israeli territory during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. Golda gets advance word the day before the attack. So, she calls up 120,000 Israeli soldiers but nixes a pre-emptive strike. Syrian and especially Egyptian troops have early success. What can Israel do to push back the Egyptian troops? Can Golda convince President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to airlift supplies to replace Israel’s material losses?
Though sometimes a little slow, GOLDA is a tense, enthralling historical drama. As Golda Meier, Helen Mirren turns in another tour de force performance of a historical person. GOLDA is a patriotic, conservative movie. It shows that the solution to establishing real peace and preventing future wars is “Peace Through Strength.” GOLDA isn’t just an insightful drama about the
exigencies of political leadership during a time of crisis. It’s also about the agony of having to make difficult decisions that can send young men to their deaths.
(BB, PP, L, M)
Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Strong moral, patriotic worldview in a story about the leader of a country who has to make difficult decisions when her country is invaded on two fronts, in this case Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meier during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which concludes that the best approach to issues of War and Peace is to support Peace Through Strength, as well as to be always prepared and never to be complacent or over-confident
Three “h” obscenities, one “d” word, and someone exclaims, “For God’s sake”
War violence and explosions are shown through satellite and aerial footage, with intense audio reports of panicked troops and of troops who are being attacked and killed while surrounded or in retreat, plus woman becomes so tense in one scene that she digs her fingernails into one hand and draws blood and, in another scene, coughs up blood because three other scenes show her getting radiation treatments for cancer
Elderly woman’s bear back is shown in one scene when her personal aide has to help her get up out bed because the elderly woman is in great pain after her cancer treatment the day before
Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
Lots of smoking by the title character, who’s a chain smoker, and other people smoke too in multiple scenes (the movie takes place in October 1973); and,
A really sad scene occurs when a woman gets word that her young son is among the dead soldiers in a war.
GOLDA stars Helen Mirren, who plays Israel’s female Prime Minister Golda Meier as she deals with the crisis of Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Israeli territory during the Yom Kippur War in October 1973. GOLDA is another tour de force performance by Helen Mirren as a historical figure, in a tense, insightful, patriotic historical drama that explores Egyptian-Israeli relations in 1973, the exigencies of political leadership and the agony of having to make difficult decisions that can get young men killed.
The movie opens with the Prime Minister returning from an overseas trip. As she makes a secret trek to a hospital to get a radiation treatment for the lymphoma cancer wracking her body, Golda gets a special word from her Israeli spy chief. A source in Egypt says President Anwar Sadat is getting ready to launch an attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, against Israeli forces in the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel gained during its spectacular pre-emptive strike against massive Arab forces in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Golda calls a private conference of her top military aids and the spy chief, including Moshe Dayan, the military hero of the Six-Day War. Dayan and the others are skeptical that such an attack is coming. For example, Egypt and Suria regularly like to amass troops along Israel’s borders, just to keep their troops sharp and at the ready. Also, a secret wiretap of Egyptian officials hasn’t revealed any discussion about a planned attack on Yom Kippur, even though tensions are high enough between the countries that war is probably going to break out sometime
in the next six months or so. Finally, the Egyptian double agent, who actually was a billionaire with ties to Egyptian intelligence, had been wrong in May when he said Egypt was about to attack Israeli forces.
Golda has a choice to make. She could call up immediately anywhere from 60,000 to 200,000 Israeli troops to be ready for a potential attack on Yom Kippur. If she calls up too few troops, many more Israelis are likely to die from an attack. However, if she calls up too many, it may just trigger another war sooner rather than later, and earn too much scorn from Israel’s allies, especially the United States, which has been a strong ally over the years. Most of her aids seem to advise her to do nothing, including Dayan. However, Golda decides to call up 120,000 troops for the Yom Kippur holiday. Also, she nixes another pre-emptive strike like the one in 1967, because she doesn’t want people in the United States and elsewhere to blame Israel for striking first. Such blame might deprive Israel of getting future aid from America and elsewhere, just when they may need it the most.
Sure enough, the Egyptian double agent turns out to be right this time. Egypt and Syria do attack on Yom Kippur. Even worse, they initially start having much success in capturing territory and killing or capturing Israeli soldiers. In fact, one group of Israeli soldiers on the Sinai Peninsula becomes trapped. Then, when Golda okays an attack to rescue them, the attack doesn’t go well, and the rescue force has to retreat, losing dozens of men and at least 50 tanks.
The news against Syria becomes much happier, with Israeli forces inching further and further into Syrian territory. News on the Sinai front remains a problem, however.
So, the question becomes, what can Israel do to push back the Egyptian troops? Also, can Golda convince America’s President Richard Nixon, though his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, to airlift supplies to Israel to replace the country’s material losses? Golda’s ace in the hole? The fact that the Soviet Union, America’s communist enemy at the time, was already resupplying Egypt’s forces.
Though a little slow at times, GOLDA is a tense, enthralling historical drama about an important time in the modern history of Israel. As Golda Meier, Helen Mirren turns in another tour de force performance of a historical person, just as she did when she played Queen Elizabeth II in THE QUEEN, which dealt with Elizabeth’s response to the tragic death of Princess Diana. The movie not only shows what happened during the Yom Kippur War, it also shows the aftermath of that war. Eventually, Golda Meier’s approach to the crisis, which ensured Israel’s ultimate success, led to Sadat accepting a cease fire and coming to the peace table. The movie suggests that, ultimately, it led both Sadat and Jewish leaders after Golda’s resigned in 1974 to establish a lasting peace between Egypt and Israel in the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978.
GOLDA is generally a patriotic, relatively conservative movie. It shows that the solution to establishing real peace and preventing future wars is “Peace Through Strength,” having a strong military and negotiating from a position of strength. Although, initially, Golda Meier’s response to the crisis was too weak, the movie suggests she learned from her mistake. Thus, she eventually decides to trust her strongest military leader, Ariel Sharon, to come up with a plan to turn Israel’s fortunes in the Sinai around, even though Sharon was something of an egotist. Then, once Sharon’s troops establish a foothold in Egypt, only 62 miles from Cairo, she starts playing hardball with Sadat through the inevitable cease fire negotiations. According to historical
sources, the ultimate victory of Israel’s military in 1973 proved to Sadat that Egypt could never defeat Israel in a conventional battle.
That said, the movie doesn’t deal with the negative consequences that the event of the Yom Kippur War on Israel’s military and on Golda Meier. For example, several Israeli military leaders had to resign for being too complacent and for not sufficiently training the nation’s miliary and its troops. Also, of course, Golda eventually had to resign in April 1974.
GOLDA isn’t just a historical drama about the exigencies of political leadership during a time of crisis, however. It also deals with the agony of having to make difficult decisions that can send young men to their deaths. For example, in the movie, the son of a secretary in Golda’s office is stationed on the Egyptian front, and Golda is making decisions that could cost the young man his life.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older pre-teenage children from GOLDA. The movie has some intense audio recordings of Israeli soldiers being attacked while surrounded and while in retreat. There are also satellite and aerial visuals of explosions, four light obscenities, three scenes where a bathrobe clothed Golda gets radiation treatments, a traumatic scene where a mother grieves the loss of her son, and lots of cigarette smoking.
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