So Netflix finally got around to sending me this flick, and we had a nice family viewing of it.
Summary from the official website:
"PARADISE NOW" follows two Palestinian childhood friends who have been recruited for a strike on Tel Aviv and focuses on their last days together. When they are intercepted at the Israeli border and separated from their handlers, a young woman who discovers their plan causes them to reconsider their actions.
This is the Palestinian response to Munich. Not literally, of course, but it tackles many of the same issues Munich tried to in describing the characters and lives of people who are willing to kill for their country. The two friends volunteered to become suicide bombers as long as they would be able to die together. The leader of the resistance group contacts them suddenly, telling them that they've been selected for an attack the next day. They get one last night with their families, whom they're not even allowed to tell about their plans or even say goodbye to.
The one important difference in the two films is that there is not one violent scene in the entirety of Paradise Now (except for a brief scuffle between the two friends). The genius of this film is that it is able to convey a human real-ness that you would expect to be impossible to find in a movie about two would-be suicide bombers. One of the key factors to that relatability is the presence of Suha, the daughter of a famed martyr who was raised in Morocco (aka Maghreb). She brings the "Western" point of view into the story, or at least the idealistic version of it. Her dialogue contains all the thoughts of every Western (Muslim or otherwise) sympathizer to the Palestinian cause: Suicide bombing cannot be the only solution. This cannot truly be a moral war until the violence stops on one end.
It's a film that definitely makes you think. Especially when given the main characters' responses to these points. Khaled says, "We are already dead. And I would rather go to that heaven than live in this hell." Said's position gives a broader insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "They say that they are the victims. If the oppressors have become the victims, then the victims must become murderers." (I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember the exact quote)
The one thing that's missing in this movie is a motive. We are given some personal motivations for these two specific characters, but they seem a little flimsy. There is no singular event (as there was in Munich with the death of the Olympic team) that seems to trigger the desire to kill for their country. Or at least it isn't shown to us. The film presents the conflict as a feud that has been running for generations and neither side really knows how it started anymore.
The best quality of the film was it's presentation of likeable characters. Despite knowing that they are suicide bombers in the making, you feel like these guys could have been your friends, the kind who you sit around and smoke hookah with and talk about your crappy jobs. It made me sad about the Palestinian conflict in a way I haven't felt since they released that footage of the Palestinian boy being shot by Israeli gunfire right before his father's eyes.
All in all, it's a movie worth taking 90 minutes to watch.