Metascore
68

Generally favorable reviews - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 21
  2. Negative: 0 out of 21
  1. Reviewed by: Noah Berlatsky
    Mar 5, 2014
    90
    In a spy story, Bethlehem insists, there are no good guys or bad guys, and no victor—just day-in, day-out deceit and betrayal, the weary work of hate.
  2. Reviewed by: Peter Keough
    Mar 6, 2014
    88
    A taut, expertly constructed, and suspenseful police procedural, it also explores the issues of loyalty, trust, betrayal, and revenge that those engaged in such morally ambiguous if essential activities would prefer not to think about.
  3. Reviewed by: Mike D'Angelo
    Mar 5, 2014
    83
    Superficially similar to Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated Omar, it’s a considerably more complex and nuanced examination of the conflicted loyalties and dangerous relationships that characterize daily life in the Middle East, featuring remarkably strong, charismatic performances by a host of mostly non-professional actors.
  4. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Mar 6, 2014
    80
    Bethlehem is emphatically political, as perhaps any movie about warring Israelis and Palestinians must be. Yet its ideas are more complex than is suggested by either its schematic story or fast-moving genre elements.
  5. Reviewed by: Jordan Hoffman
    Mar 6, 2014
    80
    “The Wire” meets the West Bank in this searing drama loaded with action and nuanced characters.
  6. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Mar 7, 2014
    75
    The movie doesn’t delve especially deeply into the psychology of double-agentry, and the shifting viewpoints between Israelis and Palestinians flattens the drama instead of broadening it.
  7. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Mar 6, 2014
    75
    An entertaining film, but also an uncompromising one. It is harsh and not particularly hopeful, and it presents a situation so tangled and contorted, with so many interests in collision, that a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians seems a distant prospect.
  8. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Mar 27, 2014
    70
    In Bethlehem Adler tries to make some sense of that world, and to the extent that it's possible, succeeds.
  9. Reviewed by: Zachary Wigon
    Mar 4, 2014
    70
    Refusing to take sides or vilify his characters, Adler finds the humanity in all parties.
  10. Reviewed by: Leslie Felperin
    Dec 29, 2013
    70
    The film comprises an impressive directorial debut for Adler who demonstrates a confident grasp of pace, place and thesp handling.
  11. Reviewed by: Oliver Lyttelton
    Dec 29, 2013
    67
    It’s a strong and eye-catching debut, but one that doesn’t quite mark its ground as the next big thing in Israeli cinema.
  12. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Feb 21, 2014
    65
    Bethlehem qualifies as a promising debut for its first-time actors and director, but it's slack at first, and the thriller tricks it uses to ratchet up the tension later — musical underscoring, careening vehicles, threatening crowds — keep it from sneaking past your defenses.
  13. 63
    As a story about a war that is unresolved, it seems better suited to a provisional “To be continued” than the certainty of “The end.”
  14. Reviewed by: Sheila O'Malley
    Mar 7, 2014
    63
    When it stays with the two leads, one Israeli, one Palestinian, it makes a compelling story.
  15. Reviewed by: Michael O'Sullivan
    Mar 6, 2014
    63
    Adler nicely harnesses the mounting volatility of this situation, which builds to an intense if tragic conclusion.
  16. Reviewed by: Oscar Moralde
    Feb 17, 2014
    63
    In the end, the film's misstep isn't some failure at being sufficiently morally gray. In being the thriller that it is, it smudges the palette beyond recognition.
  17. Reviewed by: Sheri Linden
    Mar 6, 2014
    60
    The movie has the taut efficiency of a well-constructed crime thriller, while its real-world underpinnings play out with a less convincing sense of urgency.
  18. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Mar 4, 2014
    60
    Densely plotted by director Yuval Adler and Ali Wakad (the former Israeli, the latter Palestinian), this informant crime drama finds admirable complexity in the folds of its shifting allegiances — even if you’ve seen this dynamic done better in movies like "The Departed."
  19. Reviewed by: Stephen Dalton
    Dec 29, 2013
    60
    Strip away the Middle East backdrop and Bethlehem is a fairly routine thriller about good cops, corrupt bureaucrats and armed criminal gangs.
  20. Reviewed by: Robbie Collin
    Dec 29, 2013
    60
    You’re left wishing that Adler had focused more on the no-win moral tangle of the handler-informant relationship, and less of the mechanics of its execution.
  21. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Mar 6, 2014
    50
    It’s a slickly plotted ticking-time-bomb thriller with a crisp look and one standout debut performance, by Hitham Omari as a ruthless leader of a terrorist cell.
User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 6 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Nov 26, 2014
    7
    Bethlehem joins a recent string of Israeli films (such as Footnote and Ajami, to name a few) to leave a significant mark in the United States.Bethlehem joins a recent string of Israeli films (such as Footnote and Ajami, to name a few) to leave a significant mark in the United States. While the deeper themes relating to terrorism and the fight against it remain a mere plot device, Bethlehem's focus on loyalty, brotherhood, and betrayal reap some interesting, if somewhat slight, results. The plot is too complex for it's own good, at least in the first third. After things settle down, we begin to truly grasp the motivation of each character. I find it interesting how the film manages to humanize the terrorist brotherhood without demonizing them, yet simultaneously portraying them as the antagonists who are committing horrible acts and should meet justice. While the finale is satisfying in a sense, I feel as though numerous elements of the plot are unresolved. It could have gone on for a decent half-an-hour and seen out the repercussions of the final act of violence that concludes Bethlehem and more properly concluded the narratives of a couple other side-characters, particularly Badawi. No matter, though. Flawed as it is, Bethlehem still resembles some of the finest filmmaking Israel has to offer. Full Review »
  2. Mar 23, 2014
    8
    “Bethlehem” is a German/Belgium/Israeli film which tells the story of an Israeli agent and his Palestinian “asset” and the intense,“Bethlehem” is a German/Belgium/Israeli film which tells the story of an Israeli agent and his Palestinian “asset” and the intense, complicated and involved relationship the two experience. Well directed by Yuval Adler who also co-wrote the film with Ali Wakad, the film stars Tsahi Halevi as the Israeli agent and Shadi Mar’l as his teenage informant.

