Omar review: trust no one
Palestine’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar is terse, tense suspense drama, and less overtly political than you might expect.
I’m “biast” (pro):
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It’s less overtly political than you might expect, Palestine’s official submission for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language film (and one of the nominees): Omar could be much the same terse, tense suspense drama if it were taking place in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, or in East Berlin in the 1960s, or in almost any place at almost any time when a small band of resistance fighters push against a far more powerful — and some would say despotic — ruling force. Omar (Adam Bakri) has to climb high walls separating Palestinian neighborhoods and risk getting shot at in order to meet up with Nadia (Leem Lubany), though their romance is a secret even from her brother, Tarek (Iyad Hoorani), with whom Omar is planning an attack on local Israeli military forces. The harassment Omar is subjected to by Israeli patrols is petty compared to the literal torture he endures later, when he is arrested after their attack has some small success. Omar’s seemingly too-quick release from prison sows discontent among his insurgent friends, because they suspect that he has turned traitor — and, indeed, Omar has agreed to spy on his friends for Shin Bet agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter: Sex and the City 2). Or, at least, he has pretended to agree, and now is trying to set up a double-cross of the Israelis. But Rami is also far more sympathetic than Omar could ever have expected… Writer-director Hany Abu-Assad juggles his characters, their motivations, and their complicated emotions deftly, creating a compelling portrait of a situation in which there are no winners, only varying degrees of losing, and in which suspicion can be a life-saver.