Movie: The Believer

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Ryan Gosling as Daniel "Danny" Balint
Jacob Green as young Danny
Garret Dillahunt as Billings
Billy Zane as Curtis Zampf
Theresa Russell as Lina Moebius
Summer Phoenix as Carla Moebius
Ronald Guttman as Mr. Balint
Heather Goldenhersh as Linda
A. D. Miles as Guy Danielsen
Henry Bean as Ilio Manzetti
Elizabeth Reaser as Miriam
Dean Strober as Stuart
Judah Lazarus as Avi
James G. McCaffrey as young Avi
Director: Henry Bean 

    Daniel Balint is a former Jewish yeshiva student, brilliant but troublesome, who is now a fanatically violent Neo-Nazi in New York in his early 20's. As a child he often challenged his teachers with unorthodox interpretations of scripture. He once argued that the Binding of Isaac was not about Abraham's faith but God's power: that God did not want Isaac to accomplish a particular task but instead asks unquestioning obedience, which Daniel refuses to give. He concluded that God is a bully.
    Daniel finds a meeting of fascists run by Curtis Zampf and Lina Moebius, where he also makes a connection with Lina's daughter Carla. Daniel advocates killing Jews, and a banker named Manzetti in particular, but Curtis and Lina oppose harming Jews on practical if not moral grounds. However, Lina is impressed with Daniel's intelligence and invites him to their camp retreat in the country. Afterwards, Daniel and his fellow skinheads pick a fight with two African-American men, get arrested, then bailed out of jail by Carla. He spends the night with her but returns to the home of his ailing father, where he goes through some of his Hebrew school notebooks and finds his old semiautomatic pistol. He is harangued by his sister Linda for his Nazi beliefs, but she also urges him to stay and have Shabbat dinner with his father. The men watch television, which is forbidden, leading them to commiserate on the incomprehensibility of Jewish law.
    Guy Danielsen, a journalist writing an article on right-wing groups post-Oklahoma City Bombing, meets Daniel for an interview. He listens to Daniel's antisemitic rant, then reveals that he had been in contact with Daniel's old rabbi Stanley Nadelman and knows that Daniel is Jewish. Daniel pulls out his pistol and threatens to commit suicide if Guy publishes the truth.
    Daniel goes Lina's fascist camp retreat, where he meets an explosives expert, and Drake, a skilled marksman. Then six of them go to a Jewish deli where they mock the other patrons and torment the owner about Jewish dietary laws until a fight breaks out. This time Daniel and his friends are forced to take sensitivity training, where they listen to the experiences of Holocaust survivors. One talks about how his infant son was murdered by a Nazi. Daniel is enraged that the man did nothing to save his son, but all the survivors assert that Daniel would also have done nothing to avoid being killed, and he walks out in anger. The story will haunt him, and he replays it picturing himself as both the Nazi and the Jew. Later that night, Daniel and the other skinheads break into a synagogue, vandalize it, and plant a bomb under the pulpit. They also tear and spit on a Torah scroll, though Daniel tries to stop them. After they leave, Daniel takes the scroll and a tallit with him. The next morning, the skinheads hear on the news that the bomb failed to go off because the timer froze at thirteen minutes, which the rabbi explains is a mystical number in Judaism, believing this means that God protected the synagogue. Back in his cabin, Daniel cleans and repairs the scroll, envisioning himself as the Nazi soldier in the Holocaust survivor's story. He puts on the tallit under his shirt and performs a combination of the Nazi salute and Jewish prayers.
    Drake soon approaches him with a plan to kill Manzetti, so the two ambush him outside a temple, where Daniel fires but misses. Drake sees the tallit under Daniel's shirt and realizes that he is a Jew, so Daniel shoots him and escapes. He still meets with Lina and Curtis, who want to start an above-ground movement to bring fascism into the political mainstream, inviting Jews, blacks, and liberals, and Daniel reluctantly agrees to help them raise funds. At the meetings that follow Daniel first charms then enrages their potential donors with his intellectual games, leading to his eventual expulsion. When the group hears that Manzetti was killed Lina suspects Daniel, since he proposed the assassination himself, although Drake is the real killer.
    In the meantime Carla comforts him and the two sleep together at Daniel's home, where she sees the stolen Torah and asks Daniel to teach her Hebrew, ostensibly for intellectual reasons, and they begin practicing Jewish rituals. He soon runs into an old friend and his fiancee, Stuart and Miriam, who invite him to a Rosh Hashanah service, assuming that he is an anti-racist skinhead. When Daniel arrives another old friend calls him out as a racist skinhead, and as he is leaving, Miriam, who works for the District Attorney, tells him that half of the people in Lina Moebius' meetings are informants for the D.A. Later she offers to shield Daniel if he will wear a wire and try to get Lina to say something incriminating on tape, but he refuses.
    As Yom Kippur approaches, Daniel calls Miriam and insists on taking Stuart's place at the pulpit on Yom Kippur. He and his friends plant a new bomb under the temple's pulpit even though they find it reinforced, limiting the explosion. When Daniel takes the pulpit the next day he is shocked to see Carla in the congregation as he leads them in prayer. He again imagines himself in the story the Holocaust survivor told him, this time as both the Nazi and the Jew. Daniel stops and tells to everyone to get out because there is a bomb, but refuses to leave himself, and dies in the explosion.
    Daniel appears in the afterlife, ascending the stairs in the Jewish school he left as a child. His old teacher approaches, hoping to talk about the Binding of Isaac, and suggests that Isaac died on the mountain and was reborn in the next world. But Daniel ignores him and keeps going, up, and up, infinitely, as his teacher urges him to stop, calling out, "There's nothing up there."


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