Think about the sort of person, who straps on explosives, conceals them under his jacket, and tries to catch a bus in the fervent hope of killing everyone on-board, including himself. He is called as a terrorist, a word synonymous with 'evil.' Evil can only be demonized, but what happens when a directs takes a risky proposition to humanize a terrorist? Can you try to understand, or even try to walk in the shoes of a Palestinian suicide bomber? It would be harder to answer. But director Abu-Assad have come up with a gripping thriller about two Palestinian suicide bombers, which peels away the stereotypes and looks at the people who commit those heinous actions.
"And what happens next?" a young Palestinian suicide bomber asks after receiving his instructions for carrying a bombing. "You will be met by two angels," comes the convincing reply. "Paradise Now," loaded with powerful dialogues is a taut, ingeniously calculated thriller that fixates on the flash-point where psychology and politics ignite in martyrdom. The movie transports you behind the terrible curtain of terrorism to find, not too surprisingly, that human beings live there, not necessarily raving extremists.
PlotSaid (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) are just two regular car mechanics in the West Bank, having a smoke and drinking tea on a sunny afternoon. A quarrel with a customer ends with both getting fired shortly before they're recruited by a Palestinian terrorist organization to carry out a suicide mission together. Jamal (Amer Hlehel) informs them that, they have been selected for a suicide mission.
They view this as a political statement, and are willing to die as martyrs, which in their view is best than living as victims in the hellish occupation by Israel. We aren't given many information about the plan - only that it has taken two years to put into motion and involves the two men undergoing a transformation from shabby to clean-shaven, strapping bomb packs to their chests under suits, and detonating them 15 minutes apart in crowded sections of Tel Aviv. The moral sense in this story is Suha (Lubna Azabal), Said's girlfriend, whose father is a famed martyr to the same cause. She exists primarily to argue for peaceful negotiations and to turn the boys’ heads.
AnalysisDirector Abu-Assad manages the heavy task of highlighting his characters' humanity without excusing their actions. His controlled handling even extends to the pitch-black comedy of some martyr-video mess-ups. As good as Abu-Assad is at arranging up the situation, presenting both sides of the issue, and developing the characters, he cannot generate the necessary suspense to make this a top-notch thriller. There are episodic moments of tension, and the final scene, despite being forced by a sense of inevitability, is effective.
Shooting on location in Nazareth, Nablus, and Tel Aviv, the 70 person crew often found itself in tough predicaments, especially in Nablus. Some Palestinians thought they were making a movie against Palestinians while others thought it was presenting their case for freedom and democracy. At one juncture a Palestinian group that thought they weren't presenting suicide bombers in a good manner arrived on the set with guns and asked them to stop filming. Such is the state of living in the area, especially when striving for delivering a balanced view of the situation.
What egresses from 'Paradise Now' is a compelling portrait of suicide bombers and the complex issues that surrounds the act, all brought to life by an excellent cast of little known Palestinian actors. Their appeal carries the film professionally while intimate knowledge of the subject material works to great advantage, that would be difficult to duplicate otherwise.
Paradise Now may not inspire sympathy for these hapless terrorists, or change your ideology, but it shows us that, beyond the divisive views of religious morality, people are pretty much the same on either side of the holy fence. It is rare eye-opener, which gives you a dose of the other fellow's point of view.
Paradise Now - IMDb