Review: Intrigue never ignites in Israeli thriller ‘Shelter’


As the Israeli thriller “Shelter” unfolds, its insecurities become more pronounced. The setup, adapted from a short story by Shulamit Hareven, is a spy situation rich with elements of remorse, intimacy and danger.

Brooding Israeli Mossad agent Naomi (Neta Riskin) is recruited by her ex-handler (Lior Ashkenazi) to babysit an important Lebanese informant named Mona (Golshifteh Farahani), who’s being safehoused in Germany for two weeks while she heals from plastic surgery intended to disguise her in the wake of her cover being blown. Sequestered together in a top-floor Hamburg apartment, the bandaged, demanding Mona — a provocative beauty swanning around in a red silk robe — and the drably professional Naomi test each other’s patience, but eventually bond over emotional losses in a grueling war.

What might have been a tight two-hander steeped in grief-driven suspicion is, in the hands of director Eran Riklis (“The Lemon Tree”), regrettably a slick, low-wattage affair. It tries to juggle too many elements: the women’s archly rendered bonding, the safekeeping paranoia inherent in Naomi’s job, and the rudimentary digressions to a band of Hezbollah fighters scheming to locate Mona and silence her.


The dissipating focus and the turgidly explanatory dialogue ultimately affects the legitimately surprising twist at the end, one in keeping with espionage’s great theme — the intertwining of loyalty and betrayal — but that lacks oomph after so awkwardly uninvolving a buildup.



(In English, Farsi, and Hebrew, with English subtitles)

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts, Monica Film Center, Town Center 5