Critics' Pick

The Square (2010) (R)

Suspense/Thriller 114 min. March 19, 2010
By Michelle Orange
Two words uttered in the dark-- "What happened?"-- open The Square, Jehane Noujaim's powerful, exacting depiction of Egypt's struggle for meaningful change. Noujaim follows activists from their early 2011 jubilation, through the disillusions and divisions of military and then Muslim Brotherhood rule, toward the events of this past August, when the Egyptian Army ousted President Morsi in the wake of one of the largest protests in history. This film begins where previous Tahrir documentaries have ended: with footage familiar from news coverage of the Arab Spring, in this case of joyful Egyptians singing of love, freedom, and democracy. She captures as well the emboldening shock of a people who found the will to meet each other in the streets. But the international media soon pulled out, some telling horrific stories of the chaos; Tahrir Square emptied and the army moved in, declaring martial law. Noujaim tracks the participation of several subjects in subsequent, bloody re-occupations of the square, including a young revolutionary named Ahmed and a Muslim Brotherhood member named Magdy, whose relationship provides the film's strongest thread. Charismatic Ahmed is a revolutionary discovering revolution as he goes; Magdy is older, sadder, more thoughtful-- a father, he was tortured by the Mubarak regime. Though under their provision, Magdy can't always agree with the Brotherhood, who find in Egypt's turmoil an opportunity to gain political power. Ahmed and Magdy clash bitterly as the Army and then Morsi's henchmen wreak violent, often fatal havoc on the protesters. They also maintain a revealing dialog, returning to a kind of Tahrir Square of the mind, where politics end and their respective ideals begin, and upon which real social reforms might take shape.
Nash Edgerton David Roberts, Claire van der Boom, Joel Edgerton, Anthony Hayes, Lisa Bailey, Lucy Bell, Paul Caesar, Amanda Crompton, Maree D'Arcy, Kieran Darcy-Smith Joel Edgerton, Matthew Dabner Louise Smith Apparition


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