Sitting through “Clash” is largely a miserable experience, and that’s deliberate. The movie is set in the aftermath of the 2013 overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Directed by Mohamed Diab from a script he wrote with his brother Khaled Diab, “Clash” begins in the back of an empty police truck. Soon a couple of men are put inside, and they try to reach the outside world via an Apple watch. The watch belongs to Adam (Hany Adel), an Egyptian-born journalist who lives in America and is back in the country covering the unrest.
The truck fills up with detainees of all ages, mostly men. Some side with the Muslim Brotherhood, others support the military that deposed Mr. Morsi. They all seem to hate the journalist. “An activist should die for a cause, not a photo,” one man sneers at Adam.
He responds, “A photo can be a cause.”
There isn’t much time for such “12 Angry Men” style exchanges as the movie goes on, though. The 20 or so occupants attempt to “strategize”; members of the Muslim Brotherhood try to segregate themselves from the others. One man suffers a head wound. A young woman tries to help him, only to be told that he can’t be touched by a woman. When the truck stops, a column of soldiers stands in front of the back door. Every time a detainee needs to relieve him or herself, an argument breaks out.
Whatever affinities these characters have, they are practically obliterated as soon as they are established. Devotion to dogma and sheer perversity erodes their fellowship as day turns into night — after which “Clash” turns into a full-fledged horror movie, albeit one without the fake comfort of a supernatural or science-fiction pretext. It’s just man’s inhumanity to man, in full sway.
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