Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Omar (Adam Bakri in his feature-film debut) considers himself a Palestinian freedom fighter. The Israeli authorities in the central West Bank consider him a terrorist. After participating in an assassination under the guidance of Tarek (Iyad Hoorani) and alongside his childhood friend Amjad (Samer Bisharat) he’s arrested and convinced to work as an informer.
The most thrilling part of this thriller is, oddly enough, not the action and suspense. It’s the love story. That’s rare for the genre, which usually lets any romantic angle stand to the side as filler.
Omar has long loved Nadia (Leem Lubany, the standout performer), Tarek’s younger sister. Their relationship, like the film, begins mostly silently with exchanged looks and notes before becoming something close to melodrama toward the middle of the second act. When Amjad comes into the picture as a potential suitor the plot twists, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion.
Director Hany Abu-Assad, cinematographer Ehab Assal, and production designer Nael Kanj achieve a gorgeously soft look with washes of whites and pastels. The well-choreographed chase scenes through narrow back alleys and courtyards are exhilarating and reminiscent of several classic international spy films.
It’s interesting to see a film entirely from the Palestinian perspective, and any interpretation of the shade of Omar’s propaganda – which is no less grey than the majority of Hollywood films dealing with similarly provocative subject matter – easily depends on pre-conceived political leanings.
The few Israeli characters depicted throughout are mostly one-note: a soldier who humiliates and beats Omar, and his handler Rami (Waleed Zuaiter), who has more depth than the former but, despite an attempted humanizing scene with Rami on the phone with his mother and grandmother, is still staunchly for his own cause. While the Palestinian characters are certainly more three-dimensional, they’re not all saints, and that’s where Omar most succeeds in maneuvering away from caricature.
— Neal Dhand