Omar (Bakri), Amjad (Bisharat) and Tarek (Hoorani) are three Palestinian childhood friends making up a cell who have dedicated their lives to the cause. A plan to kill an Israeli soldier – Tarek’s idea, Omar steals the car, Amjad shoots - is successful when a soldier is indeed gunned down. But Omar is arrested for the crime and, tricked into an admission by his sneaky interrogator (Waleed Zuaiter), is informed that Nadia (Lubany), Tarek’s sister and Omar’s secret love, will be in danger unless he collaborates and gives Tarek up…
he first Hany Abu-Assad film to make it to these shores since 2005’s Oscar nominated and similarly-themed Paradise Now (the English language action thriller The Courier starring Mickey Rourke and Jeffery Dean Morgan hasn’t seen the light of day), Omar, nominated for an Academy gong too, is a neat drama but it’s always a hair’s breadth away from falling apart. That’s down to Bakri’s uneven performance and the director’s insistence of emotional distance from the events.
he deliberately flat tone Abu-Assad opts for is at first a little distracting, prohibiting real audience engagement. The romantic scenes where Omar scales the West Bank barrier to woo Nadia, the preparations to kill the soldier, and the interrogation sequence are shot with an observational stance; always watching events unfold from a safe distance, the director leaves it until late on before giving the audience its first real close up and its first scene that really aims for the heart. This is all about distance - at one point, during an intense scene, interrogator Zuaiter is distracted from his questioning by a call from home where his mother is having some unexplained strife with his wife. Is Abu-Assad saying that trouble at home, love, weeding out terrorists, freeing your country from invaders is all part of the daily ritual of this country? That’s interesting.
he foot chases through the maze-like streets may not be Greengrass-esque but they are exciting and there’s genuine chemistry between Bakri (fares better in the romantic scenes than elsewhere) and Lubany but the deliberately slack grip Abu-Assad has on proceedings is discarded in the run in, as the director gets belatedly involved. Regretfully, Omar becomes politically one-sided and the late emergence of a love triangle is melodramatic and tacked on.