The Square – review | Peter Bradshaw

Jehane Noujaim’s documentary plunges viewers into the revolutionary maelstrom of Egypt’s Tahrir Square, shedding light on an extraordinary, ongoing story

British audiences have already had a chance to see two fascinating movies about the ongoing Egyptian revolution. Ibrahim El-Batout’s Winter of Discontent and Ahmad Abdalla’s Rags and Tatters, in their different ways, gave piercing insights into its agony and euphoria.

Now Jehane Noujaim’s The Square (right) gives an immersive and atmospheric account of what it’s like to be plunged into the revolutionary maelstrom of Tahrir Square: a world of passionate dedication and confusion; a torrent of YouTube testimony, shifting alliances and a mysterious sense that the army can go overnight from being the good guys to the bad guys and back again. In 2011, a colossal people’s gathering in the square ousted the cynical, complacent Hosni Mubarak – and the army appeared to guarantee the people’s safety. But then the loosely secular activist-alliance was dismayed to realise that the organised, overbearing and intolerant Muslim Brotherhood were about to hijack their gains; they were the only ones in a position to capitalise from any new elections, and had moreover cut a deal with the army to enforce their own legitimacy. Their resulting president, Mohammed Morsi, wound up being ousted by exactly the same gigantic popular demonstration on the streets – awe-inspiring overhead shots show people swarming all over the city – and again the army guaranteed his removal. The lesson is that only the mass physical presence can achieve these dizzying (but short-term) gains:  simply retweeting revolutionary sentiment is not enough. And people get killed, by army tanks and bullets. It’s a gripping story and the fact that it isn’t over only makes it more extraordinary.

Rating: 4/5 © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds