The day-to-day reality of
suicide bombers is so incomprehensible to most of the western world that
this film, an exploration of the last 48 hours of two terrorists planning to
blow up a bus full of civilians, is fascinating, repugnant, revealing
and strangely sad all at the same time.
It is interesting, though,
that the two terrorists really are not doing this for a political cause, in
fact, honestly they only slightly grasp the ramifications of their actions.
Instead, they are doing it for personal reasons and also for an odd sense of
inevitability. They are just living a dead-end life in a depressing
town called Nablus on the West Bank, where life and death is cheap. They know that in this world,
their sacrifice will lift them to prominence and provide for their families.
Said (Kais Nashef) is trying to erase a long ago family shame while Khaled
(Ali Suliman) has fallen into his beliefs almost because they are
fashionable and expected in the Palestinian world -- it is only when he is
finally confronted by the enormity of his act that he really finds out how
deeply the conviction has become rooted in his soul.
The convictions that these
two men show -- for better or worse -- only highlight the cowardice of the
leaders who are behind the plot, men who casually send their fellow citizens
out to their death without the strength or courage to put themselves in
Paradise Now is
certainly not a comfortable film to watch, but it is surprisingly involving.
The actors inhabit these people, inhabit this world, and make their actions
not exactly understandable, but somehow inevitable. They allow the
audience to see how stunned they are to actually be chosen for a fatal job
that they had rashly requested years earlier and considered unlikely with
the passage of time. It is particularly bad timing for Said, who is
just starting a shy courtship of
Suha (Lubna Azabal), the
beautiful daughter of a martyred former suicide bomber who realized long ago
that she would rather have a father than a martyr.
The politics of the film
will, of course, be controversial. Occasional militant speeches by the
Palestinians are pointed and contentious -- even though they are filmed in
a way that diffuses some of the vitriol by showing some of the
behind-the-scenes absurdity of the situation; technical filming problems,
line flubs and personal messages to their families. Even Suha, the one
character who is most militantly against the act of suicide bombing couches
her argument in a certain amount of politically arguable anti-Israeli bias.
However, while this all may seem like a bit of propagandizing, this is a
true reflection of the world that these people inhabit and the belief system
The movie slightly stacks
the deck in this by showing the decay of slums of Nablus and yet showing
only the tourist areas of Tel Aviv which look more like Miami Beach than the
rest of the city. Also, it skirts the fact that the area in which they
are planning to attack would much more likely find civilians and tourists
than the military. A scene where a corrupt Israeli official helps to
smuggle the bombers into Tel Aviv -- in a late model BMW and bringing along
a date -- rings false in a movie which mostly feels completely realistic.
In the end, Paradise Now
does not make you feel sympathy for the killers; nor is it meant to.
In fact, the film is a meant as an indictment of the act, though for
dramatic effect writer/director
sometimes plays this agenda so close to the vest that it almost feels like a
documentary on the lifestyle. However it does somewhat humanize the
bombers, and gives you an idea of the outside forces and the needs that
drive such a desperate, despicable act. It is willing to look at the
gray areas in a section of the world and politics where all is gray.
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: November 17, 2005.