Movie review: 'Omar' a human drama in a political setting
The tense and thought-provoking drama "Omar," which was nominated for an Oscar this year, leaves nothing but bad choices for its characters because it's set in the world's longest-running no-win situation, the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Omar (Adam Bakri) is a young Palestinian baker with two passions. One is his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany), who lives on the other side of the separation wall which he frequently climbs, risking arrest and injury from the Israeli soldiers patrolling the wall. The other passion, one he shares with Nadia's brother Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and their childhood pal Amjad (Samer Bisharat), who's also sweet on Nadia, is making those Israelis go away.
Omar teams up with Tarek and Amjad to become "freedom fighters" the other side would call them terrorists and attack an Israeli army outpost. Tarek decides Amjad should be the trigger man, and Amjad follows orders and shoots an Israeli soldier dead.
Eventually, Israeli security catches Omar, but he doesn't rat out his friends even after severe beatings. But when he's tricked into making a sort-of confession, a security agent, Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter), gives Omar a choice: Serve 90 years in prison, or get released and become an informant.
Omar chooses the latter and gives the appearance of cooperating with Rami to nab Tarek while also plotting with Tarek to ambush Rami's men. He finds himself under suspicion by his friends and even by Nadia, though he soon learns from Rami information that causes him to question her motives.
Writer-director Hany Abu-Assad, who also made the 2005 Oscar-nominated suicide-bomber drama "Paradise Now," creates a deeply etched portrait of people caught in a perpetual loop of awful circumstances. These are characters who are following a script that's been performed many times in this conflict: the rebel running and being arrested, the spy trapping the kid and forcing him to cooperate, the friends closing ranks and distrusting someone who was once close to them.
Amid a cast of strong performers, the newcomer Bakri is a standout. He captures Omar's youthful naivete, his searing anger at the Israelis and the jaded calculations he must make as his options run out. His performance turns "Omar" from merely a political drama to a human one, a look at desperate choices in a desperate time.
A young Palestinian man must choose between his friends and freedom in this hard-hitting Oscar-nominated drama.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, March 14.
Rating • Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence, language and sexual dialogue.
Running time • 98 minutes; in Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles.
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