Movie Review: “The Green Prince”

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If the documentary “The Green Prince” doesn’t always seem to make sense, rest assured: It’s probably intentional.

The setting of the movie, Israel/Palestine, is arguably the region that makes the least amount of sense on the globe; throw in spy games involving the rogue son of Hamas leader and Israel’s secret security service Shin Bit, and it’s hard to believe your own eyes. Even subversions are subverted, and this masterful movie about waters muddied by terrorism, surveillance, lies and betrayal is further proof that nothing is at it seems in that part of the world—that the Middle East is a giant funhouse mirror of distortions and secrets.

Only two voices constitute the majority of director Nadav Schirman’s approach, an Errol Morris-esque style dominated by direct-to-camera talking heads, news footage and the occasional tasteful re-enactment. As the story unfolds, you may begin to think that it’s shocking for even these two voices to go public, given that their revelations could seemingly spell their doom at any time.

One of these voices, operating under the Shin-Bet moniker The Green Prince, is Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who, after purchasing black market weapons to attack Israel, was captured and eventually coerced into becoming an Israeli spy, a relationship that continued for more than a decade. The other voice is Mosab’s “handler,” Shin Bet agent Gonen Ben Yitzhak, whose increasingly unorthodox relationship with his collaborator resulted in the risking of his own life.

Clean-cut and telegenic under Schirman’s lens, Mosab sounds often like a reluctant hero, a proud and identity-starved humanist caught in a terrifying limbo between warring factions. We never doubt his sincerity in desiring peace, even when it means disavowing his family. If you’re familiar with Mosab’s 2010 autobiography Son of Hamas, you may know a bit about his transformation from potential jihadi to Israeli spy, but the less you know about this gripping film, the better. I’m probably already revealing too much.

Suffice it to say that this frequently threatened, virtually stateless young man comes across as a model of self-effacing sacrifice and a voice of reason in an unreasonable region. I’ve been critical, in the past, of kumbaya movies that propose peace between Israel and Palestine while unrealistically presenting the divisions. This isn’t one of those movies, and because of that, it’s both an inspiring harbinger of peace and a tragic story of separation—a film that, through the shrapnel of one person’s remarkable biography, shatters the illusions of both sides of the conflict.

“The Green Prince” is now playing at Regal Shadowood in Living Room Theaters in Boca Raton, and Movies of Lake Worth.