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Paradise Now - Review

Paradise Now

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

FEW films this year will come close to carrying the emotional impact of Paradise Now, a sympathetic look at the lives of two Palestinian suicide bombers that deservedly won the Golden Globe for best foreign language film earlier this year.

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad and filmed on location in the West Bank, the film – which was Oscar nominated – provides a genuinely thought-provoking insight into the mind of a kamikaze terrorist while also forcing its viewers to ask questions of their own.

It exists in a moral grey zone but is a film that demands to be seen for the way in which it tackles such a controversial issue with insight, intelligence and humour.

Paradise Now doesn’t seek to glorify the actions of its protagonists, nor judge them, but it does try to understand what makes a man willing to strap a bomb to himself and claim the lives of innocent bystanders.

Undoubtedly, it will be criticised by those who believe cinema ought not to portray suicide bombers in a sensitive light, especially in view of recent atrocities such as the London bombings of July 7 and the 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001.

But while such actions remain unforgivable, shouldn’t we at least attempt to understand the motivations behind them if we are to try and address the problem?

Paradise Now does just that to emerge as a bold piece of cinema that deserves every plaudit thrown its way.

It follows the fortunes of two Palestinian friends, Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman), after they are called upon to carry out a suicide mission in Israel.

Having become frustrated with the instability of life on the West Bank, the two consider it an honour to die in the name of God in order to facilitate the liberation of their people.

But once their plans hit a snag and the two friends become separated, the inevitable questions begin to surface over the validity of their cause.

As the duo in question, both Nashef and Suliman provide exemplary performances that tap into the anger and confusion of their situation.

Nashef’s Said is an especially complex character, driven by past events yet intelligent and compassionate enough to be aware of the impact of his sacrifice.

Set against the context of his relationships with his mother and a prospective girlfriend, his plight is made all the more human and heartbreaking.

Yet Suliman is equally compelling as the more gung-ho of the two, whose initial bravado gives way to deep-rooted concern over the value of their actions.

The resolution of their journey is likely to haunt viewers for days given the terrifying implications that it has for every one of us.

Abu-Assad’s direction also deserves praise especially given his use of real locations that only heighten the film’s authenticity. The tensions that must exist every day in the region are expertly realised (especially during the opening check-point sequence), as is the difference between life in the rubble-strewn streets of the West Bank and nearby Tel-Aviv.

Paradise Now may exist in emotive territory but its themes are universal and just as important as recent Hollywood fare like Munich, Syriana and V For Vendetta.

It would therefore be a shame if its subtitles deterred people from seeing what is arguably one of the most important films of the year.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 91 mins