Review: ‘Omar’ is a unique look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany embrace in the Palestine-set "Omar." Credit: Adopt Films
Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany embrace in the Palestine-set “Omar.”
Credit: Adopt Films

‘Omar’
Director: Hany-Abu Assad
Stars: Adam Bakri, Eyad Hourani
Rating: NR
3 (out of 5) Globes

In 2005, Palestinian filmmaker Hany-Abu Assad directed “Paradise Now,” a look at suicide bombers that was accused by some of supporting terrorism. It didn’t, and his latest goes to great pains to stress that its maker is as interested in the mental state of living with war as he is in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The titular protagonist (Adam Bakri) of the Oscar-nominated “Omar” is a freedom fighter who, with his friends, has been planning a sniper attack on an Israeli base. He’s also in love, like anyone else. Nadja (Leem Lubany), his friend’s sister, is as important as — perhaps even moreso than — his political leanings. Balancing them gets him into trouble.

After a shooting with which he wasn’t involved, Omar is rounded up by Israeli forces, who proceed to torture him. Wanting to get back to Nadja, he agrees to a horrible pact: He will turn snitch, informing on her brother, Tarek (Eyad Hourani). Like last year’s IRA portrait, “Shadow Dancer,” it’s about delving into the waking nightmare of life as a stool pigeon, forced to interact with those who trust you even as you’re working for those you hate. There’s no easy way out, as Omar quickly learns, and the headache in which he finds himself serves to say plenty about a situation most tend to see in stark black-and-white.

Though it’s angry, “Omar” isn’t heavy. It even has a sense of humor. Assad allows for human foibles and clumsiness. The scenes between Omar and Nadja exude the carefree flirtation of genuine, blossoming love — segments that stand in stark contrast to the seriousness of what’s going on after dark. Omar and friends’ plan to strike a base is played as though they were kids in over their heads, unable to understand the full ramifications of what they do. And as Omar discovers he’s not the only turncoat, the picture takes on the faint whiff of dark comedy.

This is all relative, of course: Assad simply knows how to temper the seriousness of his intent so that it doesn’t overwhelm what he wants to say. It’s a film that’s asking questions, not answering them, and one that wants to get inside certain head spaces. Everyone involved in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is tainted; everyone is human. Omar is even able to break through to the agent who tortures him in a harshly lit room. Assad is getting better as a director, too. He handles scenes with a relatively light touch, and a foot chase has a certain action movie craft to it. There are many films on this specific subject, but “Omar” is unique enough to deserve being named after a person, not an idea.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.