“Free Zone”

Free Zone

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
May 30, 2007

An ambitious film with both political and emotional agendas, Free Zone stars Natalie Portman as an American woman living in Jerusalem whose quest for adventure and escape leads to serious consequences. Rebecca (Portman), newlyt broken up with her fiancé, has a chance encounter with a cab driver named Hanna (played by Hanna Laslo, who won best actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her work in this film) finds Rebecca accompanying her to the Free Zone–a tax-free area in northeast Jordan–so Hanna can collect money from a businessman who owes her husband.

Instead of finding the businessman, they encounter a mysterious Palestinian woman who joins them on their journey. It would be too easy to write this film off as a politically tinged Thelma & Louise.

As the women argue about Israeli-Palestinian issues, we sense that there is imminent danger. And that suspense ultimately carries more impact than the dialogue, which is well intentioned but often misguided. Portman is gorgeous and does a fine job emoting (and crying), but this is really Laslo’s movie. Appropriately passionate and stoic, she adds dignity (and at times humor) to a film that is thought provoking, but flawed.

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