Penny Woolcock's film is based on modern composer John Adams' 1991 opera, which in turn was inspired by the Achille Lauro affair, which took place over three tense days in October 1985. (In an odd resonance, the San Francisco screening took place the day after the real hijacking's ringleader, Abu Abbas, was captured in Baghdad.) As a movie, it's not fully successful: Dramatic opera staging and dramatic filmmaking aren't the same thing, and Klinghoffer often drags. It can only move as fast as the music, and Adams is a composer focused on slow, swimming paces. Yet Woolcock mostly makes the film work visually - she's excellent at the pointed close-up and frenzied camera movements, especially as we follow the terrorists' lives in flashbacks. In the poverty-stricken camps in which they grew up, we see the turmoil and anger that drives their lives into violent fundamentalism. Mamoud (Kamel Boutros) carries the key of his childhood home, from which he was evicted when it became part of the state of Israel.
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