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OMAR (review)

Written and Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Starring Adam Bakri, Iyad Hoorani, Samer Bisharat, Leem Lubany and Waleed Zuaiter

Tarek: This isn’t a game!

The latest film from Academy Award-nominated director, Hany Abu-Assad (PARADISE NOW), OMAR explores the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of the title character. The thriller opens with Palestinian, Omar (Adam Bakri) as he climbs over the separation wall to visit his girlfriend, Nadia (Leem Lubany). Though he is nearly shot by Israeli soldiers, he successfully makes it over the wall. At this moment we are led to worry for Omar, but it is revealed that he is not as harmless as he appears. While his days are spent baking bread and visiting Nadia, his nighttime activities are much more threatening. Along with his friend, Amjad (Samer Bisharat) and Nadia’s brother, Tarek (Iyad Hoorani), Omar has joined a group of self-proclaimed “freedom fighters”, though to the unbiased viewer they truly seem more like terrorists. To prove both his dedication and masculinity, Amjad is instructed to shoot an Israeli soldier with a sniper rifle. The soldier dies and soon the police are out looking for the shooter. Omar is arrested by the Israeli police for his possible connection to the murder, and is subject to heavy interrogation, and a little torture. After being convinced by Agent Rami (Waleed Zuaiter) to work as an informant, Omar is set free, and his mission begins.


OMAR certainly works as a thriller, but Omar’s scenes with Nadia, though intended to be romantic, feel overly melodramatic, which I usually love melodrama but found rather tedious here. The film’s other flaw is that its characters are not really likeable. As a result, we never really care what happens to them and, considering they are terrorists, we never really want them to succeed either. It is even hard to root for Nadia, the one innocent character in the film, as her constant coyness is simply irritating. Besides these two issues, the film is a very successful thriller. Between all the twists and betrayal, viewers will surely be on the edge of their seat, and will have no idea what is going to happen next. The performances from all the actors are strong, especially considering that for some (including the lead) it was their first time acting on screen.

While I did enjoy OMAR, it is rather irritating to me that this was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar over so many other deserving films this year, such as GLORIA or WADJDA. Then again, the Oscars are mostly about politics anyway, so it’s not terribly surprising that a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was nominated. Regardless, OMAR is a great thriller, and though it is slightly brought down by its attempts at romance, it is certainly something to seek out.

3.5 sheep

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