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The Insult – Movie Review

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The Insult – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy The Archive

The Insult showcases how a small event or disagreement can trigger something larger that could have been avoided had both sides put their egos in check from the beginning. Director/co-writer Ziad Doueiri crafts an unpredictable story that takes a number of turns and provides characters it is unashamed of depicting in the wrong. The courtroom drama that develops is a compelling one from start to finish, cleverly showing cross examinations that don’t necessarily provide the easiest solutions. This is a film where we’re not necessarily rooting for an individual, but rather a peaceful resolution to the poisonous words uttered by two angry people.

The title of The Insult is fitting in how the movie shows that words have power. In bursts of anger, we can offend and demoralize those and reveal something about ourselves. Doueiri doesn’t waste time in showing the animosity between the car mechanic Tony and the construction foreman Yasser. The screenplay, also credited to Joelle Touma, provides the proper character development in establishing their religious and cultural differences. The film subtlely shows Tony’s political views and Yasser’s distinction as an refugee. The film also tests our idea of who is truly in the right. There are a number of cleverly directed scenes that show their standing in society. There is a particularly good moment in a courtroom with a judge attempting to be fair to the situation and get every angle of their confrontation. Yet both remain silent, as if they know the harm of Tony’s remarks.

Even the characters themselves have differing opinions over who is in the wrong. When Tony’s family unit is impacted, it’s not to gain sympathy from the audience, but rather to up the stakes. The lawyers have their own battles, played to somewhat humourous effect. Eventually, Tony and Yasser become the pawns between an older respected attorney and a young woman lawyer wanting to prove herself. Eventually, the story shifts gears in focusing on the courtroom drama between the lawyers. The prodding is no longer from their clients. Doueiri and his director of photography Tommaso Fiorilli  film the trial scenes as if they were action sequences and they prove to be just as exciting as any car chase.

There is certainly a religious and cultural subtext with Doueiri specifically commenting on the divide between two marginalized groups in Lebanon. Even with little knowledge about the situation in Lebanon, the proper context is provided to understand the growing animosity between the two leads and why that eventually spills outside of the courtroom. However, The Insult isn’t in your face about its message and doesn’t point them towards a specific interpretation. Every viewer will walk away with their own idea of who is in the right or in the wrong in this confrontation. That there are two central conflicts we are witnessing (between the lawyers as well as the one with Tony and Yasser) only makes the story that much more interesting.

The confrontation that breaks out in The Insult is a violent one, but the film shows that doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Words can be violent, too. This is an involving film with clever dialogue that can take on multiple meanings, depending on who is delivering it. The cast makes the whole conflict believable with Ziad Doueiri guiding them along the way. The snowball effect portrayed here is effectively done and most people should understand the geo-politics in the film. It is almost difficult to further discuss the plot structure of The Insult without using spoilers, which shows how well Doueiri surprises the audience.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison