Playing one of history’s most controversial figures is nothing new for Helen Mirren. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II provided unique insight into the balance between Monarch and symbol. She also portrayed the Queen of Gossip, Miss Hedda Hopper, with all the malice and wit she was known for. Yet Golda Meir represents her most controversial icon to date. The politician was well known and regarded throughout many countries but became a lightning rod for controversy inside Israel and the Middle East. In Golda, Mirren wishes to offer a nuanced portrayal of the woman and her struggles during the Yom Kippur War.

After a surprise attack against Israel in October 1973, Israel sprang into action. Not only did thousands of troops die in the weeks-long skirmish, but the world wobbled on the edge of World War III. While negotiating for the mere recognition of Israel by Egyptian and Syrian soldiers, Golda Meir (Mirren), suffered from worsening physical ailments. As she attempts to negotiate the future of her nation, she must also contend with wavering allies.

Golda Mirren

Mirren dons prosthetics and enacts a total physical transformation to embody Meir. On a technical level, it’s quite marvelous. Mirren does not simply let a few physical quirks and a voice define her performance. Instead, she finds simple but effective moments to drive home the emotional state of the Prime Minister. The weight of a country and a people is on her shoulders. This pressure, plus her failing health, gives Mirren plenty of standout moments.

However, this quickly becomes a problem within Golda. Yes, Mirrent dominates the screen and is present for somewhere around eighty percent of the scenes. Yet the other characters feel so undeveloped we wonder why they even join the screen with Golda. Director Guy Nattiv does a great job at developing a fully three-dimensional Golda, but potentially to the detriment of the story.

Nattiv does get a few standout moments himself. He captures the stunning moments of emotion from Mirren with masterful control of the camera. The blocking in these moments is so good we can fully take in her performance. Additionally, a sequence with a radio to the frontlines remains horrifying days after viewing the film. All-in-all, Nattiv does not elevate the material significantly, but he does find the most effective methods to bring the story to life.

Golda Mirren

Liev Schreiber steps into the shoes of Henry Kissinger with extreme poise. One could argue he’s perhaps too stoic to work in the role. In fact, the star may simply be too interesting on screen to play a role with this little screen time. He’s simply too charismatic, even in the quiet moments, to fully shine a light on the infamous US Secretary of State. Still, Schrieber dominates the screen when he does appear. He even goes toe to toe with Mirren, resulting in some very interesting dramatic discussions between the two figures.

For the most part, Golda plays like a down-the-middle biopic. It takes place over a few days and applies the lessons learned in smaller moments throughout the life of the subject, which allows their side to triumph. This lack of creativity in the story opens Golda up for genuine frustration. Add on extremely underwritten characters on the side, and suddenly Golda begins to feel like a one-woman show. Unfortunately, this is not enough to make Golda a great movie or even an above-average one. This becomes a miscalculation that dooms Golda from reaching epic status.

Alan’s Rating: 4/10

What do you think of Golda? Let us know in the comments below! Catch Golda in theaters today.

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