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Review: 'Follow Me' honors the late Yoni Netanyahu

'Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story' is a documentary celebrating the Israeli national hero and brother of Benjamin Netanyahu who was killed in Uganda in 1976.

June 22, 2012|By Sheri Linden
  • A pause in battle, Mt. Hermon, Yom Kippur War, October 1973
A pause in battle, Mt. Hermon, Yom Kippur War, October 1973 (NETANYAHU FAMILY )

The new documentary from Jonathan Gruber and Ari Daniel Pinchot, "Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story," pays tribute to one ofIsrael'snational heroes.

The biography of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's older brother bears a broad resemblance to that of Joseph Kennedy Jr.: firstborn, handsome and charismatic, a military hero and presumed political leader who died young. Yonatan Netanyahu was killed at Entebbe Airport, in Uganda, after leading the successful hostage-rescue mission there in July 1976.

Much of the world followed the pro-Palestinian hijacking and subsequent commando raid, which turned out to be a key moment in Israeli history. Yet the events, evoked through news coverage, play out with little tension in a film whose chief concern is to laud a man already held in high esteem.

The directors intercut the story of the siege with reminiscences of Netanyahu — two threads worth following, but missing an effective balance and a broader context, especially a sense of Netanyahu's political legacy.

"Follow Me" makes clear that his responsibility toward his still-young country was a kind of calling: He was, by all accounts, "marked for glory," as one of his fellow soldiers puts it. Always torn between academic pursuits and Zionist ideals, he left Harvard to return to his homeland.

Talking-head interviews offer few memorable insights. But Netanyahu's letters, read with sensitivity by actor Marton Csokas, help to fill in gaps with their vivid and thoughtful poetics, whether he's discussing the horrors of war, his nostalgia for Jerusalem in the '50s or his outsider's view of "empty, meaningless life" in the States.

"Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story." No MPAA rating; in English and Hebrew with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. At Laemmle's Monica 4-plex, Santa Monica; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Claremont 5, Claremont; Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.

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