What was described as a new drama from Palestine turns out to be a surprisingly gripping thriller that begins with a startling image. The film is called Omar and what we see is a young man climbing the separation wall between Israel and Palestine. At first it’s not obvious what he’s doing or why, but then all becomes clear. He’s trying to spend time, if only for a few minutes, with his girlfriend on the other side of the wall, and even though the story is not exactly a middle-eastern Romeo and Juliet tale, it’s an added element that pulls you in right from the beginning.
Depending on your personal point of view, Omar (Adam Bakri), a Palestinian, can either be considered a patriot or a terrorist, it all depends where your sympathy lies. Certainly to Israeli officer Agent Raimi, Omar is a terrorist who just might be useful if he can get the young man to collaborate. Raimi wants the man who killed an Israeli soldier and the agent knows that Omar is the one who can help.
“Never become a collaborator,” Omar is warned. “There is no way out.” Good advice, except for the fact that the one giving that advice is also the one tricking Omar into a form of confession that can be used against him. Omar finds himself cornered with no way out. He becomes the very thing that presumably repulses him; a collaborator.
The film is a story of both love and duplicity where being disloyal will cost lives. The tender moments between the young lovers meeting in secret when they think no one is looking has an engaging charm, but it’s moments of cat and mouse between potential Palestinian informant and the Israeli officer that grip, plus chases through the back alleys of the occupied territories where Omar runs for his life with soldiers in pursuit have such a rush of energy about them you almost wish the film had more of them.
“If you don’t work for us, your life will be hell forever,” Omar is told by the agent. The young man will soon find out the truth behind that statement, but that hell may not necessarily be Omar’s alone.
The outcome to the young man’s dilemma is unforeseen but effectively simple. On reflection, there is no other way the film could have concluded. It would be unfair to even hint at how things develop and how the story is finally resolved, but whatever happens you instinctively know throughout that while all the events leading up to the ending seem to fall naturally into place, it will be tragic for all concerned. You’ll leave the theatre shocked at the abrupt ending and shattered at its implications.
MPAA Rating: Unrated Length: 98 Minutes Overall Rating: 8 (out of 10)