Fans of espionage thrillers, take heed. Director Nadav Schirman’s The Green Prince goes places no Bourne movie ever could. Schirman’s documentary follows the story of Mosab Hassan Yousef — the son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef — who worked as a spy for Israel for close to a decade.
While the story circles around, and at times zeros in on, the intensity of Mosab’s betrayal, the majority of The Green Prince focuses on the relationship between the young Mosab and his handler, Gonen Ben Yitzhak, an agent for the Shin Bet (essentially Israel’s answer to the CIA). The slightly complicated yarn begins when Mosab is just 17, following an arrest involving an arms purchase. Already on the Shin Bet’s radar, the incarcerated Mosab is immediately approached as a potential informant. Early on in the film, Mosab states matter-of-factly that collaborating with Israel is “the most shameful thing you can do — worse than raping your mother.” And yet, as we come to learn, Mosab’s alliances are weaker than they appear, due to a trying upbringing and an early sexual assault by a friend of his father’s.
As the story unfolds, Mosab begins to relish his role as a spy. Meanwhile, his relationship with Yitzhak grows increasingly more familiar — a twist that hits a bizarre end by the time the credits role. Through Schirman’s combination of reenactments, real footage, and interviews, the lens begins to focus on the flexing bond between the pair.
On the whole, The Green Prince suffers from an abundance of talking-head-style shots. Mosab and Yitzhak are both featured in black-box interviews that make up the majority of the film’s 95-minute runtime. That said, the thrilling tale they weave is so strangely compelling, it almost doesn’t matter that there’s nothing to look at.