Though he's been more of a writer up to now, Israeli filmmaker Yaron Zilberman tackles directing duties with Incitement, a stark yet powerful drama that portrays the lead-up to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's 1995 assassination from the point of view of the killer.

Yehuda Nahari Halevi is Yigal Amir, a young nationalist and law student who, in the time of the '90s Oslo Accords, which were meant to bring peace between Israel and Palestine, heeds numerous right-wing rabbis who advise him that Jewish law states anyone willing to give up Israeli land be sentenced to death.

We've seen assassination films before, though Zilberman's take is refreshing if startling. Rather than paint in broad strokes that define a killer as a one-dimensional evil, we instead observe the slow burn factors that radicalize but humanize him. Failed relationships, political friends, hateful rhetoric and even deeply religious men lead Amir along his path, and Halevi's performance manages to bring a more nuanced understanding of the real world events together without forcing us to hate anyone.

He's wonderful, by the way—quiet when necessary, but imposing in his rigid beliefs and actions. Same goes for the rabbis who advise him, though the better term might be scary; Zilberman points out in a post-film text crawl that none were ever arrested or charged for their roles in Rabin's death.

It's a shame the supporting cast feels so inconsequential, particularly a stalled thread that reveals an Amir collaborator as an Israeli Secret Service informant. Same goes for Amir's family, who try to reach him but fail, as well as a potential love interest whose rabbi uncle, we're told, had some part, though it's never made clear what that was. Still, we somehow sympathize with Zilberman's Amir even as we know what he's planning. He feels more lost and manipulated than he does hateful, even as he clings steadfast to his convictions.

Incitement even picked up Best Film honors from Israel's Ophir Awards (and, reportedly, was short-listed for America's Oscars), and should go a long way toward educating folks about the situation over there. Obviously there are no good answers, and assassination is the action of the desperate. But even so, if we can try to understand the motivations of the man behind the slaying, we might better understand the tragedy.

8
+Methodical and alarming; beautifully shot and acted
-Supporting cast is barely there; slow

Incitement
Directed by Zilberman
With Halevi
Center for Contemporary Arts, 123 min., NR