Former members of Israel's Shin Bet discuss their roles in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Sony Pictures Classics)
Such carnage, such hatred, such waste, such suffering.
If "The Gatekeepers" is an extraordinarily depressing recounting of the Israeli-Palestinian madness of the past 45 years, it also manages to find something like hope in the souls of its chief characters.
What's amazing about that is those characters are the men who've led Israel's top intelligence agency during that time — the men who ordered assassinations, dropped bombs on innocents and stood by as prisoners were beaten to death.
These are the surviving heads of Shin Bet, an organization formed to fight terrorism in the late '60s, when nobody was even quite sure what terrorism was. But somebody was prescient because the occupation of Palestine soon enough drove Palestinians to the streets in protest, eventually inspiring all mad manner of suicide bombings and violence.
The film and its talking head participants paint the picture in both broad strokes and fine detail. Director Dror Moreh has a treasure trove (or horror show) of archival footage; and he pinpoints specific incidents — a bus hijacking, a botched mass assassination, back-and-forth retaliatory attacks — that drive the hysterical pitch ever higher. But there's also plenty of overview perspective about the price of conquering a people and the folly of modern colonialism.
For Shin Bet, the world spins out of control when the agency has to contend with far-right Israeli terrorists who want to start an all-out war they believe will trigger Armageddon. Madness.
It's ultimately telling, though, that none of these men seem hawkish now. One says you inevitably turn to the left once you're out of the job; you realize the human cost. And you hope dialogue replaces the violence, even with the blood on your hands.
Rated PG-13 for violent content including disturbing images
Running time: 101 minutes