Published Dec 01, 2005Said and Khaled are two Palestinian mechanics who've been friends since childhood; they're also committed to the resistance, meaning they go willingly when they're tapped to carry out a suicide bombing. The act is obviously rife with complexities, but complexities aren't what Paradise Now has to offer. What it's got is a laundry list of opinions that don't add up to a coherent position.
Credit where credit is due, however, as the film manages to go through the full spectrum of opinions on the subject, with poor desperation smacking up against higher-minded mercy and true believers in the cause rubbing shoulders with complacent numbness. But the film isn't interested in divining what it actually believes, instead "leaving you to make up your own mind," i.e., waffling all over the place. Things get unconvincing when the set-up goes wrong and the two bombers are separated: one has unbelievable second thoughts for no better reason than that the director wants to pit opposites against each other.
It's not a terrible film, and director Hany Abu-Assad has a pretty subtle eye for composition, but it's so determined not to force your opinion that it goes too far in the opposite direction. I can't imagine who'd get much out of this movie: Pro-Israelis will hate its humanising of the attackers, Pro-Palestinians will loathe its moderate stance, and people in the middle will, generally speaking, be left entirely as they were.
It's watchable, and you don't waste the evening, but there's nothing here that Elia Suleiman couldn't do with more focus and a great deal more panache. (Warner Independent)