Paradise Now

on October 28, 2005 by Paul Clinton
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As a journey into the dark heart of a Palestinian suicide bomber, "Paradise Now" plays like a serial killer documentary that takes us into the mind of evil. It's a docudrama similar to "Monster," though understandably less sympathetically told. One viewing will leave you with a clearer understanding about why these desperate men commit these desperate acts.

Taking us beyond the familiar headlines of the suicide bombings of these martyrs, the film shows how a young Palestinian man can reach a mindset to strap explosives to his torso and walk onto a bus in Tel Aviv. An accomplice then detonates it by calling a cell phone taped to the bomb. This movie tells the story leading up to the attack, in fascinating and disturbingly realistic detail.

Friends Said (Kais Nashef) and Khaled (Ali Suliman) pass their time in the West Bank's Nablus working as auto mechanics and sharing a hookah pipe. Their dreary routine pauses when a Palestinian organization pick Said to carry out their plot. The men shave, bathe and dress in black suits for their assignment. Friends and relatives aren't told. Said's budding romance with Suba (the vivacious Lubna Azabal) causes him to rethink the mission.

Hany Abu-Assad's even-handed approach, almost journalistic in his nonjudgmental narrative and attention to detail and, drains the film of any partisanship. It allows Abu-Assad to both explore and critique Said's thought process. The mostly static, disciplined camera seems to be capturing Said's journey rather than begging us to feel for his plight.

The movie presents Said's motivations to act as well as Sabu's motivation to try to stop him as personal, not overtly political. Said isn't driven by nationalism or the urge for a Palestinian state. He wants to avenge the shame in his relationship with his late father. A few comic scenes about final-greeting videos bring levity to the proceedings. Abu-Assad used authentic locations for the action, filming for 25 days in Nablus and 15 days in Nazareth. Starring Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman and Lubna Azabal. Directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Written by Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer. Produced by Bero Beyer, Hengameh Panahi, Amir Harel, Gerhard Meixner and Roman Paul. A Warner Independent release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material and brief strong language. Running time: 90 min

Tags: Kais Nashef, Ali Suliman, Lubna Azabal, Hany Abu-Assad, Bero Beyer, Hengameh Panahi, Amir Harel, Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul, Warner Independent, Drama, mature, static, Palestine, bomber, evil, martyrs
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