Walk on Water

Walk on Water

Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi), a crack agent for Mossad, Israel's secret service, comes home from a successful assassination attempt on a Hamas leader only to find that his wife has committed suicide. His supervisor, fearing that the stoic Eyal may be secretly suffering from the trauma, keeps him off the tough jobs and assigns him a "simple" assignment: word has it that an infamous Nazi is still alive, and that his leftie granddaughter Pia (Caroline Peters) is living in a kibbutz in Israel. Eyal is assigned to pose as a tour guide for Pia's brother Axel (Knut Berger), who is visiting her for a few days, in order to get whatever information he can from the siblings about their notorious grandfather.

It's a great setup, something that Graham Greene might come up with, as inevitably Eyal comes to like these two nice people and knows that eventually he will have to choose between betraying his friends and betraying his cause. Unfortunately, that's not the story that Fox and his cowriter Gal Uchovsky are interested in telling.

Walk on Water is really a film about tolerance, namely for the homophobic Eyal - who discovers that Axel is gay about 500 years after the audience does - and, in a looser sense, for the Israelis and their resentment towards both the Nazi legacy and the Palestinians. With a great deal of time spent on reflective dialogue between Eyal and Axel, the suspense slacks off immediately.

At first, that isn't a problem: the two actors are appealing, as is the sparse but lovely Israeli scenery. But the script heads downhill fast about halfway through the film, when it's finally determined that the Nazi grandfather is alive (barely) and in Germany. So when Eyal heads up to Berlin to "surprise" Axel - mere days after their falling-out, when Axel sleeps with a young Palestinian (a very interesting sequence where Eyal seems as jealous as he is disgusted) - the film tries somehow to become a thriller, and fails.

The more I think about the story, the less it makes sense. Why, for example, is Eyal told to befriend these Germans, when all the information he really learns comes from a bug he planted in Pia's apartment - which he could have done even without meeting these people? And how does he get a gun onto an airplane? And why isn't Axel suspicious when Eyal is suddenly hanging out with him in Berlin? And most of all, how can a top Mossad agent be so dumb that he can't even figure out, after at least a week, that the guy he's been showering with and rubbing suntan oil on is openly gay?

The last several minutes of the film are practically ludicrous, as events turn that are not true to any of the characters at all. Walk on Water is the sort of film I call a "noble failure": There's a lot to recommend about it - the atmosphere, the message, and certainly the performances (Ashkenazi downright oozes star power). But the script is unforgivably sloppy. Fox and Uchovsky set their story up to attack a lot of issues, including racism, loss, and guilt, but gloss over the characters' private demons in order to pontificate some more on the idea of acceptance. An embarrassment of wasted opportunities, Walk on Water is a film that has its heart in the right place, but not its brain.