By Owen Gleiberman
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:40 AM EDT
Credit: Walk on Water: Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films

Walk on Water

  • Movie

If Steven Spielberg still has any roles to fill in his upcoming docudrama about the 1972 Israeli hostage crisis and its aftermath (the movie is now set to begin shooting this summer), he should make a definite point of seeing Walk on Water; Lior Ashkenazi, who stars in it as an emotionally buttoned-down Mossad agent, has the debonair subtlety and charisma of an Israeli Clive Owen. Fresh off a mission in which he assassinated a Hamas leader, Ashkenazi’s Eyal, who is based in Tel Aviv, receives an undercover assignment: He is ordered to pose as a personal tour guide to get to know a pair of Germans, the newly expatriated Pia (Carolina Peters) and her brother, Axel (Knut Berger), who is visiting her from Berlin. Their grandfather, a Nazi, is rumored to be alive and hiding in Argentina, and Eyal is supposed to suss out information that could lead to his whereabouts.

Ashkenazi, who is wary-eyed, olive-skinned, and hawkishly handsome, plays Eyal as a man of lightning physical reflexes (he has the fearless flair of a thriller cop) who has carried this quality over into a kind of ruthless snap-judgment ideology. He’s smooth and possessed but also terse and quick-tempered — a cool spook with a short fuse. As he gets to know Axel, who is his temperamental opposite (delicate, magnanimous, and gay), he forms a bond with him, yet he also resents the young German for his liberal view of the Palestinians. The movie unveils a startling psycho-political insight: that Eyal, who is sick and tired of rehashing the Holocaust, has neurotically projected all of his primal Jewish rage against the Nazis onto the Arab world. Can he begin to release that anger? Walk on Water is at times too movieish (I didn’t entirely buy the friendship), yet Ashkenazi creates a memorable figure: a spy who operates — admirably — out of the most unyielding nationalist conviction, only to learn that he needs to let some of that conviction go.

Walk on Water

  • Movie
  • 104 minutes
  • Eytan Fox