    More than just an interesting view of this relationship, the film attempts to help the viewer understand the clashing cultures among those in the Israeli government, Hamas and the Palestine Authority as the 3 jockey for control and jurisdiction in this troubled part of the world. I give the film and 8 and suggest that it be seen by all who are seeking a better understanding of the almost impossible situation in the middle East and why, in the land of miracles, it will take one to bring peace to that part of the world.
    Full Review »
  3. Mar 13, 2014
    8
    One can characterize this movie as a physiological drama or a thriller. Two main characters are Razi, Israeli secret service officer, and hisOne can characterize this movie as a physiological drama or a thriller. Two main characters are Razi, Israeli secret service officer, and his teenage informant Sanfur. Sanfur's older brother is a leader in Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, responsible for many terrorist acts against Israelis and as such is wanted by Israelis. Sanfur is struggling with conflicting loyalty: on one hand, he loves his brother and wants his family to be proud of him (and the only way to get such respect is to take part in armed actions against Israelis). On the other hand, there has been an emotional bond between him and Razi who treats him better than his own father. He has to walk a very tight and dangerous rope as a double agent. And he is only a kid.

    Razi's feelings are also troubled: he is sympathetic towards the boy yet these emotions conflict with his professionalism. For Razi's boss Sanfur is only an asset but for Razi he is almost like a son.

    The movie allows us a glimpse into working of Israeli intelligence and, on the other hand, into conflicts among different Palestinian militant groups.

    Overall, the movie is a very strong debut for director Yuval Adler.
    Full Review »