For an Amos Gitai film, I thought this had the most impactive prologue amongst those that I've watched to date, which succinctly sums up the political themes that his films often explore. While it might have thrust you right into the thick of (in)action, you'll soon realize that he has a tremendous ability to gift wrap his points amongst the most mundane and ordinary.
A Dutch-Palestinian lady gets chatted up by a French Israeli man on a train. They share a cigarette moment, and soon realize that they have a lot more in common than they initially realized. The two strangers's chance meeting soon turn into lust/love at first sight, probably a nod in the direction that even amongst what would be perceived as the most irreconcilable groups of people, can find common ground and understanding, and kiss and make up. Only that there are those in the world like the authorities wielding some power, could make unreasonable demands to try and derail peace efforts, like that train soldier who might have stepped out of his boundary in asserting and demanding that he be listened to and complied with.
Alas the movie failed to keep the pace with its wonderful opening, and for the most parts the build up to the finale sagged heavily under very dire straits stemming from an uninteresting plot which failed to capitalize on the Israeli man Uli (Liron Levo) whom we got introduced, but shifted its attention to the more illustrious Juliette Binoche's Ana, Uli's half sister whom he is meeting in France because of their father's demise, and to discover just what his will entailed. The story found it necessary to go through an entire backstory for nothing, only for us to know little red herring nuggets of information such as Ana's estranged relationship with her separated husband whom we do not see on screen, and that slightly incestuous (well, not exactly) temptations that both Uli and Ana go through, with the latter being the temptress.
It tried to address issues like staying with someone who you don't love, only out of convenience, which Ana confessed to be doing, because she's a lazy soul. But in fact her character flits into mood swings one end to the other, that it's not tough to understand how unappealing she can get, good looker or not. Things start to pick up slightly midway through the film when the actual seed of the story was sown, with the reading of the deceased's will, having to instruct Ana to travel to Gaza to pass on her dad's inheritance to her abandoned daughter Dana (Dana Ivgy) in person.
So begins a road trip for the siblings, which is convenient anyway because Uli was beginning to fade away like a side show, and his return to Israel gives him a chock load of things to do, since he's a police officer, and have been given orders, together with the army, to clear Gaza of its Israeli settlers since Israel has pulled out of the Gaza Strip. Ordering your fellow men off their plot of land and homes are never easy, and this story arc provides that “action packed”moment in Disengagement. The other thread would be of course Ana's quest in locating her daughter, like finding a needle in the perennial haystack, made more difficult because she doesn't speak the language of her countrymen. The story arcs tangent off at this point, but you know there'll definitely be moments for a collision course later in the film.
Through Uli's eyes we see how their evacuation operation gets carried out, having to be compassionate, yet stern in a thankless job that involves ejecting by any means possible the settlers who are protesting their rights. One involves grabbing the people and forcing them onto chartered buses to take them back to the mainland, and on the other having heavy machinery either bulldoze everything insight, or the utilization of cranes to literally lift homes off the soil. One can imagine if one is forced away from your home at the snap of a finger, and that is definitely something difficult to swallow.
Disengagement unfortunately is like a self-fulling prophecy, having the middle portion starkly dragging against the powerful prologue and finale. If only it could find a better gel to stick both ends together in a more engaging fashion.