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Omar - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

Most people who come across Omar won't know that it's specifically a Palestinian film, nor will they be able to tell exactly how the film feels about the issue of Israeli occupation -- until the end, anyway. The title character is one of three Palestinian friends who consider themselves freedom fighters, and they conspire to kill Israeli soldiers. Naturally the Israelis would consider such people terrorists. To a large degree, the movie wisely leaves the distinction up for the viewer to decide.

The thing is, Omar keeps getting into trouble. Yes, the Israeli troops are portrayed as vindictive bastards -- the ones catching him hopping over the wall to meet with his secret love, Nadia, gleefully toy with him -- but then they accuse him of being stupid in regards to his illegal activities, they are largely right. He keeps putting himself and Nadia at risk, and at every turn discovering the Israelis know far more information than he thought possible.

Things could have been much worse for him. When he and his two friends, Tarek and Amjad, go to the secret spot in the middle of the night from which to shoot a soldier, Amjad tries to back out of doing his agreed-to part of the plan. Omar offers to do it for him, but Tarek insists Amjad do what he said he would. Even in spite of all that followed, Omar dodged a bullet there.

Things get more and more complicated, however, and Omar finds himself in jail twice over. Both times he is tortured and left in solitary confinement for weeks. You would think the Israelis would learn that these kinds of things aren't exactly going to endear the Palestinians to them. Of course, the geopolitics are much more complicated, and actually so is this story -- to its credit. In any case, Omar is tricked into a confession by association, and forced to play both sides, agreeing to help the Israelis catch the one who killed the soldier in order to get back to Nadia. Further complicating things is the fact that the Israelis suspect Tarek and not Amjad.

Things get messier from there, and then seem close to resolution, and then get messy again. All of this is just the complexity of circumstances surrounding Omar's love for Nadia -- who, as it happens, is Tarek's sister. But is there also something between Nadia and Amjad? Strip away the politics, and the story here is a tad too much like a soap opera, to be honest. But that element is particularly subtle, and the actors are convincing. There's a solitary kiss that is therefore by definition unusually charged, in this relationship that by all appearances is otherwise rather innocent and chaste. Where innocence disappears is in these young men's association with the resistance.

In spite of an impressive level of nuance, there's an element of Omar that keeps it from being quite as compelling as it could have been. There's no music or score, the absence of which underscores its importance to most cinematic storytelling. It gives the proceedings a bit of a "dress rehearsal" feel. But then the action picks up and it's easy not to think about it, as it's practically impossible not to get invested in the destinies of these characters. They've all, in one way or another, bitten off more than they can chew. Lucky for the viewer, the movie gives us something to chew on.

Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany are earth-crossed lovers in OMAR.

Overall: B+
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