Humanity behind the enemy line
If there's a glimmer of hope to be seen in the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's not in Omar.
A clenched drama about a young resistance fighter trapped behind the mazelike barriers of the West Bank and caught in a web of conspiracy, betrayal, paranoia, and, yes, love, Omar is hard stuff. The Academy Award foreign-language nominee from Palestine, director Hany Abu-Assad's tale is less a political thriller than it is a human story - although everything about its setting and circumstances is defined by oppression, surveillance, restriction, and control.
Omar (Adam Bakri) and his two childhood friends, Amjad (Samer Bisharat) and Tarek (Eyad Hourani), are plotting to kill an Israeli soldier. After a gripping chase, Omar is arrested, interrogated, and compelled to turn traitor. Or is he?
Omar realizes his freedom depends on making a pact with his police handler, Agent Rami (Waleed F. Zuaiter). But Omar tells his friends what he has done - their bond of trust seems unbreakable. And Omar is in love with Tarek's sister, Nadia (Leem Lubany). They exchange secret notes. He climbs the towering concrete separation wall, at risk of being shot, to meet her at her school.
Abu-Assad, who made the wrenching 2006 Oscar contender Paradise Now, about two Palestinians plotting a suicide attack in Tel Aviv, shoots in a surehanded, realistic style. There are several heart-pumping chases - through alleys, over walls, across rooftops, and into crowded street markets. But equally suspenseful are the quiet, questioning encounters between Omar and Rami, and the searching conversations between Omar and Amjad, his friend who also has his eyes on Nadia.
Bakri, a newcomer to acting, has presence and power. His intensity and determination become Omar's - as the character scrambles through the occupied zone, looking for a way out.