Time of Favor, by Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar, shows off impressive production values, yet never follows through on its provocative premise. The story, supposedly based on fact, involves an Israeli soldier, Menachem (Aki Avni), who pledges devotion to both the army and to his local rabbi, Rabbi Meltzer (Assi Dayan). Menachem experiences conflict, however, when Meltzer urges the soldiers in his congregation to blow up the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As this act of violence goes against his commander's decree, Menachem feels torn. Menachem also finds himself in the middle of a love triangle when the rabbi's daughter, Michal (played by an actress named Tinkerbell!), falls for him instead of her father's preferred choice of a suitor, the sensitive yeshiva student Pini (Idan Alterman), another true believer in the rabbi and Menachem's best friend.

Michal plays a decisive role when she discovers her father's plan and reports to the authorities that Pini is trying to carry out the terrorist act. At the same time, she tries to shield Menachem from blame, although she is unsure of the level of his involvement. Finally, the rabbi's militia clashes with the Israeli army and several surprise revelations come out of the skirmish.

'Someone's going to bomb something,' says one of the Israeli army commanders in Time of Favor, which pretty much sums up the melodramatic plot. Unfortunately, Cedar, in his directing debut, emphasizes more of the romantic triangle and never clearly delineates the political machinations.

The film has the look and sound of a professionally made Hollywood 'B' action picture, with expert widescreen cinematography by Ofer Inov and slick, attractive production design by Etti Lugassi. The actors make their underwritten roles come to life, with Assi Dayan (the son of Moshe Dayan) particularly fine in his underplayed performance as the fanatical rabbi.

One only wishes more of the story focused on the rabbi's conspiracy and its political ramifications. Ultimately, the film is a bit confusing, both on a literal narrative level and about what, if anything, it is trying to say.

Time of Favor offers some cultural flavor, but don't expect the pungent autocriticism of Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai (Kadosh, Kippur). This is really just another genre picture.

--Eric Monder