We first see Omar (Adam Bakri) scaling the high separation wall dividing his West Bank village and we see him straddling its top, where under the flat blue sky he’s shot at, an apparently ordinary hazard, nerve-rattling but routine. In a sense, this is how Omar will spend most of this excellent thriller bearing his name, perched precariously upon a divide, eyes darting from one side to the other, frantically wondering which side he can trust, which fall will hurt the least. The deftly calibrated plot mechanics and ethical pitfalls of Hany Abu-Assad’s latest film echo film noir, and as in most noir, what initially appears to be a labyrinthine obstacle course may turn out to be an elaborate trap with no exit in any direction.
Tarek (Eyad Hourani), Amjad (Samer Bisharat) and Omar are childhood friends now in their 20s and trying to parse out a future that makes room for armed resistance and domestic contentment. Amjad and Omar are both in love with Tarek’s sister Nadia (Leem Lubany), whose deep dark eyes and wide lovely smile could make just about any guy consider laying down his arms so as to be in hers. Only Omar seems to have an actual relationship with Nadia—the couple arranges trysts in windows or quiet alleys, where they exchange love letters and fantasize a happy life together, one that includes, say, a honeymoon in Paris. But these trysts are secret—Omar is riddled with such secrets, or rumours, or rumours of secrets. After the friends undertake a nocturnal attack on an Israeli outpost, Omar is arrested, detained, interrogated and tortured. A persuasive officer (Waleed Zuaiter) presents Omar with an ultimatum, one that would trade Omar’s loyalty for his freedom—one that Omar believes he can wriggle out of. But, as his friends begin to suspect him of treachery and even Nadia becomes a dubious ally, the question becomes one of where should Omar wriggle to?
The politics of Omar seem decidedly geared to a sweeping critique of the Israeli occupation, but there is a hand of destiny at work that seems to tip every turn toward doom. I don’t mean to diminish the polemical potential of this film—made, of course, by a Palestinian—I only want to point out the fact that Omar is guided by an overriding fatalism that seems more powerful than any such agenda regarding the seemingly endless Arab-Israeli quagmire, a slowly asphyxiating force that can be felt in the blank black void of the interrogation chamber, or the spied-upon scenes of apparent betrayal, or in the ever-narrowing streets where Omar is pursued. And in the internal logic of this film, this fatalism strikes me as perfectly credible and emotionally true. The film is loomed over by a wall, and everything in this film will gradually, ruthlessly close in.
Fri, Mar 7 – Thu, Mar 13
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Metro Cinema at the Garneau