Directed by: Hany Abu Assad
Premise: Two Palestinian friends (Kais Nashef and Lubna Azabal) are reunited as one of them prepares to engage in a suicide-bombing mission against Israel.
What Works: Paradise Now has some great performances by Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman as the two would-be suicide bombers. The film is one of the few pictures that has seriously explored the motives and rationalizations of these terrorists. Steering away from the “angry jihadist” stereotype, Paradise Now chooses to engage the ideology of terrorism and comes to some frightening and some hopeful revelations. The performance that really holds the film together is Azabal as a childhood friend of Nashef’s character. She has the burden of carrying the conscience of the film and manages to pull it off in ways that are exciting and dramatic but not so over the top with ethos that the film becomes a lecture.
What Doesn’t: Some might accuse the film of oversimplifying the conflicts and not showing the consequences of terrorism, but the film’s focus is really on the formation of the terrorist ideology and the psychological makeup of a suicide bomber. Showing the final explosion would likely have been redundant.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: Paradise Now is a bold film that finds ways of dealing with the subject of suicide bombers in such a way that does not reduce the characters or the issues to easy good and evil binaries but does maintain a particular moral perspective. It makes a great companion piece with Munich and Syriana.
Episode: #101 (June 18, 2006)