Review: With ‘False Flag,’ Israel Exports Another Fine Thriller



Ishai Golan as one of five people caught in a web of intrigue in “False Flag,”an Israeli thriller on Hulu. Credit Keshet/Hulu

“Kfulim” is an Israeli conspiracy-thriller television series whose Hebrew title translates as “duplicates” or “doubles.” Its first season comes to Hulu on Friday, and its new English title — “False Flag” — is even more of a spoiler than the original.

The show plunges into action, with breathless TV reports that five Israeli citizens, presumably undercover Mossad agents, have been caught on video kidnapping an Iranian government minister from his Moscow hotel room. The suspects — including a chemist, a preschool teacher and a bride on her wedding day — watch the fuzzy footage in disbelief and insist they weren’t in Russia and have no idea what’s going on.

The English title points to the truth that the plot dances with briefly but fairly quickly gives up: The five (or most of them, anyway) are indeed being framed. The show’s salient questions, answered over eight fast-paced, highly entertaining episodes, are by whom and for what purpose?

This setup would have been obvious to Middle Eastern audiences familiar with the real-life incident that helped inspire the series: the 2010 assassination of the Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by a team using fake passports.

“False Flag,” created by Maria Feldman and Amit Cohen and written by Mr. Cohen, takes that scenario and fully exploits its melodramatic possibilities. The five may not be guilty of kidnapping but they’re all guilty of something — an affair, a hidden criminal past, an insatiable appetite for attention — that complicates their attempts to prove their innocence and provides the show with five mysteries for the price of one.

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