Omar: Middling Palestinian Thriller-Melodrama

omar_6Directed and written by Hany Abu-Assad, who had won the Best Foreign Language Oscar for Paradise Now, Omar is mildly involving romantic thriller-melodrama set on the West Bank.
In its good moments, Omar, winner of the Special Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and short-listed for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, is a tense, gripping thriller about trust betrayal in the turbulent Occupied Territories in the Middle East.  In its weak moments, however, it’s an romantic melodrama revolving around a triangle that’s not particularly compelling or convincing.
omar_2Omar (played by the handsome newcomer Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker who routinely climbs over the separation wall to meet his beautiful girlfriend Nadja (Leem Lubany), his militant best friend Tarek (Eyad Hourani)’s younger sister.
By night, he’s either a freedom fighter or a terrorist ready to risk his life to strike at the Israeli military with his childhood friends. Arrested after the killing of an Israeli soldier and tricked into an admission of guilt by association, he agrees to work as an informant.
omar_5His “routine” existence consists of playing dangerous games. On the one hand, he’s manipulating his Israeli handler (Palestinian-American actor Waleed F. Zuaiter) or will he really betray his cause? It’s never clear who’s trustworthy, on either side of the political spectrum.
Hany Abu-Assad has written and directed a mildly engaging melodrama about the moral dilemmas and tough personal choices facing those on the front lines of the decades-long conflict.
The movie would have been stronger if it did not include a romantic angle, which, while adding a level of complexity, also distracts from the film’s main ideological and political themes.
About the Director
Born in Nazareth, Palestine, Hany Abu-Assad studied and worked as an airplane engineer in the Netherlands before embarking on his film career.  His 2006 film Paradise Now won the Golden Globe, Independent Spirit and National Board of Review Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, and was one of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. His feature films include Rana’s Wedding and the documentaries Nazareth 2000 and Ford Transit.